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Putting my best foot crosswise.

I had interrupted my wife's evening monologue, something about knitting a scarft for the neighbor's cat, to read the staggering prediction that there will be 4-1/2 million home accidents in our country this year.

Give the woman credit (every store in town has--why should you be an exception). No sooner had she run that figure through her mental maze than she came up with the definitive answer. "Let's move," she said.

Now, that reply is not as stupid as you might think, (I'd rather stay out of it, if you don't mind.) In fact, if we were to move into a house without stairs, bathroom or windows (the house we moved into here in Freedom, Indiana, has windows), the idea would be one of her best. Stairs alone account for nearly half of all the headers that keep our nation's fracture wards in business.

Eventually I came to join the stairs bunch. But before that, proud little old me wasn't going to have friends coming in to scribble graffiti on my leg cast as the result of a mundane fall down the stairs. And since I couldn't afford to get my bell rung, as they say in football circles, on an Aspen ski slope, I did the next-best thing and took to the roof.

My first escapade of note was coming down the ladder, after cleaning out the porch gutter, without benefit of hands. While my dear wife was thoughtfully draping the welcome mat over me until she could get help, she suggested it perhaps would have been better if I hadn't had the vacuum cleaner in my arms at the time.

My next exploit proved even more colorful, thanks partly to a windstorm that reportedly blew all the feathers off a flock of chickens in the next county. But when my schedule calls for painting the TV antenna, no 90-mile-an-hour gale, or wife, or common sense is going to interfere.

Wedging a can of spray paint into my coat pocket, I climbed the ladder to the roof, inched my way up to the antenna (one of those tall suckers having its own narrow ladder) and worked my way to the top. In the process my hat sailed off to join the chicken feathers in three fingers of taking me with it. But I managed to work the can out of my pocket, took aim at one of those aluminum arms--and got the first, and only, shot squarely in the face.

My glasses completely covered, I fumbled my way down to the roof, then mistook the rose trellis for the ladder to the ground. Luckily, my dear wife happened to see me crawling past the basement window and came up to ask if she could help me look for something.

That's the scary thing about home accidents. A guy can eat fiber until it comes out his ears and have one of those high, intelligent foreheads that require him to stoop for doorways, and still these things happen. The scars on my high, intelligent forehead didn't all come from banging into my dear wife's cast-iron macrame pots. I've worn this star-shaped one ever since the Christmas I tried to place the star atop the tree from a scaffold consisting of the recliner chair, the footstool and the shoeshine kit. Fortunately, the tree went with me, or I might not be around to write about it.

The skateboard incident I hold not so much against the kid who left the dumb thing in the upstairs hallway as against the new bifocals that led me to mistake it for the floor. Now that I have recovered, except for a slight hitch in my left leg during rainy weather, I'm thinking of writing to the Olympics committee and suggesting they add the event to their games in 1988. After all, there's not that much difference in the luge, which has a man coming down the track lying on his back on a bobsled, and the lunge, where the man comes down the stairs lying on his back on a skateboard. As for thrills, according to my family it's no more exciting to see a sled leaves the course and go into a stand of poplars than to watch a man on a skateboard shoot over the stair rail and disappear behind the sofa. But I wouldn't know.

Then, no sooner had I adjusted to bifocals to where I could board a bus on my feet instead of my shins than my optometrist warned me: "We still aren't feeding our corneas." I told him I would leave a saucer of warm milk on the nightstand every night and our corneas could help themselves.

But no, he insisted on moving me from bifocals into more prestigious three-deckers. And I began adjusting to them all over again.

Which brings us to the night we had the Haineses for dinner. With mint sauce, they're delicious. Okay, I'll rephrase it. The night we invited the Haineses for dinner.

Having forgotten the Haineses' unsociable habit of being on time, we were still upstairs dressing when they rang our chimes. Now, unfortunately, our front door was designed with one of those beveled-glass panels that permit a caller to peer in and see if we are trying to hide or perhaps hightailing it for the back door. On this occasion what the peepers saw was me, in shirtsleeves and my new trifocals, rushing down to let them in, mistaking the bottom step of the stairs for the floor and instead of turning toward the door plunging across the living room to end up draped over the television with a fractured pelvis. and there's nothing more uncomfortable than sitting around all evening making small talk with a busted pelvis.

The night of April 14, Income Tax Frenzy Night, as it's known at our house, I was required to go up to the attic to check my "long-term capital-loss carry-over from years beginning after 1969" on Line 18, Part 11, Schedule D, Form 1040. Our attic is spooky enough at best. At worst, which is late at night with wind moaning through the pines and branches brushing the windows, you can have it. Even the hardy Mr. T might have chosen to take a liberal shot at the carry-over figure.

Not even the girls' sing, "NO BOYS ALOUD," still thumbtacked to the attic door, could have prepared me. By a stroke of luck I did remember to duck my head past the landing to avoid being scalped by the battery of nails that protruded a good inch or more through the roofing boards. What I didn't remeber--the girls had taken an old radio up there, presumably to keep abreast of world events hile cutting out paper dolls. and what I didn't know at all was that the radio had begun warming up when I hit the attic light switch.

I still believe if the thing and only come on with music, or even a newscast, I might have held my ground. But when out of the shadows, cast by that naked light bulb a Kissingertype voice intoned, "Vun more step und yyou are a dead man!" I not only took vun more step, but it was a dandy. And in the process the nails puncturing the roof boards were the furthest thing from my mind--figuratively speaking. Actually, they combed my hair well below the scalp. And for the next two weeks I could have rented my forehead out as a cribbage board.

Stairs accidents don't necessarily have to be physically painful, I have learned, in order to make a lasting impression.

The one that promises to last me as long as I last goes back to the afternoon my office buddy Ed rushed me home from work to change clothes and to grab my golf clubs in hopes of beating the crowd to the first tee at River View. Dashing into the house and up the stairs, I got as far as the landing before I noticed that I had come out of my shoes. They were on steps two and four from the bottom. And my socks were now stuck to the landing. "Don't use the stairs!" my late wife yelled from the basement. "I just varnished them!"

with great presence of mind, I quickly slipped out of my socks and mounted the rail to slide back down. Only the rail had also been varnished. So there I hung when Lois came rushing up to make sure I wouldn't sully her handiwork. And when Ed finally came to the door and peeked in to see what the holdup was, what he saw was Lois up on the stepstool trying to help me out of my pants. Nor would he wait for an explanation. I'm not sure just what kind a word he spread. Whatever it was, it's still spreading.

a playboy acquaintance of mine who heard I was working on this piece almost had me convinced that the best way to avoid home accidents is to show up at home as seldom as possible. The other day when I met him he was sporting a black eye. So there goes that.
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Title Annotation:household accidents
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1984
Previous Article:Remove breast or just lump?
Next Article:Alaska: 25 and counting.

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