Monthly Essays

Learning from a Past Mistake

Last night I shook a pill from the pill bottle that I keep in the top drawer of my bedside night stand. I dropped the pill. My first reaction was to shut the drawer and look where it might have fallen on the floor. Then I remembered something that happened decades ago.

I was in grad school at the University of Arkansas at the time and lived in an off-campus apartment, one of three carved out of an old house. It was early morning and I had been called to substitute teach at the high school. Of course, I had to skip my classes to work at the school to pay for the classes that I was skipping. Vicious circle. I only did that three times before I realized it wasn’t a good idea.

I was standing in the bedroom by the little dressing table putting in a contact when I dropped it. A drawer was open a bit, so I pushed it out of my way and got down on the floor. I looked under that dressing table, even under the bed, in case the contact had wandered. I looked everywhere and found no contact.

For the next few days, I wore the glasses I’d gotten in high school until I found a ride home (I had no car then), and my folks said they’d buy my new contacts. I promised I’d pay them back the hundred dollars, which was a whale of a lot of money then, but I don’t recall paying that debt when I was out of school and earning a living.

Back at school, I popped in my new contacts the next morning (these were the days of hard contacts that took a bit of getting used to) and wore them all day to class and well into the night, since my shift at the information desk at Mullins Library wasn’t over until eleven. (My pay was $1.25 an hour, so you can see why $100 was huge and why the $13 the school district paid subs for seven hours work was a siren call.)

Sometime in the night my eyes were on fire with pain, enough to make me vomit. My roommate took me to the university infirmary where I stayed overnight after getting drops in and bandages over my eyes. The next day, my mom drove down to Fayetteville and took me back to the doctor at home.

Scratched eyes heal quickly, and within a few days, I was back in my contacts, but starting with a few hours a day, like when I first got contacts my senior year in high school. Many months later, after I’d passed my comps and was packing up to move to Oklahoma, I emptied that dressing table drawer. At the bottom was a dried-up contact.

Of course, the contact had fallen straight down, (Did I sleep through third grade science?) and straight down was into the open drawer. So last night (yes, after I had looked on the floor), I opened the drawer again, moved things until I saw the bottom of the drawer, and there was that little pill.

So I really have learned from a past mistake, if only in that small way. Maybe if I’d been a little smarter back then, I could have saved time, suffering, my roommate’s sleep, and my parents’ money by looking in that drawer. I guess that’s the way of life. Sometimes we learn the hard way.

 

That Sunday Afternoon by [Veda Boyd Jones]

That Sunday Afternoon

Mike is playing ball at Ryan’s house when he gets a phone call from his mom, who’s at friends’ house, telling him to head home because of an impending thunderstorm. Normally he would have asked to wait the storm out at Ryan’s, but he still has homework and it’s already after five on Sunday afternoon. He rides his bike to his house and goes inside when the tornado sirens start screaming. He checks the local weather on TV and sees a giant funnel cloud on the TV tower cam before the electricity goes off. He and his sister run for the basement. Then everything changes.
Although this novel is by definition fiction, the events of the F-5 tornado that devastated Joplin, Missouri, are very real.

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