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Creative Non-Fiction - One for the Record Books

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Zickmund 1 Blair Zickmund 2-10-06 Creative Non-Fiction Word count: 2,506 One for the Record Books As a child, I loved to read The Guinness Book of World Records. I would memorize and recite records at random. “Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the whole world, did you know? 29,029 feet tall!” Human record holders were especially fascinating. There was something about amazing physical feats that people could accomplish, how some could just push their bodies further than the rest of us. These were things to be marveled at. After all, if you’re going to be something, be an -est. If you’re going to be fast, be the fastest. If you’re going to be big, be the biggest. Be the smallest, the strongest, the youngest, the oldest. At almost nine feet tall, Robert Wadlow still holds the record for being the tallest man and has been in The Guinness Book since its creation in 1957. Every year his name is there in black and white. For being extraordinary, for simply being or doing that amazing thing and having the proper witnesses to declare it true, these people are recorded, if only once, in that both famous and infamous book. In the 1997 edition of The Guinness Book of World Records, you will see my name. *** I never liked going to Dr. Goldman’s office, even though he was a very nice old man. The office was probably clean, but it didn’t look that way. The waiting room was shabby and yellow; the plastic chairs had cracked corners, and I had already outgrown the children’s table where all the coloring books were kept. The lamp didn’t cast enough light from beneath itsZickmund 2 yellowish cloth shade and there were no windows to speak of. It was a dim, dingy cube of stuffy space that always smelled of antiseptic, rubbing alcohol, and latex. The doors were brown and squeaked open and closed. At least it wasn’t busy. I was ten at the time, sick for days with some sort of virus that my parents decided required some further medical help than just sleep and soup. I opted to bring a Nancy Drew mystery with me to read instead of my old 1993 edition of The Guinness Book. It was two years out of date by then, but I still hadn’t read most of the natural records and these don’t become obsolete every year. Did you know that in 1993 the Sahara was the largest desert in the world, larger even than the entire United States? It still is. Nancy Drew mysteries were more to my liking at the time, though, and I was just finishing the last one my parents had bought for me. My mother sat beside me in the waiting room chairs and filled out the forms as I read, noting my symptoms and how long I had been vomiting for. I reminded her to write somewhere that I was dehydrated. It was a special kind of bodily indicator that I thought should be noted separately. I had read about it in my assigned reading for school. It was a big word for me at the time and I thought it was the most interesting thing. I repeated it when I was asked what was wrong: “I can’t stop throwing up and I’m always thirsty. I think I’m dehydrated.” At ten years old, it felt cool to apply something from a story to real life, even if it was only one word and even if it did make my body feel awful. It was the only message I understood completely, out of all the things my body was trying to tell me. Dr. Goldman’s check up in the bright white examining room didn’t reveal anything we felt we didn’t already know: I was losing weight because I wasn’t eating. I wasn’t eating because I was throwing up. I was throwing up because I had a virus. “Fluids and rest,” was his advice.Zickmund 3 That seems to always be the answer to nausea, even today. Just keep drinking and sleep a lot; let your body take care of it. Dr. Goldman missed it. He didn’t know what my body was trying to say, either. *** I wanted to be Pocahontas for Halloween. Mom bought a costume pattern that I could help her make; I cut the brown and tan pieces of cloth and she sewed them together. I tried so hard to work toward being a little better, just a little; I just wanted to be well enough to wear my costume and go trick-or-treating, to collect enough candy to last me until next year. It was all about the candy; it was something I wanted, something I had waited for all month and it became my reason for being well. I tried to fool myself into thinking I was getting better the closer Halloween came, and I would sit down for breakfast and say, “I’d like a bowl of Cheerios. I feel good today.” Those wholesome little Os would be at the bottom of the bucket before lunch rolled around, along with half a bottle of Gatorade. It was okay, though; my stomach always felt a little bit more normal after, like it was ready to try again. “Okay, that didn’t work. Maybe some soup instead…” At some point, you’d think it would have become obvious that there was no improvement as each day passed. But every night I would fall asleep and think, “Tomorrow, I won’t be sick anymore. Tomorrow, I won’t throw up and I’ll go to school and then I’ll be Pocahontas for Halloween candy and everything will be good again.” Tomorrow everything will be better. Today wasn’t good but tomorrow will be fine. It’s hopeful, the way kids think. The endings are always happy ones when a person is young. I couldn’t recognize that my body was trying to tell me something was wrong; I was ten. “Last time I threw up, it turned out okay. That was worse.Zickmund 4 At least this time I didn’t throw up on stage. Tomorrow I’ll be better. It’s Halloween tomorrow. Tomorrow will be good.” *** Halloween didn’t happen for me that year. The costume was ready, but I was still too weak and dizzy to go walking the neighborhood; I couldn’t even make it to the bathroom without running into a wall. My little sister Lauren took an extra bag with her when she left so she could ask for candy for her sick sister. She promised to bring me lots of Milky Ways. I was so disappointed in myself. I couldn’t believe that I still hadn’t shaken the virus and that I was really going to miss the greatest candy haul of the year. There was a haunted house at school I wanted to see, that I had wanted to help set up. It was such a letdown, that I couldn’t even figure out how to stop being sick. If I had slept longer, maybe, or drunk more… what if I had drunk more and then slept longer? Would it have stopped then? Would I have been well now? On the dining room table my


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