This is another older piece from my college days. I find it pretty entertaining and it is all true, mostly.

I decided the summer before sixth grade that I needed a change. I never had any money and that needed to change. My mother saw an ad for a paper carrier position in our local newspaper, The New Castle News, and she hung it on our refrigerator.  This was her way of telling me to call and set up an interview. This interview led to a job, which led to fame and glory – or at least cash in my pocket and a Carrier of the Year trophy in my room. But it also led to something that I will never, ever lose or forget: a huge scar on my right knee, and another one on my heart.

Just a few short months after starting my position as future Carrier of the Year, I began to deliver the paper to three buildings on the campus of Westminster College. The buildings were separated by three steps and a few thousand feet of rough, grey sidewalk. No big deal. That is, until the day the sidewalk sought revenge for the daily trampling I gave it.

The college was always our last stop of the day. I had just delivered a paper to the communications office in Old Main and was making my daily jaunt to the library to chat up that cute, but much, much older girl who worked at the main desk. I was outside of Old Main, and I rounded the corner above the steps that would lead to that glorious co-ed angel, when I saw him.

Him.

This is all his fault.

He was big, goofy looking, and riding his large, dual shock mountain bike on the smooth sidewalk about a hundred yards from me.

Him.

“Hey! That’s Da… No it’s not.  Yeah it is…” I said out-loud to myself, barely hearing the words over the early adolescent, angsty, white-boy gangsta rap blaring through my headphones. The same music that I would turn down to a barely audible level when I came within speaking distance of my parents.

I walked a little closer to the stairway as the man-sized boy stopped to take a breath of that fresh Amish air of New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

“Yeah… That’s Dave!” I said to the empty space around me.

It had to be him!  I knew that Dave lived in New Wilmington, and I could only assume that he owned a bike, as most twelve year olds do.

Yes. Dave was big and goofy looking. He was also one of my best friends at the time. I had spent many fun times at his house and he at mine, and we always sat near each other on the bus ride home.

I had to get his attention. This would be the perfect time to have a short out-of-school chat with a buddy. And who knows, maybe that beauty of a librarian would see me through the window and realize just how cool I was as I joked and guffawed with a friend.

I tried waving but soon realized that I was seeing too much of his back for him to see me as I waved like an Iowa cornfield.

I then got the wise idea to use my God-given baritone voice to call him over. This would surely work! He is sure to hear me!

“Dav-”

CRASH

That was all I got out.

Apparently, amidst my scheming to get Dave’s attention and ultimately the attention of that Westminster bookworm goddess, I had forgotten that my feet and brain would have to cooperate in order for me to do one of man’s simplest tasks – walking.

I couldn’t move. I was stuck there on one knee. There was no way I could force myself back onto my feet. The pain wasn’t instantaneous, but it was brutal after the first few seconds.

I looked to my left for my dad who was delivering a copy of New Castle’s finest, be it the only, daily periodical to a different part of campus. I couldn’t see him but I knew eventually he would appear. I just had to suck it up and wait.

That’s when I heard the noise of rubber zinging over the cement to my right.

“A savior!” I thought to myself.

It immediately occurred to me that it must be Dave. He would help me up or at least use that wonderful bike of his to rush over and find my dad and tell him that I was in need of some assistance.

I looked up through my foggy eyes to see my friend and hero riding up on his aluminum alloy steed.

“You OK, dude?”

What?  I’ve never heard Dave say dude.  It sounded harsh and tainted to my ears.

“What?” I stammered.

“Are you OK?” he repeated. “I heard someone yell something and I turned around just as you were falling down the stairs. You hit pretty hard.”

It wasn’t him. I was able to clear my eyes enough to see him. He was big and goofy but he was not Dave. He was… Well, I’m not sure who he was, but he wasn’t Dave.

“Are you OK? Do you need some help or somethin’?” the stranger asked.

I didn’t know what to say. I was in utter shock. I don’t know if it was the pain and trauma to my body or the fact that this person was not my friend but someone I had never seen before in my short life, but I was absolutely speechless.

“No…  No. I’m fine,” I heard my mouth say.

But I wasn’t. I couldn’t move and I felt like I had a small militia of fire ants on and inside of my knee.

“Are you sure…?”

“Yeah. I’m fine! Thanks.”

“OK.”

And he was gone. He took that mountain bike and, like the hero he wasn’t, rode off into the sunset – never to be seen again.

I just sat there, kneeling in the same position for what felt like hours. It was really only a couple of minutes until my dad came out of the radio building and saw me there. He ran faster than I had ever seen him run before. He moved quickly to my side, not knowing what to do. He was able to grab me by the shoulders and sit me on the steps that had just changed my life.

What came out of my knee was unbelievable. A puddle of blood covered the ground and was laced with small pieces of skin and dirt. What was even more unbelievable was what I saw when I looked into my knee. My knee was full of many things that it shouldn’t be. Small stones. Chunks of dirt. Pine needles. Tiny micro-organisms that I can’t even imagine. I thought, and the doctor later confirmed, that the bone that makes up my knee cap was slightly visible. It was one of the ugliest things I had ever seen.

My dad soon returned from another short jog to get his pickup truck. He got me up off of that step and all but completely lifted me off of my feet to get me in that truck. I’m not sure how he did it because at that time, I was hefty sixth grader.

As we pulled out of the driveway I looked out the window of that makeshift ambulance and saw her. She was sitting behind that desk as gorgeous as I had ever seen her and she was looking my direction. I was so embarrassed. But then it struck me! She knows that I’m in pain, but I’ll act like I am not shaken by it! How impressed will she be if I am able to keep my jaw strong and squelch my manly sobs?

In the meantime, my dad rushed me to our local doctor’s office. As we arrived at the office we were greeted at the door by the doctor and one of his head nurses. They looked just as surprised to see us at the door as we were to see them there. Turns out, they were leaving for a very important conference. Had we arrived even thirty seconds later we would have missed them and who knows what may have happened to me and my knee at that point.

To sum up the rest of the evening, I endured a painful procedure to clean and sew up my knee with a total of eighteen stitches in a two inch area. I then endured a painful evening of not being able to move without pain shooting throughout my leg.

But the biggest blow was about to come.

The following day my parents decided to do the paper route because of the amount of pain and the small ability I had to move. I was very happy to stay home and relax. When they returned home, however, my heart was shattered.

As it turns out, in the hubbub of what had happened at those steps the day before, my dad and I both forgot that the library was waiting for their paper. My dream girl, after having seen what had happened to me that fateful day, had the nerve to call and complain because I did not deliver the library’s paper.

My pay was reduced for that day.

But my heart…

My heart was reduced that day, too.

Reduced to a trillion pieces.

8 thoughts on “Reduced”

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