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TITLE: A Nickel in the Dark
By Luanna Diller
03/12/12
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This is a revision of a piece I posted a while back. Hopefully, improved.
Everything was black. She didn’t know why.

She was in a car; whose car she couldn’t be sure. Not that it mattered much. Her face was splotchy and warm from crying. Beating through the windows, the late afternoon sun added an oppressiveness to the confusion and fear that swirled around inside, causing her to feel the same. She sensed her older sister’s presence. She was being held in her lap. A faint familiarity in a place of total darkness. She was just six years old. A short time before she was swinging and playing at the school playground. Now, she was blind.

It wasn’t unusual for her to be the only one in the playground. The town was small; rural in every way. So safe that no one contemplated otherwise. Northeastern Montana. Safe from abductions but not from accidents.

Outside the play area, between a three foot high concrete ledge and the sidewalk below, was a rusty, metal bicycle rack. The concrete ledge was just wide enough for her to walk across. A balance beam of sorts. She became a gymnast. The metal rack running parallel was a throw of the leg away from being a riding horse. She never rode that horse. As she pushed off the ledge, a hook on the far side clawed at her pant leg throwing her off balance. She pitched backwards, her head meeting solidly with the sidewalk below. She remembers the lunge but not the fall.

No one knows how long she lay there. Across the street, the woman in the light green house heard a child crying. She came out to find her in a heap and bleeding from the back of her head. The child’s family was less than a block away, having stopped to visit her grandparents, as they often did. The child had asked to go to the playground. The woman carried her crumpled body to her family and a car.

When she arrived at the hospital less than two blocks away, the blackness seemed to intensify as her fear turned to panic. The two hospital nurses on duty held her flailing arms and legs as the doctor injected her with a relaxant. In his heavy German accent he said to her, “Here, I have a nickel for you, take it.” She instinctively reached out, groping the air for it. He put it in her hand and closed her little fingers around it. “Here it is.”

Diagnosis complete: female, age six, acute traumatic blindness. She rested for the night.

The doctor informed her parents, “There is a 50/50 chance she will see again. A blood clot could still move and cause a stroke or even death. She will stay here for a week.” Few words always suited him. The child slept through the night, unaware of the dangers. A young life hanging in the balance. Unaware even of the prayers of the faithful.

She awoke in the morning, seeing clearly as usual. As if it had all been a bad dream.

That was more than forty years ago. I kept the nickel. I take it out sometimes. Just to look at it. Just to remember, “I once was blind. But now I see.”

Amazing grace. Yes, it is.
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