My siblings and I burst onto the season like the first, rowdy chorus of Spring Peepers rising from the woodlands and wetlands, from the new growth and leafy debris. Noisily ascending. Anxious and energized after many dormant days, we find instant succor in the newness, in the re-gathering community; bolstered by the constant influx of free-wheeling teens.
Arriving at the house with a brand new,1978 Chevy pick-up truck filled with boys bent on seeing “what this baby can do” Jim quickly talks his best friend, Phil, into letting him behind the wheel. Caught up in the excitement, Chris and I follow, piling into the truck bed with the others and heading to the one place where its off-road ability can be properly tested, the golf course.
Entering on the service road, Jim’s exaggerated twists and turns along the winding, gravel road quickly bore him, so veering from the narrow lane, we’re soon bouncing along the edge of the fairways, heading toward the woods and the short, very steep, ravine hills.
Failing to do the science of what might happen when rear tires meet level ground from a near forty-five degree incline is Jim’s biggest mistake that day. As soon as he starts down one of the small, steep hills, we helpless, hapless, truck bed accomplices sense things aren’t going to end well.
As the rear tires hit the ground from practically perpendicular, the truck bounces – hard – sending all bodies in back aloft.
Arms and legs flail.
Looks of surprise, morph into alarm.
Trying to break the fall, my right hand contacts the metal truck bed first, followed painfully by all other parts. When the pick-up finally comes to a standstill, everyone begins righting themselves, rubbing their bruises, and screaming at Jim.
Everyone except me.
I’m looking down at my arm… and my hand… which is no longer at the end of my wrist where I normally find it.
While the others continue to berate the driver, I cradle my arm and speak.
“You guys. I think my wrist is broken.”
No response. So, I say it a little louder and with a lot more conviction.
“You guys, my wrist is broken.”
Still unnoticed amid the verbal thrashing Jim’s receiving, I finally scream as loud as I can, ”YOU GUYS, MY WRIST IS BROKEN!”
All goes quiet and everyone turns my way.
“Anne’s wrist is broken,” Chris suddenly screams, “and she’s bleeding all over the place!”
Jim and Phil leap from the front cab to find those in the back surrounding me, shuddering and exhaling, “Whoa!” and “Holy crap!”
It seems that on impact, the bones attaching my arm to my hand snapped cleanly in two, and my hand – now detached beneath unbroken skin – has been forced from its usual place and lay awkwardly on top of my wrist, like a slab of raw meat in a rubber, flesh-toned glove.
Finding any movement enough to inspire hysteria, no one’s able to convince me to relocate to the cushioned front seat of the pick-up, so a couple of the boys closely flank me as I sit cross-legged, still cradling my unrecognizable arm.
As Jim very slowly and very gently steers a course for home, I try to concentrate on something else – the leaves still unfolding overhead, the gentle, spring sun. Closing my eyes, I take a deep breath. Then another. Immersing, ever briefly, in the wonderful smell of new grass.
And teen boys.
Pulling up to the garage just as Mom happens to be walking by, Chris jumps from the truck and with the subtlety of a crow in a cornfield blurts out, “Anne broke her wrist!”
(So much for Jim easing her into the bad news, as agreed upon moments prior.)
“Oo-oo-oo!” Mom says, jumping in place, and then into action, as only a mother of five can.
Gingerly lifted from the back of the pick-up and placed into the car, I turn to see my off-roading co-horts all sheepishly waving and smiling, except Jim, who’s having a hard time looking at me and looks miserable.
Which makes me feel slightly better.
At the emergency entrance, Mom tries to get me out of the car and to my feet, but I won’t – I can’t – for fear the slightest movement will make the pain unbearable, or even worse, that I’ll lose hold of my arm and have to witness my detached hand dangle.
Approaching the car, a handsome stranger, with a sweet voice and a smile to match, asks Mom if he can help, and before I have a chance to refuse, he lifts me from the car with an effortless swoop and carries me inside, where he gently sets me in a wheelchair, smiles, and disappears.
“That’s Walter Payton of the Chicago Bears,” the nurse smiles, but I know exactly who it is.
Welcomed back again to the emergency room (puberty has not been kind), I’m x-rayed by a sadist, drugged, yanked, drugged again, and eventually yanked back into place by the two attending doctors – the process of which finally becomes too much for Mom, who’s led from the room in a faint.
“I feel jush-fiiiiiiine,” I giggle, all tucked in my bed back at home, as I casually wave the heavy, plaster, arm-length cast (the first of two I’ll be toting for the entire, interminably itchy, sidelined summer), not bothering to notice Mom and Jim’s faces alluding to the pain and discomfort that’s sure to follow once the double dose of painkiller wears off.
“Itsh-okay, Jim,” I slobber with a smile, oblivious to the drool trickling from the side of my mouth, “I’m not mad at you anymore.”
How could I be? Wracked with guilt about badly disfiguring me, he straightened my room, folded down my bed, and picked flowers for my bedside.
Unfortunately, like the pain meds, Jim’s sympathies and “too-injured-to-tease” policy won’t last through the night.