Right. Grade 5. Mr. K. Lunchtime baseball league.
For whatever reason, Liz and I wanted to drop our bikes off at home before having lunch at my place and retuning to the school yard for our lunchtime baseball game. She lived a block further from the school so she rode ahead.
By the time she returned to my street for lunch, I was in an ambulance.
My mother and I lived in a one-bedroom rental apartment on a dead-end street: great for ball hockey. My grandparents lived in a two bedroom apartment in a co-op directly across the street. We could talk to one another from our tiny balconies. There were a few kids around my age in my building. Alice lived in the apartment next to ours, Tommy lived upstairs, and Atilla, the superintendent’s son, lived on the top floor. Across the street there were a couple of younger kids who had nannies. The crossing-guard for our school lived at the top of the street near the church. A different, mean Alice lived at the bottom of the street. I don’t remember why we didn’t like that Alice and I remember being shocked when my friend Alice cut MeanAlice’s skipping rope.
There was also an old man with a hole in his throat. He couldn’t speak but I would hang out with him from time to time and chatter and he would listen and occasionally dole out a piece of candy. We got on pretty well. If he was on his porch when I was coming home from school, he would wave his arms and motion me over. Sometimes I’d just stop by to say hi and other times I would sit on the steps and tell him all about my 10 year old’s life.
At the bottom of the street were three gas stations: one on each corner and another at the “T”. Times have changed, though, and now there are two banks and a small parking lot. Not sure what that says but for some reason, I find it striking.
So, I’m on my bike and just about to turn onto my street. There is a car coming out of the gas station. I slow my bike. She stops her car. I wait for her car to go but she seems to be waiting for me. So I go. So does she. Next thing I know, I’m flat on my back and she’s driving over my leg that’s pinned under my bike. Big silver Cadillac. She’s driving really slowly too. And she keeps on going! The gas station guy runs out to check on me and to flag her down. Or at least get her plate number if she suddenly gives it the gas.
The gas station attendant picks me up off the road and carries me into the tiny office. There isn’t a lot of blood and I’m a bit freaked out but otherwise feel fine. I protest to Stoney, the owner of the gas station, that I’m fine and get up to retrieve my completely mangled bike but my ankle won’t take any pressure and I collapse on the floor.
After a couple of minutes, my mother arrives in a panic, responding to a phone call from Stoney. The driver of the Cadillac, Mrs. D, will not agree to drive me to the hospital and seems a bit put out by the entire business. Everyone else involved instantly hates her. How is it that she didn’t see me, someone asks. “Probably putting down the bottle” is the reply. How can she be so unmoved and not agree to drive me to the hospital? “Wouldn’t want to get blood on her seat cushions,” someone sneers. It’s like a Flannery O’Connor story in there. And then the ambulance arrives.
Rather than talk about what’s just happened to me and fresh out of caustic comments about Mrs. D, the adults are wondering where the ambulance came from because in the craziness of scraping me off the pavement and their ire at Mrs. D’s refusal, no-one has thought to call one.
After loading me onto a stretcher and refusing to turn on the sirens despite my entreaties, the EMTs tell us that they guy at number 23 called it in. The dude with the hole in his throat. My buddy.
Liz is the next to arrive. While her mouth is still hanging open, I tell her the obvious: “Make sure Jenny stays at catcher, she’s going to want to pitch. Don’t let her boss you.”