I got a call from the school the other day.

(That’s a whole genre right there, isn’t it? Documents that begin, “I got a call from the school the other day”? That’s about as writing prompt-y as you can get, full of rich imaginings involving truancy and vomit and broken limbs and suspensions and lice. I mean, no one’s heart grows just a little bit lighter when they see the name of their child’s school on call display before picking up.)

Anyway, so I picked up (like I’m going to ignore a call from the school), and there was Rowan sounding very small and far away. “Mom?” He sounded as though he was at the bottom of a well. “Mom? My neck is bleeding.”


Turns out that a stick was thrown by an unknown child and caught him in the neck, giving him a nasty gash. His teacher came on the phone to say that while it looked ugly, it didn’t seem to be too serious. But that he didn’t want a Band-Aid on it. “Mm-hmm,” I said.

“So,” she said, “do you want to come get him, or do you want him to stay in school until the end of the day?”

Um, guess?

“Well,” I said, hedging my bets and weighing my deadline. “If he can manage to stay in school until the end of the day, that’s fine with me.” But I knew it wouldn’t fly even as I said the words: once the option of going home was introduced, the option of staying there fell to the bottom of that same well. I overheard the discussion in the background and then the teacher came on the phone again. “Okay,” I said, “I’m on my way.”

And I went, meeting him in the office where he sat, big-eyed and forlorn, on a bench, holding a piece of paper towel to his neck. When he saw me, his lower lip began to tremble. I got a look at the cut: jagged, slightly deep, about an inch long. Nothing pretty, but nothing too serious. Apparently, his teacher told me, he’d gone right back to class and hadn’t even noticed it until she pointed out.

He agreed after much convincing to put a Band-Aid over it for the walk home.

“You’re going to want to put some Polysporin on that,” a bigger kid, probably in fifth grade, said to me as I went to sign out Rowan.

“Great idea,” I said. Because I would never think to put Polysporin on my kid’s cut.

But he was just warming up. “It’s a really good thing that didn’t get him even 1 INCH over,” the fifth-grader continued.

“Uh-huh,” I said. “It wouldn’t have been good if it had hit his face.”

“His face?” the kid said. “I’m talking about his CAROTID ARTERY. If he had cut open his CAROTID ARTERY, he would have been dead in like six seconds flat. Blood everywhere!”

Rowan stood next to me, his eyes growing bigger and bigger. I pulled him closer to me.

“Yup, that CAROTID ARTERY is a killer,” the kid continued. What, are you 70? I wanted to ask. Instead I smiled and thanked him and gathered up my lucky-to-be-alive son. Who skipped the whole way home, and then, when Rachel came home with a movie for him, ran to the door to meet her him practically shrieked with glee, “Guess what! If a stick had hit my CAROTID ARTERY, I would’ve DIED!”