The phone buzzed, and it was the school's number. "Mr. Vrabel?" said the slightly too-calm voice on the other end. "First of all, your son is fine ..."
Now, there are multiple thoughts that fireball through your brain whenever someone in a position of authority says "Your son is fine," and the first one is almost always "AAAAAAAUGH HE'S OBVIOUSLY BEEN CARRIED OFF INTO THE WOODS BY A MANIC WILD BOAR," which is odd, because I actually don't think wild boars do that, or even get manic.
But whenever the phone rings and those are the first words you hear, it almost always means that someone is bleeding and that person is probably related to you. It's gratifying, of course, to hear that everyone's OK, but though the "logic hemisphere" tells you that the outcome is decided and the danger has passed, the "illogical storytelling chaos hemisphere" likes to sprint through the many colorful scenarios that could end in that sentence -- most of which, if you're me, involve dinosaur attacks.
In this case, the cause was a fairly routine accident, a speedy summer-camp collision between my son's forehead and a fifth-grader's teeth. This apparently took place midway through the building of a machine designed to catapult rubber ducks through the air. The machine was called a Duck Chucker. Honestly, I doubt it's even possible to build something called a Duck Chucker and not expect a few cranial injuries. Also, I want six of them in my house.
(That's what my son told me, anyway, but he's historically sketchy with details, particularly if he's asked to give them while having his nose pressed into a game of Temple Run 2. Or, as he says now, "I had a little run-in with another kid's teeth," which is how he responds when asked about the admittedly awesome Old West scar over his right eye.)
For a few days my son got to wear a cool face bandage, which he found unpleasant but it looked pretty sweet. A couple of days later he got a minor black eye, which made it look like he was the first person in the family to get popped and return to tell the tale. (You will be surprised to learn that I did not get into a lot of fights as a kid, mostly because I weighed 54 pounds until 11th grade and addressed most schoolyard confrontations by distracting my opponent by shouting something like "Look, a rhinoceros!" and sprinting to the nearest authority figure.)
But on the final day of camp I discovered, among other things, that the kid whose tooth Jake hit with his head was a giant, at least a head taller than my son and a couple years older. When you scan the room at camp, you see a couple hundred small animated bopping heads, and then this guy, looking more like someone's older brother, or a chaperone, or a 10-year veteran of the school security force. I'm not sure I could have walked away from a collision with this kid, let alone my rail-thin 9-year-old with his zero body fat and previously unbonked cranium.
Of course, he was a painfully nice kid, one of the nicest people I talked to at camp, at least until his mom showed up and began telling me about how they'd both spent the previous night fretting about the condition of my son (hers having gone through a fairly serious collision as well). I'm guessing they did this because they were really nice, and also because of the obvious height disparity. It would have seriously made more sense if my son had bumped his head on this dude's kneecap.
I'm happy to report that the other boy seems OK, and that the gash in my son's head seems to be closing up nicely. (Also note: My son does not think the nickname "Scarface" is awesome, although I'm pretty sure he will one day.) I am also happy to report that if you ever find yourself in need of chucking ducks across a classroom, I know two guys who can help.