I was playing on a steel framed hide-a-bed as Sunday morning stretched into a lazy afternoon, just tipping back and forth, back and forth. I was young, bored and testing. To my surprise the bed gave way and came crashing over, its metal frame embedded in my nose. The blood gushed, poured over my cheeks and landed in big red blotches on cotton pajamas.

My father was in the next room deep inside his easy chair. He looked up from his National Geographic as I stood stunned in the entrance.

Jesus Christ, what did you do now?

Nobody went to the doctor in our family. There was only one to serve the whole county. You could wait all day long in his office without any guarantee of treatment, so families dealt with emergencies by themselves.

My dad laid me out on the table, put ice on my seven-year-old nose and gave me a shot of scotch from the cabinet. When my skin and emotions were numb, he grabbed a needle from the sewing basket, sterilized the point in a flame, and added black upholstery thread.

This will just take a minute, he said. Longer if you can’t hold still.

I watched the point of the needle move back and forth, back and forth toward my eyes in my father’s careful hands. I made it though three stitches and could do no more.

That will hold, he said. Better lay there until you’re strong again.

I studied the ceiling tiles, the molding that joined the cabinet to the wall and finally the blood that smudged my hands.

I don’t ever want to do that again, I decided. I need to be more careful.

written April 30, 2008

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