A Bump on the Head

A Bump on the Head

By: Steve Mathisen

Josh was late for school…again. He was running faster than usual, taking his usual shortcut through Mr. Binkley’s yard and only had to duck under that low branch on the maple tree when . . .

Crunch!!

“Ooooowwww!! That . . . hurt . . .” Josh put his hand on his head, felt a very sore lump the size of a small egg, saw stars and dancing chickens and then . . . everything went dark.

“Hey buddy, are you ok?” Josh thought he heard someone say and then he felt a big, wet tongue on his face. When he opened his eyes, he saw Howie; Mr. Brinkley’s dog licking his face.

He pushed the dog away and sat up.

“Ok, that’s enough, boy.”

“Alright, I’m just makin’ sure you’re ok,” he heard someone say.

Josh looked around and saw no one.

“Ok, who said that?”

His hand went back to the sore spot on the top of his head.

“Ouch! That must have been some conk on the head! Now, I’m hearing things.”

Just then a small voice came from up in the tree. “I don’t think he heard you, Howie.”

The dog looked up and saw a robin up in the tree. “I know, Hawthorne. They always act like they don’t understand.”

Josh looked first at the dog and then up at the robin and then back to the dog. “Are you guys talking?”

Howie and Hawthorne looked at each other and then at Josh and both said, “Yes! Are you…?”

They both stopped at the same time and then Howie continued, “You could understand us?”

Just then Mrs. Abernathy’s orange cat Norman came into view, “Hey guys, what’s up. This kid conk his noggin’ on that low branch?”

Josh looked at Norman, his mouth fell open, and he started scooting himself back quickly with his hands. “Whoa! I must be dreaming! This can’t be real!”

Josh started to shake his head, as if to shake off this strange new reality, and quickly grabbed his head with both hands. “Oh! That hurt and made me dizzy at the same time!”

Howie moved closer to the boy, “Maybe you should just rest for a few minutes, Josh.”

Josh’s eyes widened as he looked at the dog, “Y…y…you know my name? H…h…how come I never heard you talk before?”

Howie sat down, looked at the boy and cocked his head to one side. “Well…”

Hawthorne flew to the ground and said, “Maybe you just never listened before.”

Norman came up and sat next to Josh opposite Howie, wrapped his tail around his paws and said, “I think he’s got an attention span problem.”

“Joshie, why you layin’ down in the grass?”

Josh turned toward the house to see little Lizzie Brinkley, rag doll hanging from her chubby little hand. “Hi Lizzie, I was cutting through your yard and hit my head on the low branch and was just…”

“Why?”

“I was on my way to school, Lizzie.”

“Oh. Who’re ya’ talkin’ to, Joshie?”

“I was talkin’ . . . talking to . . .”

Howie emitted a soft “leave us out of this” that sounded like a low growl.

“I was talking to myself. I do it sometimes when I’m alone.”

“Oh, okay.”

Josh jumped up, careful to avoid the tree branch.

“I’m going to be late for school if I don’t hurry. You should go back inside, Lizzie,” he said as he rushed off.

He looked back and saw Lizzie waving goodbye, he waved back at her.

All the way to school he wondered about what had happened.

“Maybe I was delirious. Animals don’t talk, that’s just crazy.” he said to himself.

Josh heard other voices as he rushed to school. His head rotated like a bobble head doll each time he heard a new one.

“It’s mine!”

“No, it’s not, I found it first!” He saw two birds arguing over a worm.

There was a dog sniffing all around a grassy yard and mumbling.

“Where did I leave that juicy, tasty bone?”

Then he heard laughter. “It looks like the old, hound dog lost his bone again.”

Two cats were sitting on a fence, laughing at the dog.

All morning long in school, Josh wondered about what had happened and just when he thought he was feeling normal again . . . he heard a small, strange voice.

“So, I hear you can understand us when we talk.”

Josh looked around to see who was speaking.

“Hey! Look down here, it’s Louie…you know…the hamster!”

“Oh no, not you too! How did you find out about me?”

“Easy, the windows are open. I heard it from a little birdie! Ha ha ha, I heard it from a little birdie. I am sooo funny!”

Josh looked down into the hamster cage and saw Louie rolling around laughing and holding his sides.

“Shhh! Somebody will hear you!”

(Still laughing) “Who cares? Nobody can understand me but you. Hahaha, this is too good! I heard it from a little birdie!”

Josh rolled his head back and looked up. “Oh man! This is NOT happening to me!”

“Hey, Josh, who are you talking to?” said Scott in the next row.

“Oh…um…nobody…just talking to myself.”

“That’s right, pretend you can’t hear me.” said the Louie.

Josh put his hand over his ear in attempt to not hear Louie.

“Just thinking out loud Scott.”

“You’re seriously in denial, that’s what you are,” said Louie.

