Friday, June 05, 2009

“Knee Go Boom!”


c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(5-09)




- ONE –

It was a busy morning at Thompson Thrift & Sundries.

I had been on the cash register for about forty-five minutes without a pause in between customers. Indeed, our business had been brisk since I opened the doors at eight o’clock. Cheerful visitors were everywhere. The aura of summer’s approach had taken hold!

While straightening the counter, I was interrupted by a woman in office garb. She tilted her head sideways and brushed the auburn hair out of her eyes.

“Do I know you?” she said out loud.

I reddened with embarrassment. “Umm… perhaps from shopping here before?”

“No,” she frowned. “You’re new, right?”

I nodded. “That’s true. This is only my sixth week.”

Her shopping basket was filled with vintage picnic utensils, and pairs of pink and yellow flip-flops. Gently, she put it on the counter.

“It had to be from somewhere else,” she mused. “Did you work at another store in the area?”

I smiled at her comment. “Yes, in Chardon…”

“Wait!” she squeaked, before I could finish. “Were you at Tiny Finch?”

“Yes,” I laughed. “For eight years.”

Her face brightened with satisfaction. “That’s it! You’re Rod the Co-Manager! I’m Cathy Cale. You supported our fundraiser for the high school athletic program.”

My memory had dimmed over time. But I appreciated her enthusiasm. “It was always a privilege to help the community.”

“Nice to see you again,” she cheered.

“Very good,” I nodded, while finishing her order. “Your total today is twenty-one dollars and five cents…”

Suddenly, she seemed to be disinterested in her own merchandise. Her mouth dropped open. “So… why did you come here?”

No one else was in line at the register. So I paused to consider my reply.

“Well, my dream was always to make writing a full-time adventure,” I explained.
“After leaving The Finch, I wrote three books. Everything was done out of my home studio.”

Cathy’s deep eyes widened with amazement. “You’ve been working at home?”

“Yes,” I said. “Thanks to Internet technology, going to the newspaper offices just isn’t necessary anymore.”

“That sounds like heaven!” she warbled. “Stay in your jammies, nibble on chocolate, and get your job done at the same time…”

“At first it was a novelty,” I agreed. “But over time, something unexpected became apparent. I actually missed working in a store.”

She giggled. “You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Not at all,” I said emphatically. “There’s something about the interaction with people that helps to spur creative thoughts. So I applied for this position.”

Cathy pondered my observation. “Well, I’ll be sure to tell my friends you’re working here!”

I bowed slightly. “Thank you. Have a great day!”

As she exited the store, I began to straighten items in our old camera department. Then, I noticed that someone had lost a vintage issue of LIFE Magazine by our end-cap of Coke and Pepsi glassware. Quickly, I left my register to retrieve the stray item. Our morning rush of business had ended. I felt safe leaving the counter for a brief interlude.

As I crossed the sales floor, a tall, impulsive fellow blindly stepped out of an aisle. He struggled to carry an armload of vinyl records.

I slid to a stop, avoiding a messy collision. He juggled the audio platters while I danced to regain my balance.

Then, a loud ‘pop’ sounded from my right knee.

I grabbed a nearby shelf. It was difficult to stand, but walking seemed out of the question. My eyes began to water.

“Hey, are you okay?” he blurted out with surprise.

I was overwhelmed by a sense of doom, but maintained my composure.

“Sure, just a bit stiff today,” I said. “Must be the humidity.”

He scratched his beard. “What was that noise?”

I took a deep breath. “Umm… it was my knee.”

- TWO -

Somehow, I actually completed the day at work. Liz, my wife, arrived at four o’clock. We went directly to the Emergency Room at Geuaga Hospital. On the way, I began to sing:

“Gloom, despair, and agony on me,
Deep dark depression, excessive misery,
If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all,
Gloom, despair, and agony on me…”


My spouse was confused. “Rodney, what are you crooning?”

“It’s from Hee Haw,” I replied.

“From… what?” she said loudly.

“Hee Haw,” I repeated. “The country music comedy show. Remember?”

She shook her head. “Can’t you ever be serious? Even with a busted knee?”

I sighed. “Would it help?”

“It would help me,” she said. “And I’m your driver right now!”

I whistled the other verses quietly while we traveled south on Route 44.

At the ER, their doctor on duty ordered a strong dose of painkillers, an industrial strength knee immobilizer, and x-rays. The numb relief felt good. Yet I was afraid to hear his professional diagnosis.

“The x-rays won’t show anything,” Liz counseled.

“Okay,” I retorted. “Then why do them?”

“They’ve got to be certain,” she snorted. “But an x-ray won’t show tissue damage.
You’ll need an MRI.”

“You mean, like a professional athlete?” I said with amazement.

“Yes,” she squeaked. “You won’t be going back to work anytime soon.”

I groaned out loud.

“There’s no use in complaining!” she said, sternly.

“Lots of my old customers were showing up at the store,” I reflected. “It was emotionally uplifting. And the extra money helped our budget…”

“I’m sorry, Rodney,” she whispered. “Life is like that.”

I closed my eyes while we waited. “Have you ever heard the saying – ‘If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans?’”

Liz nodded. “Sure.”

My skin began to tingle. “I think God is laughing right now.”

- THREE -

Six weeks after I joined the crew at Thompson Thrift & Sundries, my medical leave began. I borrowed a cane from my sister for more steadiness when getting around. An orthopedic specialist confirmed that I had likely suffered some sort of internal damage to my knee. Several days after the sales floor incident, it was still bruised, and swollen. I tried to develop patience while waiting for the MRI.

Once again, my routine was based out of the Icehouse home office.

While trying to write about my predicament, I received advice from our eleven-year-old daughter over breakfast. Soccer Fairy boasted that she had the perfect title for a column on the subject.

When I asked for her idea, she recited it proudly: “KNEE GO BOOM!”

I was speechless. The phrase had a strangely Phil Hendrie-esque quality that struck a nerve, instantly.

It seemed sure to be an interesting summer!

Comments about Thoughts At Large may be sent to: icewritesforyou@gmail.com
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