Shannon sat in the back seat grumbling under his breath, indignant for this latest round of family-sponsored molly-coddling. His leg, swollen and bruised rested uncomfortably on the backseat. Each bump along the roadside — already mottled with winter-forced cracks and potholes — triggered another painful diatribe on why doctors suck and how his body is in fact invulnerable. I smiled. Mom simply tutted at each whispered curse, replenishing her rebuttals for the next explosion of rhetoric . . .
“I haven’t broken anything! It’s just a sprain. Throw a little ice on it and it’ll be fine in a day or two. Drown out the pain with work and alcohol. A doctor’s office and a sober mind . . . just like health insurance: ain’t worth a damn thing.”
Mom remained silent for a moment and gazed at the lump of flesh attached to Shannon’s calf. Physical evidence was clearly insufficient for this particular argument. Apparently my brother believed himself infused with mutant healing genes. Unlike other more reasonable nations, the Irish are known for courting stubbornness, perfecting the art to the point of severe inhuman pain and cheating death itself if so dared: “Who said I couldn’t do it? Pay up, ya balmy bastards, before my tongue rots off again.”
My brother hopped down the stairs this morning and collapsed onto the sofa, his voice pained and lachrymal. Brigid, prompted by her brother’s wounded cries, had rustled up a bucket full of ice, into which Shannon quickly submerged the landmass presently occupying his right ankle. In such a state, Mom found him then, groaning and withering on the couch. His body bruised and bleeding from the previous evening’s sporting event . . .
Ryan and Shannon’s adult soccer league met for their first game last night. Both left the house, jumping and smiling, yet only Ryan returned in similar condition. Food for thought: when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force, what happens? I used to think ‘surrender’ the only plausible outcome of such a chance meeting (suggested by a Superman comic several years ago), but looking at Shannon’s foot, perhaps ‘pain’ might be a better choice. Two aggressive men. One ball. Multiple contusions.
The following morning blood still trickled from Shannon’s left knee; cuts and bruises adorn his otherwise unbroken limbs; his tender ankle a kaleidoscope of colors. If I hadn’t known better, I would have assumed he had played chicken with a combine harvester. The truth is every man has his bane, his nemesis. Superman has kryptonite. Romeo had Juliet (and vice versa). My mother is particularly weak to Bailey’s Irish Cream; a single sip can incapacitate the good woman for weeks afterward. Shannon has soccer. Four years of football, rugby, and wrestling have never inflicted as many cuts, scrapes, and broken bones as a single season of European football. Still all the bumps and near-death experiences never could shake the stubbornness from the boy . . .
Halfway through a recently procured steam-punk novel, Shan emerged wheelchair-bound into the waiting room. Two minutes later, he bounded from his seat and bounced out the door. The doctor reported to Mom that Shannon had damaged three ligaments, all level-4 sprains. I’m not sure what that meant, but in Hot Zone Level 4 pathogens caused your organs to dissolve into flesh paste and ooze from your eyes. Therefore, we’re all fairly concerned here, as torn tendons are fairly contagious in our family. Shannon then left the office hopping on his sole working ankle, his other entombed in a green cast, which scraped trails across the carpet as he pogo-sticked into the elevator. The doctors and nurses laughed at us all the way out to the car . . .