I am a little over seven years old. My younger sister, Cassie, is a year-and-a-half. In Bayonne in those days, pediatricians still make "house calls," meaning, our mother calls when we are sick or she has no way to get to the doctor's office (in those days, most families in our suburban neighborhoods either have only one car or their mothers don't even know how to drive). The doctor then comes before or after office hours to our house to check on or treat one of us.
On this day, right before I leave for school, my mom tells me that the doctor is coming to give Cassie a check-up because she's been coughing a lot. I think my mom tells me this because our house is right across the street from the school and she knows I can see it from the playground.
"When you see the doctor's car in our driveway," she tells me, "you will know the reason he's here and not come running home, scared that something bad has happened."
I'm walking through the hallways just before the morning bell rings for us to signal the end of before-school morning recess, telling us to go to our classrooms, when I am hit with a physical pain in my butt, on my hip. It feels as if I have been stabbed by something sharp. I look around, but there's no one and nothing there but me.
I stagger and almost fall into a small staircase next to the stage in the cafeteria/gymnasium. It is so narrow I can put my arms on each wall as I stumble down the few stairs, limping from the pain in my hip.
My vision of the stairs blurs as I "see" my baby sister on my bed and not in her crib. She is crying. The doctor stands over her, our mother next to her, soothing her. The doctor then puts an empty syringe (a "shot") into a small container which he puts into his black doctor's bag.
The doctor just gave my sister a shot. Why does my hip hurt? What is happening?
I lurch into the office at the bottom of the stairs, which belongs to the gym teacher, and blurt out: "My sister got a shot and my hip hurts."
The gym teacher, startled, looks up to see me almost falling over and reaches out one hand to steady me. "What?" she asks me. "Clara, what are you talking about? What's wrong with your hip?"
I start to cry. "It hurts. It hurts. Tell him to stop."
"Who, Clara? Who is hurting you?"
Suddenly, the pain stops, my vision clears, and I see where I am.
I shake my head and look at the teacher. "What?" I ask her. "What happened?"
"You tell me!" she demands.
"I saw my sister getting a shot from the doctor. He's at our house. It hurt, but now it's fine. I have to go. The bell rang. My hip doesn't hurt at all anymore."
"Are you sure you're all right?" she looks at me intently.
"I feel fine, now. See ya."
I bounce out of her office and run up the stairs. I walk extra slowly past the principal's office, sneak around the corner, then race to my classroom as the second bell rings. I throw myself into my seat.
"Made it!" I announce, to no one in particular, panting.
My second-grade teacher, not a nice woman, remarks,"Clara, if you are late to school you have no one to blame but yourself. You live closer than anyone else."
"Right!" I say, falsely bright.
I lift my desk's flip-up top to get my pencil, but really so the teacher can't see my face. I grimace, rolling my eyes at my best friend, Paula, sitting next to me, and stick out my tongue insolently at my teacher, safe behind the wooden barrier from her mean eyes.
Paula grins at me from behind her now-raised desk, rolling her eyes, too.
Class begins and I almost forget about the entire thing.
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