I remember the first thing I heard when everything was over was the sound of rustling paper.
As the panic subsided, breathing started to regulate and the pounding in my ears from the rushing blood began to fade.
Despite that, I didn’t move for hours.
Laying face down on the branch of an oak tree I struggled with my fear. The fear that if I so much as breathed loudly it would come back and try to claw its way up to me again; the huge claws would find the needed holds to work their way up the trunk and that snarling, snapping mouth would find more meaty bits than just my ankle.
Just my ankle. Funny how perspective can change about such an important part of your body. I had fits over the gopher holes and hills in the football field last year. My lead trumpet had twisted his ankle after stepping in one right before our state competition. . . It was a disaster, our whole set was based off of his solos. After hounding maintenance and petitioning the principle multiple times we finally had the gophers “removed” and the field was re-landscaped. Smooth as silk for the next fall.
Just my ankle. . . It took me a while, but I pushed myself up and leaned back against the tree. It hurt like hell but I was able to bring both legs up on the branch, my injured right ankle crossed over my left thigh. I tried to see how bad the injury was, but it was difficult to determine much past the fact that it was swollen and covered with dry blood.
After giving up on the ankle I looked around the bottom of the tree. My sheet music was still swirling around in the wind, bits caught in bushes here and there, some even in the crowns of a few of the shorter trees. My flute case was destroyed, in pieces at the base of my oak. The huge dog didn’t take too kindly to having it bashed across his face when I used it to make him let go of my ankle and had destroyed it before he left. The brute had grabbed hold of me when I tried to climb up when he chased me down, but his bite wasn’t good enough to bring me to the ground right away. Swinging down desperately with that case I got lucky when some part of it connected with something soft, though I think it let go more out of surprise than pain.
The sun had started to set when I finally got the courage to shimmy down the trunk. I planned to support my weight on my good leg when I landed, but lost my balance on a root. I collapsed in a ball when pressure hit that ankle. I can’t remember if I screamed or not, the pain was so bad it killed every other sense I had for what seemed like an eternity. When I was able to think again I looked around for something, anything, to support my weight.Nothing was around but a two foot long stick about as wide as two of my fingers. I was about to give up when I saw something silver stomped into the dirt. Digging it out I found the foot of my alto flute, and after rooting around in the wreckage of my case I found its head and body. It actually wasn’t in bad shape considering what had happened to it. Pushing the pieces together it gave me a good three feet of metal to work with. Desperate for anything that would get me home I shoved the stick into the foot of my flute, cringing when I heard the bark scrape against the metal. I pushed myself up and tested some weight on the horrible creation. The metal screamed a bit, but kept its shape and the stick didn’t break. So far so good. I slowly hopped my way home, using the improvised walking stick only sparingly to help keep my balance. When I finally made it to the back porch it was after 8, and that meant waiting for my parents to get back from their date night, which wouldn’t be until 10 at the earliest. I went strait for the bathroom and started filling the tub. The bathroomed steamed up pretty fast due to the winter chill as I got undressed and gingerly peeled the socks off my feet.