The Lamp of Damocles
by Buck Meloy


Nearly brained by a lamp. And while sleeping, at that.

I didn't know why 11-year-old John had moved into our bed during the night, or even that he had done so. But when the table lamp, normally a quiet and stable resident of our headboard, leapt the two feet down to his forehead, the quiet was over for a while.

Fortunately, the light still worked. So checking the severity of his injuries, in the otherwise pitch blackness of 3:30am, was easy. A large and rapidly-growing goose-egg persuaded me to look for cold-compress makings.

I returned with a can of frozen orange juice concentrate wrapped in a towel. John was still so shocked by what had happened that he couldn't, at first, feel the cold. He wasn't too shocked to start thinking of the symptoms of severe concussion, however.

"My mind isn't working right!" he declared. "I can't remember what I did in school yesterday, except for first period. Oh, and a little bit of math class."

"That's okay, John", I assured him. "I can't remember what I did yesterday either."

"What's your name?" Becky queried helpfully.

"Come on, Mom. I know my name!"

"What is it, then?" Becky persisted.

"It's John. Really, Mom!" was his disgusted retort.

"What are your male cousins' names?" she asked.

"I think I can remember. It's Greg and Willy and John."

"Who else?"

"Uh, is there someone else?" Was his memory damaged?

Simultaneously: "Baby Ken!" Damaged memory or not, John was determined to be first, or at least tie for it.

"What's your teacher's name?" It is important to be thorough.

"Wilma Miller. I have a whole bunch of teachers. I think I can't remember all of their names. I'm not going to be able to go to school tomorrow. My head really hurts. I'm disoriented."

"The best thing for disorientation is sleep", I proclaimed. "I think you will feel a lot better in the morning, if the lamp doesn't leap down on your head again."

"I don't want to sleep on this side of the bed. Can I be on the other side?" John wanted to know.

"Buck won't want to sleep in the middle," Becky allowed, correctly. "But if you want to sleep in the middle, I will sleep where you are."

"Under the lamp of Damocles," I cautioned. Giggles. Shifting of locations. Repositioning the make-shift ice-pack. Conversation melting off into sleep.

Another bruising family trauma skillfully overcome.


1997, Buck Meloy


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