Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pounding the Pavement

This was a writing prompt for a small writer's group I belong to. Each week, we meet and have a short selection to share. This was mine for June 4, 2008.

I've never really actually pounded the pavement, except with my butt. What can I say? I'm clumsy. If it's possible to hurt myself, I will.

I don't know what my first experience with pavement pounding was, but several incidents certainly stand out in my mind in rather spectacular ways. I seem to have a proclivity for injuring my feet the most, though my shins and knees refuse to be left out of the action.

When I was four, my family lived in married student housing in Cambridge, Massachusetts, while my father attended Harvard. There were lots of children running around barefoot and we played outside all spring and summer. One of the boys was given a red wagon for his birthday and we were all getting rides. I was determined not to be left out and claimed my place in the front while two others piled in behind me.

I started out with my feet under me Indian style, but there wasn't enough room, so I let my toes dangle over the side. Everything was fine until we hit a bump. I fell forward, my toes dragged on the pavement and I took part of the nail and the tips of my big toes clean off.

Screaming and crying, I was carted back to my mother who cleaned and bound the wounds, administered baby aspirin and kept me inside for the next week. For a long time after that, I was confined by tennis shoes.

My first major knee involvement came at age nine when I was learning to ride a bike. The neighbors had an old, battered, dark green bike with nearly flat tires. Jane, the eldest who was four or five years older than I was, got me set up, ran me around and got me confident. Feeling empowered by my new found skill, I decided to ride around the block a few times.

Flying along, I felt the freedom the bike gave me, enjoying the sun on my face and the wind in my hair - until I hit a patch of loose gravel. The bike went one way and I went the other, down on all fours in the dirt road.

Gravel and dirt embedded themselves in my flesh, leaving a trail of grime and blood. Luckily for me, I fell in front of the same neighbors' house. Their father carried me inside and their mother, a registered nurse, cleaned me up while her daughter ran down and got my mother. To make me feel better, the dad got me a bowl of ice cream with chocolate syrup. It kept my mind off the fact his wife was taking stones from my knees with tweezers.

My last major escapade with pavement pounding involved my right shin. This time, in college, working summer stock at a theater in Tennessee, I was coming off stage when disaster struck.

We were doing Carousel and I was singing and dancing in the chorus. I was going to the dressing room in the basement laughing and chatting with my friends. I really was paying attention to where I was going, but I was wearing slick bottomed dance shoes.

There was a rise in the floor, a step up of about ten inches. Instead of stepping on it like I should, I missed, catching my heel on the edge of the step. The shoe flew out from under me and I fell down, grinding my shin against the edge of the concrete step.

Luckily, there were several doctors and nurses in the cast as the theater drew extras largely from the community. One of the doctors gently checked my leg while one of the nurses held my hand and tried to calm me down. It wasn't broken, but I had a gash in my shin down to the bone that went from my knee to my ankle. I couldn't even get stitches because there was no skin left.

I've done many things to myself that defy description. None of them have ever been life threatening, but all of them have been painful and of major inconvenience. I'm not quite as clumsy as I was as a child, but that's probably because I try to be more aware of what's around me. Aside from the occasional stubbed toe, I do pretty well and avoid pounding the pavement.

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