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Miles Henderson lay in his hospital bed with his broken and freshly casted leg supported by slings and pulleys. His six year old niece was carefully using a bright red felt tipped marker to write her name on his cast. She spelled out Cassandra across the whole side of his aching leg. As much as he appreciated his sister coming to see and check up on him, he was sleepy from the medicine and relieved when they finally left. It felt as if his leg was on fire. Due to the way his leg fractured, the doctors had put in three pins, a plate and numerous screws into the bone to put it back together. And he was still waiting. Something was going to happen. It always did.
Thinking back, Miles Henderson could chronicle his life by what bone was broken when something big happened. He was just ten when he broke his nose sliding into home plate after hitting his first in-the-park home run That was the day the sandy-haired, slightly chubby and completely clumsy kid from Pool Hollow had made his little league team. Blood streaming down his face, eyes shining, he listened to his coach tell him he made the team and to go get cleaned up.
That was also the day he found out that the reason he’d ended up walking home after tryouts was because his mom had gone to the hospital to have his baby sister. His big news had been lost in the shuffle amongst relatives showing up, fuss over the new baby and his dad acting like he’d never had a kid before. His Uncle Dave had taken him to the doctor to make sure his nose was going to be okay and it was his Aunt Sarah who fussed over his two shiners. It wasn’t until his dad came in to say goodnight that Miles finally got the chance to tell him about making the team. It was also the last time he ever hit a home run.
It was two years later when he fell out of his favorite climbing tree and broke his arm. He had gone up there after burying his dog in the back yard. He’d picked the spot by his tree to put Jacko because he’d always lie in the shade of the maple when Miles and Sandy were up in the tree fort. Well, it had never exactly been a fort, but it was to them. It was a hot job digging the hole. The only shovel he could find in the garage had a busted handle and it had seemed as if every rock in the back yard was right where he’d picked to dig. But it had to be right there, where Jacko would still be close to him. He didn’t know who’d left the back gate open, but Jacko had found it and been hit by a car. He didn’t even live on a busy street, but his dumb, dead dog had chosen the exactly wrong moment to chase a squirrel across the road.
He’d been resting on the best sitting branch, the one where no one could see him, but he could see out through the leaves. It was a good place to cry. He was going to miss Jacko. He’d picked him out from the dogs at the shelter, and the mutt had been his best friend, especially after Sandy had moved away earlier that summer. Even if she’d only been a girl, Sandy was cool, no matter what the guys said. She could climb a tree with the best of them and run faster than anyone. First Sandy. Then Jacko. He lost his balance as he wiped his eyes.
Miles hit the ground and the shovel he’d left lying there. Fifteen stitches and a heavy cast later, he came home from the hospital with his dad to get yelled at by his mom who blamed the whole mess on Jacko. She’d even accused Miles of leaving the gate open. His dad had said he thought he was the one who’d left the gate open. His mom had started yelling at his dad and they were still fighting after he’d gone to bed.
Miles had broken his arm again while playing basketball at his neighbor’s house. The garage door had been open and he’d hit the bottom edge of the metal door as he jumped for a shot. He’d been out cold when he landed, shattering his wrist. That night, still bleary-eyed and head-achy, his dad had asked him to come out in the back yard for a bit. He’d had the telescope set up and they took turns looking through it at the full moon. It was a night that was crystal clear. Miles could still remember the stars and how the Milky Way covered the sky like a warm blanket.
It was also the night his dad told him that he was leaving. Miles had asked his dad if he could go too. His mom would have Sissy and his dad could have him. He didn’t want to stay if his dad was leaving. He had said, no, not right away, but maybe later. His mom would need him there. At sixteen, Miles figured he was old enough to choose and when the time came, the judge agreed. He and his dad moved across the state and eventually up north to Boston.
As a junior at Dartmouth College, he’d broken his ankle skiing. That was the night his Aunt Sarah had called and said his mom had cancer and it didn’t look good. He’d still been in a walking cast and using a black leather cane that had been his grandfather’s when his mom passed away. He and his dad went to the funeral and then to pack up his sister.
