Cantaloupe

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I’d like to credit the book 3AM Epiphany by Brian Kitely for the following writing exercise…

Looking Backwards. Write according to the following rigorous formula: Tell a story from a person’s childhood, using three sentences from deep inside the child’s POV(letting the adult mind interfere as little as possible) and then five sentences from the adult’s POV. Keep going back and forth this way. Show us both the very adult feelings of the narrator and the very childlike (and hence mystified or incompletely understood) feelings. Don’t let the child know more than the adult. The adult version of this self is always removed from the moment, always a bit more relaxed. 700 words.

As I read the various exercises in the book I selected this one because it immediately grabbed my attention and inspired me. It was a pleasure writing this memory from my own childhood. The following is a true story.

Miss O’Lenski told us there’d be a fire drill that day but I forgot. The alarm went off and it was so loud I got scared. We were supposed to walk in single file but I ran.

At eight years old, it’s my first memory of a fire drill but the day was a memorable one all around. It started with the evacuation but then I panicked and fell down a flight of steps, twisted my ankle and had to go to the nurse’s office. It was pretty swollen and appeared to be sprained so the nurse called my mother. I was a clumsy kid so my mom wasn’t at all shocked when she had to leave work and get me. She came right away, brought me home, laid me down and told me to elevate my leg.

When my brother got home from school, I was on the couch. He was being mean and wouldn’t leave me alone. I couldn’t get him to stop it so I yelled, “Dad!”

When my father saw what my brother was doing, he shouted, “Franklin, I swear to God, if you drop that cantaloupe on your sister’s face, I’m going to kick your ass!” To which, my smart aleck brother scoffed and said, “I’m not gonna hit her with it, Dad. I’m just messin’ with her.” My father quietly sat, watched and waited as my brother continued to toss that cantaloupe from one hand to the other. Frank laughed every time I flinched which was every time he caught it within mere inches from my face.

He threw it like a million times. I was scared he’d miss. I kept telling him to stop but he called me a baby. 

Meanwhile, the phone rang and my mom answered it. It was an old rotary phone, beige and attached to the wall, and as she anxiously paced the room the cord stretched and twisted around her. My brother, father and I were far too busy with our cantaloupe drama to pay any attention to her or to the conversation she was having. But apparently it was a producer calling from one of those spin-the-wheel-and-then-answer-a-trivia-question game shows popular back in the 80s. She excitedly jumped up, switched on the television and then turned and shushed us.

Frankie was looking at Mom the last time he threw the cantaloupe. He missed. It hit me right in the face.

Over the years my mom must have told me a dozen times but for the life of me I cannot recall the question she was asked but she answered correctly and won $3000. She jumped up and screamed, and the next thing I remember is our neighbors rushing in to congratulate and hug her. I clutched my nose with both hands and cried hysterically while my dad shouted and chased my brother around the house. Suddenly I was invisible and not exactly happy about that. The worst part was that after being sent home from school one day with a sprained ankle I returned the next day with two black eyes.

My stupid brother broke my nose!  It hurt so bad I couldn’t stop crying. Nobody even cared.

That’s the story about how my brother broke my nose with a cantaloupe. Though our mom remembers it as the day she won the money that paid off our house. And oddly enough our dad hardly remembers it at all. I know Frank didn’t mean to actually hurt me; he was just being a kid and trying to be funny. And in retrospect it was funny and even though it really sucked I still laugh every time I think about it.

The next day at school everyone asked me what happened. I told the truth. They still called my mom.

Earlier this year, 28 years later, I finally went to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. When the doctor asked me what happened I told him this story. He laughed and said he didn’t expect my reply. Then he scoped my nose and diagnosed me with a deviated septum. Afterwards, I called my brother and told him all about it. I even threatened to send him the bill.

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