A strong sense of deja vu yesterday night, sitting in the ER at Peterborough General Hospital with my son Ed, tight lipped and glassy-eyed, holding his left arm in a sling fashioned by the ski patrol people. Same thing happened last year at almost exactly this time.
I need a story, he told me. I want a cool story about how my injury came about.
I looked around the waiting room. Babies with runny noses, old people with resigned expressions, a guy in hydro company coveralls, a woman with a limp. Ed was the only one in ski pants.
Snowboarding accident isn't good enough? I said.
He shook his head. Come on, Dad.
He wants something cool, so he comes to his old man. Aww. I put on my thinking pants. (Nothing special about me, you know. Kid authors are regular people. We put our thinking pants on one leg at a time, just like you.)
How about this, I said. You were leaping over a sleeping ostrich on your way to school, when its mate misinterpreted your actions and chased you over a cliff. You damaged your shoulder in the rock slide that followed.
He was silent. Not bad, he admitted. But I want it cooler. And shorter.
An ambulance gurney swung in, two EMTs working hard as they pushed past us and into the bowels of the hospital. Our faces dropped.
Did you see the tube in that guy's throat? Ed asked.
I nodded. Did you see how they bypassed the triage station?
We'd been there for over an hour already. I don't know where broken collarbones rated, triage-wise, but they'd be a long way below crushed windpipes. I exchanged glances with one of the older guys. He nodded, his resigned expression getting deeper.
Cooler than ostriches? I said to Ed. Okay, I'll try. How about ... Red River Cereal? We could come up with a story about that. Or a broken heart? A mechanical device for measuring windspeed? You mean an anemometer, he said.
I did, but I couldn't think of the name. Yes, I said. Any of those.
He shook his head. Come on, Dad. Cool.
By the time Ed's name was called we had roughed out a storyline. The nurse took us to a cubicle with a pull curtain. Now then, she said, clipboard in hand, what happened to you, young man?
Ed looked off into the distance. Mud pirates, he said. I hi-jacked one of their anti-aircraft lasers, jammed my collarbone on the recoil.
The nurse laughed heartily. Ed glared at me. I wanted cool, he said.