by Sarah Cooley
I have a difficult time recalling my childhood memories. Not to say that I have amnesia, but most everything from during the first several years of my toddling existence just sort of blends together and coalesces into a sort of dreamy mess where nothing is definite or distinct. Sometimes this is annoying and disappointing, of course I want to remember my first time sledding or riding in a canoe, but even when trying to recall the memories as best as I can—I only ever seem to get vague a sensation of color and sound, like a blurry screenshot from an old foreign film. Other times I suppose my problem is a bit of a blessing in disguise—there are some events that I know happened back then that make me ask myself if it really is better that I don’t remember?
All that being said, there are a couple of memories I have that are slightly less foggy than the others. There are still small bits missing here and there, but overall I believe them to be fairly accurate recollections, if I do say so myself. Although I’ve never gotten the dates quite right. I’d love to give a definite age range, but it’s difficult to know for sure when the only illustrations of time period I can come up with are “I was really short” and “I was kind of short.”
Dillon and I had been friends for the entirety of our short existences. My very-pregnant mother met the very-pregnant leader of a local La Leche League group, and they both hit it off immediately, united by the common belief that breastfeeding their offspring would turn them into child prodigies. I was my mother’s first, and Hope already had six kids under her belt, so they began a sort of mentor and friend relationship. They both gave birth in the same hospital, mere days apart, and Dillon and I were raised as friends and playmates from then on. Later on in our friendship, I would sometimes jokingly play the age card against him, arguing that I was his senior—this always left him exasperated.
“Yeah, by four freaking days!”
Behind the condominium buildings my family lived in, was a small strip of forest. Deciduous and coniferous trees, moss, fungi, horse tails, dandelions, the whole shebang. This humble jungle separated my home from Campbell Creek, in truth a pretty harmless little stream. But remember that to a five year old, a tiny stream can be an enormous river—full of great power and terrible possibility.
One afternoon while our mothers had a chat about potty training or something of that nature, my young buddy and I went for a romp through the woods. Fearless explorers though we were, my father came along to chaperone. Not that we couldn’t have totally handled ourselves. We had brought our weapons with us—his plastic lightsaber, and my Disney’s Hercules sword. But saving them for self-defense emergencies wasn’t nearly as fun as play fighting, so as we bounced though moss and over logs, we saw fit to smack our plastic instruments together, and sometimes against each other.
During the course of our play, we had traversed through the trees and plant life to the creek. We saw no reason to stop our sword fight, one of us would best the other sooner or later.
To this day, I don’t remember how it happened, just that it did happen, and fast. One moment we were happily sword battling—the next, Dillon wasn’t on the river bank anymore.
Where did he go?
Oh, he was in the river, yelling!
I just sort of stood there, motionless in guilty panic. Luckily, my father had a clearer head in crisis situations than I did, or we would’ve had to walk back home and explain to Hope that I’d accidentally murdered her son. Dad hopped into the water that barely came past his knees, and hauled my upset and wet little friend out of harm’s way.
After that, we immediately walked back home so Dillon could dry off and be comforted. He did confide to me a few years ago that he has been afraid of water ever since that day, and hasn’t even learned to swim yet. But I don’t think that he ever had any lasting animosity towards me, we kept having play-dates for years after, and he only accidentally maimed me once, he would have had plenty of chances to take his ultimate revenge if he had wanted.
I would like to stress that the Hockey Puck Incident didn’t occur out of spite. Even if it had, I wouldn’t be upset about it at this point, as Dillon was a seven or eight year old boy, and they don’t have any concept of the consequences of their actions—they’re more concerned about whether or not they can have another cookie, or how long they can play the Nintendo than they are about crafting revenge schemes. Besides, if there is an antagonist in this tale, it’s certainly not Dillon. It’s Mr. Evil Doctor.
In the summer there was hardly anything more fun than going over to Dillon’s house and playing in the backyard—maybe only rivaled by playing Mario Kart. I lived in a small apartment, and since I wasn’t allowed to go and frolic in the woods whenever I wished, my backyard was a 4’ by 8’ balcony that we stored old bicycles on. By comparison, his backyard was an endless field of freedom and joy. With a trampoline.
One day I was helping clear junk out of an inflatable pool they had set up. There was all sorts of random crap thrown in, balls or all sizes, dog toys, pool noodles, you name it. One of the objects to be found in the waterless pool was a benign hockey puck. It wasn’t created to be a tool of destruction, it didn’t have any say in its existence. It was just a dense, heavy chunk of plastic, carried forward by the waves of its own sad destiny. Dillon stood in the pool, sifting through the mire of toys, when I heard him call out.
If I had had more life experience, I would have known the proper response to such words would have been to drop to the ground on all fours and stay there until the sun went down. But I was only seven years old, so I straightened my back and looked up. I distinctly remember seeing the puck coming towards me in slow motion. Thrown like a frisbee, I tracked its wobbly spin as it flew across the yard, right up until the moment when it punched me in the face. After that, I was very much preoccupied with laying on my side and sobbing. One of his older brothers ran inside for help, and I was quickly bundled into my mom’s car and driven away for medical assistance.
Now, that could be the end of the story, but no. The end has not yet come. I was bleeding and crying all over myself. I needed stitches. My mother needed to take me to a doctor. The moment when my predicament went from bad to worse, was when my mother (bless her ignorant, panicked soul) decided that instead of getting me to the emergency room, she would take me to a quick care clinic in the mall, which was closer. This is where I met Mr. Evil Doctor.
So for a while now, my world has been nothing but pain and tears. I’m still trying to catch up on what’s happening when I get taken into a white room and start being questioned and manhandled by a large something with a gruff voice, which I later figured out was supposed to be a doctor. You, kind reader, may be thinking; “Well he was a doctor just trying to help you, and you were very upset, there’s hardly any reason to christen him evil.” I beg to differ, kind reader. I was out of my wits with pain, and even then, I was only a child, but this so called medical professional doesn’t do anything to stop my pain before hauling out the heavy equipment. No general anesthetic? Nope. No painkiller shot? No. Not even any whiskey. No, Mr. Evil Doctor doesn’t do anything to help soothe me before he flings me down onto a table and starts stabbing me in my already messed up face repeatedly, with a needle and thread. I had no say in the matter.
So of course, as any self-respecting child in my position would do, I tried to escape. But when I tried to bat away his stupid arms, something pinned my arms down. When I tried to kick him in his stupid face, something pinned my legs down. I only had one avenue for defense left to my disposal. I started spitting. Finally, I had successfully made my tormentor retreat across the room and away from my poor face.
My lip got fixed somehow, at some point—I’m certain my scar would disfigure half of my face otherwise—but I’m fuzzy on those details. Probably because I was properly drugged that time.