Interrupted in my twilight, I looked up to see Mrs. Minkin, who was on
playground duty that afternoon. She fell into the category of "scary" adults,
and from there into the subcategory of adults "with cooties." In her plaid wool
skirts and thick makeup, luridly ugly to schoolchildren's eyes, Mrs. Minkin was
not someone to whom I was willing to admit distress.
"I'm fine, thank you."
And I was fine: as quickly as it had happened, the sharp ache in my jaw
receded and my sense of self transported itself back to the playground. I
quickly stood up and brushed myself off The looming issue now was how far back
in line I would have to stand because of this bothersome delay. By the time I
was back in the classroom I had forgotten the incident entirely.
I was reminded of it again that evening as I sat on the living room rug
earnestly trying to whip up a book report I had been putting off for two weeks.
Now, to my grave dismay, the report was due the very next day. Gradually I
became aware of possible salvation: I had a toothache. This wasn't as welcome a
reason for staying home from school as a cold or a fever because it would entail
a visit to the dentist. Had it been only a minor toothache I'd probably have
preferred to suffer the wrath of my teacher rather than my mother's inevitable
agitation, but now that I had noticed the ache it seemed to be worsening
The above is excerpted from Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
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