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July 18, 2001

fried shrimp

If, when I was young, I had been in charge of family vacations, we never would have taken our trips with my parents' friends and their children.   But I wasn't in charge.  So occasionally I would find myself in some strange, sandy place paired with a sandy stranger who was roughly my age, but who had a sour smell.  And I hated them which meant I looked forward to vacations the way Robert Downey Jr. looks forward to urine-testing.  Nevertheless, I learned important life-lessons which, though obscured for many years, resonate with me still.

I recall a trip to the Gulf coast of Texas. My parents and their friends were having a jolly good time owing, primarily, to the restaurant's beer and air-conditioning.   I was a child and, therefore, sober.  Sober and seated across the table from a curly-haired, pig-faced girl who was to be my Doppelganger for the trip.  We avoided eye-contact and sat there quietly---she picking at her nose, I picking at my fried shrimp.  I had no clue she had left the table until I heard her loud, piercing scream knife through the cold restaurant air from the direction of the restrooms.  The adults hurried over to investigate; I chewed my shrimp.

When the group made their way back to our table, I saw piggy-girl rubbing a bump on her forehead and crying, "I hit my head."   The parents asked, "where did you hit your head ?" and the girl replied, "right here!" pointing to the obvious red goose-egg on her noggin.  Then a grownup said, "but where did you hit your head?" and again the girl pointed to her forehead and replied, "right here!"

This went on for what seemed like an eternity and I didn't even know what an eternity was---the adults asking where the girl hit her head and the exasperated girl indicating her forehead.  I remember taking it all in as I sipped root beer through a straw.  It was obvious to my nine-year-old mind that the parents wanted to know what part of the restaurant had come in contact with my counterpart's head.  But every time they asked where (in the restaurant) she had hit her head, the girl referred them to her forehead.

I wrote the whole lot of them off as idiot Savants Sans Savant.  And they were because they neither understood each other nor realized that they didn't.  Many years later, however, as I wrestled the beast, I recalled the irrelevance of the parents' query and the confusion of the hurting pig-faced girl. And I knew that it really doesn't matter what causes the pain.  It only matters that it hurts. 

©  2001 by the beastmaster