Sissy, at eleven, had reminded him of himself at her age. She’d been brave at the funeral and shy around her dad and him. He’d walked out into the backyard at his mom’s and found Sissy sitting up in his tree, crying. She didn’t want to move to Boston, she missed her mom and she barely knew them. He’d wished he could climb up into the tree, hold his sister and cry too.
He had just finished his residency when he was in a six car pile-up in the Callahan Tunnel as he returned from dropping his dad at Logan for a flight to L.A. When he woke up at Mass General with broken ribs, a punctured lung and stitches from flying glass, he saw his sister crying in the chair next to his bed. She told him about the Twin Towers falling and terrorists. Then she told him the bad news. Their dad had been on one of the planes that had crashed into the World Trade Center.
Miles didn’t notice the tears that ran down his face as he reminisced.
His sister was recently married and a journalist working out of San Diego when he had an open fracture of his right arm. He’d fallen off the ladder while painting the ceiling of his new house in Dallas. He remembered his surgeon telling him that doctors were always the worst patients and to let her do her job. She had, too. She’d also been a martinet and made him feel like a little kid again. But his arm healed well and given that he needed both hands to do surgery, he’d been fortunate she was on duty when he came in.
It was during his enforced break from his usually busy schedule that he’d heard from his sister. She was calling to tell him he was going to be an uncle in a few months. They were also moving to Dallas as her husband had been promoted and the corporate headquarters were not far from where Miles lived and worked. It had been a long time since he had been in a family sort of environment. He wondered how things would change.
That had been the last time he’d broken something. Sometimes he felt as if his entire life was broken. Sure his career was going along fine, and he loved what he did. Although his sister always joked that he should have been an orthopedist, he’d opted instead for obstetrics. He loved bringing new faces into the world. Yet sometimes, he found himself wondering if he’d ever have a child of his own. He loved the idea of children, but thus far school, residency and setting up his private practice had been enough to keep him busy. Granted, both he and his sister had turned out fine, but he wanted his family life to be a far cry from his own experiences as a child. Spending time with Cassandra had only solidified that thought process.
His wife, when he found one, would be his best friend—a partner in everything. She’d be someone he could both laugh and cry with, someone he could act silly and serious with who’d not even think twice about climbing trees or doing Christmas stockings with even if there weren’t kids in the picture yet.
He’d dated a few women but they’d all been star struck by the Dr. in front of his name or thinking about the money he would (in actuality-didn’t as of yet) make. He wanted someone he could trust to look out for him as much as he would look out for her. Musing on that yet unidentified female, he let the medicine work, and fell asleep.
Sometime in the middle of the night he woke to a cool hand taking his pulse. No, he’d been awake for a second before that, he thought, because he could have sworn someone pushed the hair off his forehead.
A thin yellow light shone on the far side of his room. His half-awake eyes focused more on the hand taking his pulse than on the woman taking it. Until she spoke.
“Hey stranger. How’ve you been all these years?”
Sandy? He knew that voice. His eyes opened and focused.
It was Sandy. They joked about their lives taking similar twists and turns since she’d moved away. She only had a few moments right then, but had come back when she could and during her break. During the next few days, he began to look forward to her night shift. It was week later, the night before he was to be released that she asked him.
“So what was the big thing this time?” He’d told her about the bones and breaks of his past.
“I don’t know. Still waiting for the shoe to fall, I guess.”
“I think I know. I think you need to cast me in that role this time,” she joked. He looked up, surprised at first and then he smiled. She was right.
Miles didn’t break another bone for three years. This time he’d jammed his thumb while wrenching loose a pipe fitting to install a washer in their new house. Walking into the kitchen with his thumb in a cast sent his wife into gales of laughter. Tears were streaming as she hugged him and laughed. Then, still giggling, she reached for a lab result and handed it to him.
word count: 1878 not including title.