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Friday, April 1, 2016

In Other Words: Kid Cars, Scars, and My Draft Card 
By Chuck Keller

I had just turned eighteen in 1971 and I had to register with the draft board. That was the law.  There was a war going on. Some of you remember that.

I was nervous walking into the federal building. You know, you’re aways nervous when your future is unsure. I met with a clerk who would conduct the interview - birth date, place, address, height, weight, the usual. Then there was a question that was hard to answer with a simple yes or no. Did I have any birthmarks or scars to help identify my body?

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, I did have one peculiar identifying mark, but I didn’t think there was not enough room on the draft card for a proper description. So the nice clerk, a middle aged woman, asked, “Well, what is the scar?” I stuck out my tongue.

She winced. I knew she would. Everyone does. It hurts to see that thing. And sometimes it hurts me. “So what’s the story?” she asked.

I was a child, maybe 6 or 7 years old, and I was playing with my younger brother who is only 11 months younger. The clerk shot that look over the rim of her glasses. “My parents were in love,” I said.

Well, you see I was 6 or 7 and I wanted to drive the car. You know the kind that looks like a fire truck or a race car or a sedan that you pedal and steer. I had a “need for speed” because I made my younger brother, the engine, push me so I could go even faster.  He was a good engine. We flew. Oddly enough, he is a mechanic today. And I still drive too fast.

I guess he got tired of me yelling at him to push faster - and that’s when it happened.  You know, when you are younger, you really don’t understand the laws of physics. We didn’t understand much of anything except hunger and anger with each other.

He wanted to drive but I claimed my elder brother’s right and I wouldn’t allow it. So when he started to push again, he snapped. And that’s when physics took over. It didn’t matter where I steered because he pushed with more power than my steering. And he steered me right into a post.

Well, there was no seatbelt on those tiny pedal cars and if I had one, the story would have a different outcome. When I hit the post the car stopped but I did not. I ejected from the seat. I screamed. Then I hit the post. I bit my tongue.  My upper teeth cut a chunk out of my tongue. And a protruding nail in the post pierced my lower lip. The perfect storm of childhood calamity - age, anger, and opportunity. It was a mess.

Now I really screamed which brought my mother. Anybody could see what happened but she asked anyway and in my panic I forgot the language. I cried.  Fortunately, we lived a few blocks from a hospital so we were there in record mom time. The doctors stitched the lower lip pretty quickly but they were a bit stumped as to how to stop a bleeding tongue. You can’t really bandage it. Or stitch it. Or glue it. Or anything. But somehow it stopped and I was left with a permanent reminder - a little flap, or a slice, or two tongues, or something.  I could go on and tell more but you get the picture.

So that was the story that I told the clerk at the draft board. She was entertained and a bit disgusted when I showed her the scar. We brainstormed descriptors that might fit on the draft card but none would fit in that little space so we eventually settled on “none.” But that’s not the point of this story.

You see, I could have avoided the whole bloody mess, but I let my emotions and a need to dominate get in the way.  I should have never allowed my brother to take control of my car.  So when I lost control, something bad happened. And that’s the lesson here. Yessir, for every scar there is a story.  And that one just didn’t fit on the draft card.

Now that scar on my knee is from where my brother threw a knife at me.

Chuck Keller writes "In Other Words" for Fort Thomas Matters. 

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