SHORT STORY CONTEST
IN MY HEAD
by Jody Callahan
The new me is stuck in the old me’s head. How did this happen? I was walking when a car drove over the sidewalk and launched me (I like the sound of that—launched me) like I was a spacecraft going into orbit, but I did not go into orbit. I was launched into the middle of the street onto my head. Landing on my head gave me brain damage so now although I have the same head, it is squished on one side and it gave me new thoughts and took away old ones.
I can no longer study at Georgetown University to become a lawyer. My brain won’t let me. I can’t remember things you need to remember to learn to become a lawyer at Georgetown University. It is strange though how I can remember that there are things that I cannot remember.
The man who launched me with his car felt terrible about it, my mother said. He visited me in the hospital when I was in my coma. I was in my coma for two months. There was a lady who was in a coma for two years and now won a gold or silver or something medal in the Paralympics, the Olympics for people with not perfect bodies but Amazingly Positive Attitudes for overcoming what they really can’t overcome.
“Well la-dee-da!” my mother said to the nurse who told us about the two year coma victim/Olympic medalist. “Sheesh,” she said when the nurse huffed and left my room. “It’s like you being in a coma for two months isn’t good enough! You lost the coma race! Someone else did two years and got a medal; what are you going to do?” She held up her hand to silence me. “Don’t answer that. It was a rhetorical question. Do you remember what rhetorical means or did the meaning of that word get erased in this new brain of yours?”
“What if I didn’t know what rhetorical meant with my previously undamaged brain?” I asked my mother, starting to panic. “How do I know what I never knew and what I knew but got erased?”
“Hmmmmmm,” my mother said, enjoying the conundrum of my situation. “We’ll only know for sure what you knew by what I know you knew. Unfortunately for both of us, but mainly you,” she admitted, “you were a bit of a liar before your brain damage so I can’t be one hundred percent sure of what you said you knew since you could have been lying.”
My brain was able to connect the fact that I was a liar, known to be so by at least my mother, with the fact that I was studying to be a lawyer. How boring, I thought—even with brain damage I knew that everyone was tired of lawyer/liar jokes.
Let’s get back to the scene of the crime, the moment of brain on pavement impact. I had been struck by a Secret Service Agent’s car. “How cool is that?” my mother asked me. “President Reagan was shot and the call went out to all CIA and Secret Service Agents to swarm the area you were walking. When the agent tried to turn around on Connecticut Avenue to get to the Hilton Washington where Reagan was shot, he drove over the sidewalk and launched you into the street. At least he brought you flowers.”
“What did he look like?”
“President Reagan? He looks like that actor, Ronald Reagan.”
“No not him. The Secret Service Agent. When he visited me in the hospital was he wearing a disguise?”
“Now that you mention it,” my mother said, pushing me over in my bed so she could hog more of the covers, “his face did look kind of waxy, his hair too brown, his mustache too mustachey. He also had perfectly adorable wrinkles at the side of his eyes—not too deep and not too many but enough to make him very manly, very Secret Service Agent-worthy.”
“He sounds like Magnum P.I., that actor, Tom Selleck,” I said.
“You know, I think it was Tom Selleck who brought you the flowers!”
“Damn,” I said. “The one time I’m in bed and Tom Selleck comes to visit me, I’m in a coma.”
“Don’t you get it, stupid?” My mother poked the bandages on my head with her pointiest of fingers. “The government hired Tom Selleck to play the part of the Secret Service Agent visiting you in the hospital. They’re not going to send the real Secret Service Agent. He’s got to work undercover and can’t be going around to the hospital bed of every shithead he hits with his car.”
“He’s the shithead,” I pointed out. “He’s the one who drove on the sidewalk.” Even those of us with brain damage know basic traffic laws.
“Well la-dee-da,” my mother said and stuck her tongue out at me. “So do you remember Rover?”
“You don’t remember Rover? I can’t believe you don’t remember him!”
“Who is he?” I begged.
“It’s a she and she’s your dog. No your cat. No I mean your snake.”
“I have a snake?” I honestly didn’t remember even liking snakes, let alone wanting to have one as a pet.
“You think I’d let you have a pet snake?” she said, opening her eyes wide at me. “Well I’ll tell you one thing—you being brain damaged has made you a lot more fun to play with. You’re terribly gullible. I suppose you don’t know what gullible means, do you?”
“I know what gullible means,” I said, and rolled my eyes at her to cover up my lie.
“Open your eyes.”
“They are open.”
“Can you hear me? It’s Mom. I’m right here.”
“I hear you! Can’t you see me moving my mouth answering you?” And that’s when I know that if I wake up soon enough I still may get the chance to meet Magnum P.I./Tom Selleck when he comes to my bed. Wake up, wake up! I tell my eyes. Open! Open! I stretch them with my mind but can’t make them work. I scream.
“She’s whispering something,” my mother says. “What are you saying? Can you hear me? Open your eyes. Please. Open your eyes.”
A native of Massachusetts, Jody Callahan lives on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. Her comedic pieces have been used by Liars’ League London, Liars’ League Hong Kong and at the Wilderness Festival in Oxfordshire. Her work appears online at The Story Shack and in print in the upcoming anthology, Far Flung and Foreign by Writers Abroad.