One deliciously lazy early-1960's summer afternoon, I, Maria Von Trapp, was sitting on my back steps quietly singing "Edelweiss" in harmony with my imaginary husband, Captain Von Trapp when I heard Click-click-ding! Click-click-ding! Click-click-ding! "Vas ist das?!" I asked my handsome Captain, "Could that be the sound of Nazi gunfire? Should we hide behind tombstones?"
Nope, it was one of the Clower boys next door shooting at something in the Bamboo Forest that covered the back third of his yard. The Bamboo Forest was usually the set for all of our Tarzan and Jane reenactments. Tarzan didn't have a rifle. He attacked with big ol' elephants. The sound of a rifle was a new development in our imaginary world of Ungawa.
Clower Boy appeared from the "bush" on his side of the chain link fence smiling like Cheeta. In his sweaty clutches was a brand new BB gun.
Then, it happened.
I sat there on the steps screaming at the top of my lungs too afraid to walk because in all of the movies when someone gets shot their friends shout, "Don't move! Lie Still! We'll try to stop the bleeding!" After about 4 hours or maybe 10 minutes, my mom appeared at the back door. "What happened?" she asked. "I've been SHOT! The Clower Boy SHOT ME!" I fully expected her to do one of two things: 1) yell "Don't move! Lie Still! I'll try to stop the bleeding while I send your extremely concerned little sister for help!" or, 2) catapult herself over the chain link fence in search of my perpetrator. (I was secretly hoping for Option 2 because what wounded child doesn't enjoy a good "perp walk.") Instead...
Apparently, the BB ricocheted off of my shinbone and buried itself deep into the soil beneath the thick green St. Augustine grass. Lost forever. All I had to show for my "drive by" shooting was a little nick in my shin. A scratch really. Oh, I spent the rest of that summer on my belly searching the depths of our St. Augustine lawn with a magnifying glass. To no avail. I suppose the lawn mower ricocheted the BB towards some yawning stray cat. I felt robbed of the public retribution that the Clower Boy had so easily avoided. I felt robbed of my dramatic testimony in front the Tribunal of Concerned Parents. I wanted to be promoted to Tarzan all summer while a penitent Boy followed all of my commands. No such luck. No ungawa.
Fast Forward to the Mid-80's
For longer than I could remember I had a little bump on the left of my left knee. It was very small. I'd say about the size of a...BB. In fact, I called it my BB. Having found no BB tucked into the St. Augustine blades of my childhood, I figured that somehow the BB had penetrated my skin on that sultry 1960's summer afternoon miraculously leaving but a tiny scratch. I suppose I should have been grateful to the BB for leaving me maim-free.
Every now and then, I would make my mom feel the bump just so I could say, "Yup. That's my BB!" I longed to hear her say "Oh, honey! You weren't just being a histrionic Maria Von Trapp shot by German soldiers! You really did get SHOT!" or "Oh, my! This lump on your leg might be leg cancer! Sweet Baby, let's get you to the doctor this very day!" I was usually sorely disappointed by a passive "Hmm."
Enter my knight in shining armor - my Shweet Bahy-be, young husband, Alan. During our first few years of marriage, he had become quite familiar with my BB. He, too, was skeptical. "So, it hit you in the shin and migrated to your knee?" "BBs do that sometime, you know," I explained.
I finally mustered all of my courage and decided to end the mystery of the BB. I made an appointment with a surgeon in Waco that Mom recommended. I took off a day of school teaching, and drove from Dallas to Waco for the appointment. Kathy went along with me for moral support. So she said. I assumed that surgery would be scheduled, and I would need a substitute teacher for a week or two while I recuperated.
The doctor entered the room and got down to business.
"How long has this been here," he asked.
"As long as I can remember," I answered becoming increasingly nervous as I recalled my "Or, It's Cancer" theory.
"Hmm. The only way we'll know what it is will be to take it out," he said like we were playing some kind of "Guess What?" game with a mystery item tucked into a black velvet bag.
"Can we schedule surgery for a Friday, so that I don't have to miss too much school? I'm a 5th grade teacher, you know," I asked.
"Surgery? Oh, you don't need surgery! I'm going to take it out right here and now!" he smiled.
"Here?! Now?! What about anesthesia?! What about the big bright operating room lights?! What about my extremely LOW threshold for PAIN?!" I cried.
"Not to worry, I'll deaden the area," he said over his shoulder as he left the room.
In the corner sitting on a chair with an open magazine in her lap, Kathy was shaking with laughter. She couldn't talk for laughing. My glare made her laughter all the more uncontrollable.
A nurse entered the room with a cloth covered tray. On top of the cloth was a large syringe along with other gory looking doctor tools. Enter the doctor. On went the latex gloves and a paper mask. The nurse cleaned about a 2 foot section of my leg with Betadine before positioning it on the table with the BB side up. Then, came the needle.
By now, Kathy was holding onto her chair to keep from falling on the floor with laughter. More glares. Tears ran down her very red face. Her eyes opened wide when I cried out, "Yeow!!!!" as the doctor cut into my not quite deadened leg. Her silent shaking laughter exploded into hoots.
"There! It's out." the doctor asked as he began stitching up the gaping 1" hole left in my carefully shaved leg.
I bravely gasped, "I need to see it. That BB has been with me since childhood."
"Oh, it's not a BB! It's a little cyst," he explained as he showed me a tiny round thing that looked like a small pearl onion.
"I think that there's going to be a BB inside of it! Can you find out if there's a BB inside?" I persisted.
"Sure can!" he said taking his scalpel to the cyst. Sure enough. It was ALL cyst.
"No BB?! Oh, no!! Is it...CANCER?"
"Doubt it. But, I'll run it through the lab just to make sure. Sometimes, little cysts can pop up for no reason at all. Is there anything else I can do for you today?"
Large guffaw from the corner.
To this very day, Alan reminds me about my BB. If I find any sort of irregularity on my skin, he quips, "Do you think it's the BB?!"
The Clower Boy did more than just shoot me that day so long ago. He set me up. He set me up real good. I'm gunnin' for ya, Clower Boy. Someday. Somewhere. When you least expect it...Click-click-rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat-tat! Followed by, "Lie still so you won't gush on the carpet."