Who knows how it happened. But there I was lying on the living room floor in a puddle of water, sand, glass and flopping fish. Hadn’t Mama told me to stop chasing around? Maybe she had, but none of that mattered anymore. I opened my mouth and let out a long, loud wail. Not only had I ruined something nice, but I was scared and uncomfortable.
Everyone in the house must have heard the crash and come running to see what had happened. If they hadn’t heard the glass break, they certainly heard my fire siren howl. Mama picked me up off the floor and gasped, “Oh my goodness! The glass cut your left arm!” Holding me away from her a little she added, “Ugh, you’re wet and fishy smelling!”
Mama firmly directed me toward the bathroom for a bath, bandaging and a change of clothing. Before leaving the room, I looked back and saw my sisters and brothers picking up glass, mopping up the water and sand. I saw small orange fish on the gray linoleum floor wildly flopping about. The sight made me feel so sad I began to wail again.
The cut on my left arm was deep. It healed slowly, leaving a big scar. One week after I had knocked over the fish bowl, Mama took me to visit her friend, Katie. Katie had a German accent. She was also very outspoken and loud, as if she was either hard of hearing or lived with someone who was. Noticing the scabby wound on my arm she loudly inquired, “What happened to you? Your arm has an owie!”
I looked down at the raggedly healing flesh and all I could think about was the poor fish frantically flopping about in a puddle of water on the living room floor. I looked up at her and explained, “A fish bit me.”
Everyone in the room erupted into loud laughter, hurting my feelings. I didn’t think what had happened was funny. Katie chortled and bellowed, “Why did a fish bite you?”
Looking down with tears filling my eyes I confessed, “Because I knocked over and broke the bowl they lived in.”
Being so young at the time, I only remembered laying on the floor, wet and miserable. In my mind, the injury that I’d suffered had to have been caused by one of the fish. After all, I’d ruined their home. Years later, I realized I’d slipped on the wet floor and fell onto a shard of glass after knocking over the fish bowl.
I am rather fond of the small, soft, white, inch-and-a-quarter-long battle scar, still visible sixty-two years later, a souvenir from a funny/sad experience.
My mother had a big battle scar from the summer she was helping her brothers put hay into the barn when twelve-years-old. A rope dragged her right hand into a pulley and her pinky finger was so badly damaged she was never able to straighten it for the rest of her long life.
She told me, “I would have lost my finger if Pa hadn’t been working the horses. He stopped them from pulling the rope when he heard me scream. My older brothers wouldn’t have been so quick.”
Continuing her memory, she said, “Ma wasn’t home. She was at a neighbor’s house for a victory tea. (World War I was coming to an end.) My sisters wrapped my hand in a towel and walked me to where Ma was to show her my injury.
“The neighbors tried to clean me up, slipping a clean dress over my soiled one. Then my sisters and I walked into Stratford where the doctor lived. He put a splint on the finger, but I think we took it off too soon.”
Battle scars usually happen in interesting ways. It’s impossible to go through life without picking up a few along the way. One hopes they are all small and not too embarrassing, because their presence will spark conversation for years.