‘He doesn’t appear to have broken anything,’ the doctor says.
I look at the x-ray’s delicate image of my boy’s foot and ankle bones and they look for all the world as if they are made of light, delicate and powerful all at the same time.
‘Now perhaps you could tell me again how the injury occurred?’
The doctor whips the plate down off of the light-box as he says this, like he thinks he’s on some detective drama or something.
‘Like I told the nurse,’ I say. ‘He was messing about with his brother on the big bench in our garden and it fell and landed smack on his toes.’
‘Smack on his toes,’ the doctor says nodding, the picture of my boy’s bones tapping lightly against his leg.
‘I can see what you are trying to say,’ I say.
‘I’m not trying to say anything,’ the doctor says.
‘You’re trying to say I did it,’ I say. ‘If you think I did it, just say so,’ I say.
‘His injuries are consistent with being stamped on heavily, perhaps by a large booted adult foot.’
He looks down at my large booted adult foot.
‘They’re also consistent with a large wooden bench dropped on his foot by accident,’ I say.
‘There’s no need to shout, sir,’ the doctor says.
‘I’m not,’ I say. ‘You’ll know exactly when I start shouting,’ I say.
He takes a step back. I take a step forward.
‘Where’s my boy?’ I say.
‘If you’ll just calm down and answer my questions,’ the doctor says, but I’m not listening anymore.
I push past the doctor and out of the small exam room. Looking up and down the main corridor, I don’t see my boy. I run down to the casualty waiting area, slap open the double doors and there he is, at the vending machine with the nurse who took him out.
He turns to me beaming. ‘Look what I got, Daddy,’ he shouts and runs right at me, waving a packet of Opal Fruits.
I lift him into my arms and he squeals a loud and throaty, ‘Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.’
We turn to leave and I see the doctor watching all of this.
‘Let’s go home, Daddy,’ my lad says and plants a kiss on my cheek.
I look at his black and bruised toes dandling over my belly and think of the bones of light that glow secretly inside him.
‘Does he look like I go about stamping on his feet,’ I say as I pass the doctor and take him home.
18 Responses to Bones of Light – #fridayflash
Oh I really felt for that poor father. Loved this. Says a great deal very economically.
This reminds me of a time I was at a family friend’s swimming pool. We were outside late and the kids were screaming with delight and playing at the pool. An hour after they went to bed, the cops showed up and wanted to see the kids, they had complaints of “child abuse.” good tale, a vulnerability people need to pay more attention to.
I can only imagine how that felt. I was holding my breath until he found his son.
I love, “bones of light that glow secretly inside him.” – so beautiful.
That doctor definitely added insult to injury.
So glad that the dad found his boy and that the doctor saw the love.
Beautiful image of light. Yes, it IS delicate and powerful. Just like bones.
Very well done.
Good story. It’s sad that doctors have to ask such questions, but I’m sure they’ve seen it all. Doesn’t make it any easier for this Dad who already feels bad enough.
You had me. I thought it was child abuse, but now I left thinking he was innocent. Or maybe hoping he was innocent, so much so that it blotted out everything else. Such a sweet ending.
Great story. There’s so much abuse in the world that it has turned into a witch hunt, trapping innocent people in the snare.
Thanks for the kind comments, everyone. So glad you have picked up on the effects I was attempting to create.
I often feel sorry for parents with accident-prone, or simply unlucky, children. Doctors seem to forget that sometimes accidents do happen, and kids enjoy getting into scrapes. But at least in this case, the son was alright and the father was vindicated.
The economy of language here is absolutely stunning. It evokes such an awkward situation of suspicion and obligation versus childhood accidents.
Really well done, Dan. Clean language, so realistic but with that fantastical bit about the bones of light, too.
Great scene… and you’ve portrayed emotions every parent can relate to.
Well done… a great read!
I used to wonder if the other parents at the swimming pool would look at my monkey’s bruised shins and think something suspicious – until I noticed that all the other kids had bumps and bruises too.
Very well told story, and the detail about the bones of light was just perfect. Bravo.
Thanks to all for the positive response here. This was a highly personal piece, based on an event in my childhood. I was the boy in the story. While I don’t remember the event myself, I remember how my father told it to me, which is largely as it is written here.
The ‘Bones of Light’ aspect comes from my own relationship with my boys.
It’s always hard (for me) to write about real events and make the words do the story justice. You’ve definitely don’t that here – love the image of the bones. How scary for the father to feel like he’s being accused. My heart melted for him when I realized his innocence.
This is a really beautiful story, and that image of bones of light is so evocative. It will stay with me a while.
This is one of my favorites for the week.
I really felt for the father. I’m glad the doctor saw the love between father and son. The title and the quote its derived from were beautiful.
This brought back my experience. 2 days after christmas, my nephew kamikazeed off the bed onto my 3 year old son’s shin. Snapped, ambulance, you get the picture.
17 people asked me what happened. Both paramedics separately and every hospital personnel I encountered, including the janitor. I never even spanked any of my sons. I was mortified.
We didn’t let our sons get hurt after that experience! (I understood at the time and just calmly explained the story to each individual.)
VERY true to life story. And you told it well. I especially liked how you described the son’s bones.
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