It was almost musical, like a percussionist rapping a drum stick against a hardwood block. My ankle, my trusted right ankle that had carried me through countless soccer matches, hard parachute landings, and nightly combat patrols, had just betrayed me in front of two squads of blissfully bouncing prepubescents.
As I crumpled to the trampoline, its buoyant cushion mocking my crippled body, I felt a electric shock rage up my leg and slam into the soft tissue behind my eyes. I was surrounded. Surrounded by jubilant 12-year-olds with nimble, elastic limbs. With each ruthless landing, my supposed teammates shoved the blade deeper into my weakened flesh and the pain in my leg intensified. My instincts took over. These imps were going to be the death of me. I had to retreat. Find somewhere safe to tend to my wound. I probably smiled as I limped off the court. Nothing wrong here. You kids have fun. I’m just going to sit this one out. They can smell weakness, you know?
Before the real misery set in, I hobbled over to the row of cafeteria style tables that lined the side of the trampoline-dodgeball court. Trampoline-dodgeball. What kind of Reichstag sadists had concocted such a ridiculous diversion? I cursed my girlfriend. “Let’s get out and do something fun for a change,” she’d demanded. Yeah, you’ll have your fun watching me crutch around the house for the next month.
Carefully removing my shoe and sock I exposed the treacherous joint. It had already ballooned to twice its usual girth and a dark purple bruise had begun to bloom under the lateral malleolus. Jesus, what had I done? Was it the calcaneofibular or anterior talofibular that I’d demolished? Who could remember the bird’s nest of ligaments twisting around down there? I’d fucked a couple of them up for sure. A grade 2 sprain, maybe even a 3. Propping my leg up on the table I stared at my ankle. Traitor. Vile turncoat. How fucking dare you? As if these ballon animals skipping past me weren’t reminder enough that I’m slowly decomposing.
A few minutes later, the air-filled head of one of the blue shirted staff wandered by. He glanced at my leg and a look of pure horror replaced his mindless smile. He rushed off and returned with a bag of ice, some towels, and a manager who, like all men who fear impending legal action, wanted to know exactly what had happened. Could I put weight on it? Why hadn’t I been immediately tended to by the teenage referee who had been entrusted with the wellbeing of the players on the court? Was I sure I’d signed the waiver?
They offered to call an ambulance. For what? My foot was still attached to my body. I could just imagine the faces of my old Army buddies as I’d got carted off to the hospital for something so absurd. Nice one, Doc. Don’t forget to take your Motrin. No thanks, I said. Just some help getting out to the car would be fine. The car would take me home where I could sit my 30-year-old ass on my couch, turn on my Xbox, and avoid having to consider what I was really doing with my life.
You’d think that an establishment that traffics in the repeated tossing of human beings high into the air would have had at least one wheelchair on standby for this kind of situation, or a pair of crutches. But Sky High Sports apparently dealt not in probabilities. Instead I was wheeled out to the parking lot on a black office chair, much to the amusement of all the sticky-fingered children who took a moment away from ruining the best years of their mother’s lives, to giggle at me as I rolled by.
A week later I received a phone call from Wendy or Wanda or whatever from the corporate office. She inquired as to how I was doing with a well practiced sincerity that reminded me of my customer service days. No, I hadn’t been to a doctor. I’m unemployed. Doctors tend to cost a lot of money. Don’t worry I have years of experience treating these kinds of injuries. I already know all the physical therapy techniques that I’ll undoubtedly abandon once I feel well enough. As our conversation wound down she asked me if I would like some complimentary tickets to return when I was healed. No thanks, I said. I’m a goddamn adult, and adults keep their stiff, old ankles on the ground as nature intended.