It's funny what I can remember from forty years ago. I can recall my home phone number, my address, and my decapitation. My neighbor had just finished putting up a new barbed wire fence. Cruising down Mellon Road on a borrowed three-wheeler, the curve came up to fast, and I lost control. I headed straight through that new neck-high fence and ended up playing basketball with my dead father and sister.
What kid wouldn't enjoy a game of hoops with his dad and big sis in the front yard? They both towered over my eleven-year-old body like a couple of giants. Whenever either of them would deliver a shot, the swish noise is all we'd hear. A sound of a ball bouncing from our homemade wooden backboard when I took my turn was the best I could do.
After a quick game of HORSE, we took it inside for a discussion. Dad explained how I wouldn't be around too long because someone pretty high up had made a grave mistake. Susan, my sister, argued with him, describing how angels didn't mess up; they just reverse. Dad went on to say I would be getting a do-over, and I'd soon be back home with Mom. Evidently, God never puts more on folks than they can handle, and taking me away would have been too devastating. She'd already lost Dad and Susan, so losing me would be too much. They let me talk them into one more round of basketball before my rewind; I'm betting they let me win this time. A few extra moments felt nice before saying goodbye.
The next thing I knew, I was back on the machine that had ended my life earlier that same day. Freedom was in front of me, and it took the shape of blue Tennessee skies, sunshine, and wind. Clouds of dust invaded the atmosphere in the rearview mirror while massive rubber wheels spun on the gravel road, trapping the pain I desperately tried to outrun. No matter how much pressure I put on the gas, torment always followed. All I could do was try my hardest to outrun the agony of an eleven-year-old child who'd lost both his father and sister. Power from the three-wheeler shook my bones while whisking down the road. Excitement morphed into fear as I failed to take the final turn where a new fence was patiently waiting. Losing control, I panicked and hit the accelerator instead of pressing the brakes as jagged wire approached me like a stop motion animation film. One second it was in the distance, and the next, it was twisted around my neck and affixed to my face like a python. I could feel my lips tear away and my body surrender before darkness plucked me from tragedy a second time.
(Hear me tell the story)
Light began to focus; I didn't see my Dad and sister waiting for me in the front yard like before. A reflection of my distorted face in the bright red paint of the wreckage stared back at me. Angels carefully lifted my empty shell from the ground to escort me home. Fragments of life jumped around in my thoughts, mixing reality with fantasy until both were indistinguishable. That's when I heard the whisper.
The voice was unclear, fading in and out. The muffled noise seemingly drew closer and more apparent until I heard, "You were lucky, Chris." My bloody, bruised body, being wheeled through a hallway full of people on a cold hospital bed, was a good indication I was still alive. My brother, Larry, told me to squeeze his hand as the docs began to stitch up my distorted face. Afterward, I remember lying half-conscious in my room while overhearing Larry explain to another adult that someone must have watched over me that day. Our neighbor had put off securing his new fence because something came up, and he needed to leave the job undone. My brother said, "Chris would have been decapitated if the fence had been nailed in."