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The Headline Will Read...

Young Woman Dies in Freak Donkey Accident.

When childhood friends find my name in the first sentence, few will be surprised.

They’ll remind themselves of the time I fell down a flight of stairs in the second grade to suffer the first of many concussions.

And they’ll talk about how in third grade I took that punch right in the forehead – how I was running by, rapt in a game of tag, just as Joe took a swing at Will. They’ll remember how the punch left a rug burn impression of a fist on my forehead for a week. The fact that I broke the same arm twice will come up too.

A friend will even recall a Pound Puppy I got one Christmas that I named Donkey. The attempt to decipher meaning in this will wake her up at night until meds will be the only way she can sleep.

When the paper interviews my mother, she’ll tell them about the petting zoo incident in kindergarten, about the goat that tried to gobble up my school bus shaped nametag while it was around my neck. She’ll tell them how the goat had nearly choked me to death before she ripped the nametag from its teeth, how she saved the nametag in the same drawer she keeps the family photos. She’ll develop a habit of taking it out after it’s dark outside and running her fingers along the contours of the bite mark.  She’ll blame herself for not protecting me enough.

Friends will do their best to convince her it was not her fault. It was a horrible accident and There’s no point in beating yourself up and She’s in a better place, but Mum will have trouble forgiving herself anyway, and underneath the guilt will be some shame too. Part of her will wish she could tell people I died on one of my adventures, when I hiked in the Himalayas or trekked alone through the jungle in Borneo. But she won’t be able to say that because that’s not how it happens.

The headline will read YoungWoman Dies in Freak Donkey Accident. Those who glance at the Bureau Grotesque letters printed in the little box on page 17 will think, how strange. And as they drink their morning coffee, they’ll read the few hundred words.  They’ll put the paper down and return to their desks. They’ll get to work but throughout the day find themselves staring out the window at faces in the street. Sometimes they’ll stare at their locked computer screens or a single white tack stuck in the bulletin board on the wall. On other occasions, five minutes will have passed before they realise they’ve been staring at the small brown spot at the bottom of their coffee mug, Can’t forget to scrub that, they’ll think. Otherwise it will stain.