By: KEN ARMSTRONG
Normally, my ‘stupid-stories’ are about things that happened to me in the dim and distant past. But the story which I’m going to tell you now actually only happened a little less than six weeks ago.
It still hurts me, both emotionally and physically, to think too much about it. Still, I hope you get a little smile from reading it.
That’s the whole point really.
* * * *
In my job, I sometimes have to go out into fields in the countryside and check out their boundaries. Six week ago, I had one such job which took me into the green green depths of County Mayo (Ireland, of course).
It was a lovely sunny afternoon as I drove out and met the very nice lady who owned the land. We had agreed to meet her elderly neighbour down the field so we both pulled on our boots and headed off together down the grassy slopes.
Soon enough, we came to a fence. It was made of barbed wire and interspersed with tall wooden posts. We had to get past it. The lady – let’s give her a name, let’s say… Mary! Right, well, ‘Mary’ inched her way through a tiny gap and left a fair scrap of her nice tweed jacket on the jagged edges of the wire.
I had my best and loudest red jacket on and I didn’t fancy tearing it so I decided to go ‘over the top’. My plan was to climb on top of one of the large wooden poles that made up the fence and then simply jump down the other side.
It didn’t work out that way.
I got up on to the pole all right. There was only room for one foot on top of it so I balanced there, one leg bent back, arms outstretched. I reckon I must have looked a bit like the Karate Kid except in Welly-Boots.
All was well with the world.
Then I went to jump down the other side of the fence.
Perhaps it was because Mary chose that very moment to shout, ‘Be Careful,’ at me.
Perhaps she caused the very air to become negatively charged with her concern.
Perhaps it was all simply destined to fail from the moment I mounted my pole.
Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…
I launched myself from the top of the pole but the act of my launching caused the poorly anchored pole to fall away backwards behind me just as I departed it.
This transformed what should have been a simple leap to the ground into a graceless swan dive out into rural space.
Bear in mind I was about six feet off the ground when I parted company with the toppling pole. It felt like a long long way to fall.
On the way down I found time to realise that my chin was going to be my first point of contact with the Earth.
In a last-ditch attempt at vanity, I drew my head back to save my beloved chin.
I threw my arms out behind me too, so as to further take my lower jaw out of the impact zone.
It worked. I hit the ground chest first, head up, arms back.
I think it really was quite a remarkable show.
Mary ran up to me. ‘Are you all right?’ she gasped, “Are you all right?”
I was winded. I was as winded as a winded person can ever be winded. There was no breath in me.
But I could tell that Mary was deeply concerned. The way I was curled up clutching my chest, the poor lady was probably thinking that I was having a heart attack.
So I squeezed an answer out on my last dribble of air.
“I’m fine.” I wheezed, “Fine…”
Did I mention that Mary was ‘hard of hearing’?
Mary was as ‘hard of hearing’ as the post from which I had so recently sailed forth.
She shook me a bit.
“I said are you all right?” she wailed.
I recovered, after a while. I sat up and reassured Mary that I was indeed fine.
“I WAS ONLY WINDED!!” I said, “DO YOU HEAR ME? WINDED!”
In point of fact my stupidity had earned me two cracked ribs. But I wouldn’t know that until much later. For now, I pretended to have no ill effects at all.
It was critical that I regain some of my professional manner so that I could continue on and complete my job on a calm clinical way…
(Really, I should end this story now – I’ve written enough words, I think. A story which has, up until now, been fairly embarrassing for me to tell is about to become completely mortifying. Still, I can’t stop myself from telling it. God help me I can’t!!)
On the way back up the field, after completing our little boundary-check, we came to the same fence again.
I had reinstated the pole as best I could so the fence was once again an obstacle to be overcome. Mary went through it exactly as she had done before.
I still wanted to save my jacket so I went with ‘Plan B’.
I walked to a point midway between two posts, pushed the barbed wire down and stepped over the top of it.
I do this all the time, it’s not a problem.
But this time, when I threw my leg over the fence , I got my first inkling that all might not be quite right with my ribcage.
A sharp pain wrenched through me.
I let go of the barbed wire in shock and the evil wire shot up and snagged me around the place where my trouser-legs tend to meet up.
I hasten to explain, there was no ‘anatomical’ difficulty here – I had baggy waterproof pants on over my ‘regular pair’ (of trousers, dear, of trousers) so I wasn’t in danger of any fate worse than death.
But I was left in a dreadfully uncomfortable position. One leg was on the ground, the other leg was dangling in the air on the other side of the fence and my trousers were totally snagged as if on the barb of a fish hook.
Try as I might, I simply could not free myself from the fence.
Not to mention that I had two newly cracked ribs.
Okay, I mentioned it.
Mary watched me struggle for what seemed like twenty-five minutes and then she apologetically asked. “Can I give you a hand?”
I had no choice.
Dear Mary got down on her knees in the field and, at face level with my snagged trousers, she tugged and wrangled and finally got my errant crotch free again.
As I told you, her elderly neighbour had agreed to walk down the field that day and meet up with us for a chat…
…he never showed up.
For these small mercies, we can only give thanks.
@Ken Armstrong 2008
About the Author:
It is a dream come true for me, having one of my most admired writers – Ken Armstrong of Ken Armstrong Writing Stuff – write a story, which is now featured in this post. I had thought it would be difficult to invite him as he is already a proven and known persona in the writing department in his own niche in Ireland – having published plays and short stories for the theater and radio, but – he so gladly obliged. The good author’s feet are still rooted firmly, on “terra firma”!
For more of Ken’s interesting and amazing stories visit his blog at:
Ken Armstrong Writing Stuff.
At your expense Ken, I can’t help but laugh. Thanks for the honor. Hats off to you!
N.B. (June 8, 2013)
I was going through my old posts, and I saw this great story, so I am re-posting it to share with my new readers. Hope you’d enjoy reading.