Josh turned toward the hamster cage and tried to whisper, “I am not! I didn’t ask for this. I don’t want to hear or understand animals when they talk. Now, leave me alone!”

“Young man, just who are you addressing in that insolent tone?”

Josh turned around to see Mrs. Harbaugh towering over him. She stood with her hands on her hips and her graying hair pulled in a bun so tight she always looked like her face was going to rip.

Josh felt his face flush, “No one, Mrs. Harbaugh. I was just talking to myself. Sorry, if I was too loud.”

Mrs. Harbaugh harrumphed, “I thought you might have been talking to Louie. He gets a bit snarky from time to time, but we should always be polite to him.”

“He gets snarky?”

“Yes, it means smart-alecky. He has something of a twisted sense of humor. Don’t let him get to you. Just ignore him if he is rude.”

“You mean, you’ve heard him talk?”

The whole class began to laugh.

“Oh yes, all the time! I have tried to teach him some manners but, he doesn’t seem to understand etiquette.”

“How did I not know that?”

Louie’s voice came from behind him. “You’ve got a short attention span, or so I’ve been told.”

Mrs. Harbaugh spoke again, “See what I mean. Snarky. But enough of that, we have a class to conduct.” She turned on her heels and began addressing the class about the next lesson.

Louie said, “I am not snarky. I just have a weird sense of humor.”

Josh peeked at him, “It’s kind of rude if you ask me.”

The class got down to the business of the geography of Peru, but Josh’s head began to hurt badly, and he asked permission to go see the school, nurse.

Sitting in the nurse’s office, Josh began to hear strangely muffled voices that sounded like they had bubbles in them.

“So you think that’s him, Thelma?”

“I sure do, Daphne. He matches the description I heard from Oscar.”

Josh started looking around to see where the voices were coming from and then noticed the two big goldfish in the nurse’s fish tank looked like they were staring at him. As soon as he looked at them, they swam off in opposite directions.

He shook his head as if he could make the voices go away but just made his head hurt worse.

The nurse came in and examined Josh.

“So young man, it looks like you got yourself quite an egg on your head. What happened?”

“I was ducking under a low branch on my way to school and didn’t duck low enough.”

“I’ll say you didn’t! That’s quite an egg on your head. Are you having any pain?”

“Yes, ma’am. I’ve been having a pretty bad headache and…”

“And what?”

“Nothing. I just have a really bad headache.”

“Well, I think that’s enough to send you home so your mom can take care of you. I don’t think you have a concussion. But you do need to rest and let the swelling go down.”

“I live real close by, I can walk home.”

“All right, but I’m going to call your Mom and let her know you are on your way.”

“Ok, thanks…”

Josh got two notes from the nurse, one for his teacher and one for his mom. He went back to his classroom and gave Mrs. Harbaugh the one for her.

She read it and told him to pack up his things and go home. As he was doing that, he looked at Louie and the hamster stuck his tongue out at him.

“See ‘ya later kiddo!”

A wave of pain shot through Josh’s head, so he ignored Louie, threw his backpack over his shoulder and headed home.

Instead of just a few animals talking, there now seemed to be a whole chorus of animal talk going on. It was like being in a crowded airport with all sorts of conversations going on around him. It made his head hurt even more.

Josh decided to take the same short cut home through Mr. Binkley’s yard and only had to duck under that low branch on the maple tree when . . .

Crunch!!

“Ooooowwww!! That . . . hurt . . .” Josh put his hand on his head and felt a two very sore lumps the size of a small egg, saw stars and dancing chickens and then . . . everything went dark.

“Hey buddy, are you ok?” Josh thought he heard someone say and then he felt a big, wet tongue on his face. When he opened his eyes, he saw Howie; Mr. Brinkley’s dog licking his face.

He pushed the dog away and started to sit up when he saw his mom’s face. She was kneeling next to him and said, “Buddy? Are you ok? Mrs. Binkley called me and said that you knocked yourself cold ducking under this old tree limb.”

Josh looked at Howie and Howie just twisted his head, smiled curiously and let out a small “woof!”

“Is that all you have to say, Howie?”

Josh reached into his pocket for the note the nurse gave him for his mom, and nothing was there. He then hurriedly checked all the rest of his pockets and looked around on the ground to see if he had dropped it.

His mom asked, “What are you looking for, Josh?”

Josh looked at his mom and said, “I guess nothing. You know, I think I just had a bad dream while I was knocked out. I had this dream that I heard…”

Josh put his hand on his head, but only felt one very sore lump.

Howie responded with another “woof”.

The cat said “meow” and the robin said “chirp”.

“Heard what?” his mom asked.

“Oh, nothing…maybe I better go home and lay down for a while.”

“I think that’s a really good idea. I’ll call the school and tell them you’ll be home sick today and then I’ll call the doctor to see if he wants to see you.”

As they walked toward home, Josh thought he heard Howie say, “See ‘ya later Buddy.”

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