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LAUGHING IN THE DARKNESS

“Stop laughing at me, YOU big mouthed, red nosed, shiny partially bald headed, orange colored mangled haired, evil eyed creature from the darkest pits of hell! Were you misinformed, you ultimate entertainer of discomfort, YOU were supposed to make one laugh…NOT CRY?

The aluminum façade of the zany architectural structure, advertised a giggling, chubby girl with chipped painted cobalt blue eyes, blonde pigtails and rosy red cheeks, palms held out inviting you in for fun! The red and white stripes of the billboard held a blinking yellow light bulbed old sign that blinked on and off ,

F-U-N-H-O-U-S-E. Only the N O and S E bulbs were lit. I should’ve taken this as a sign. “NO SEE”

My daughter and I entered the Funhouse. Like life-size rats, we scrambled though the labyrinth of hell filled with perceptions to startle us with unstable and unpredictable physical circumstances.  Neon colors illuminated with black lights, joy wheels, wildly spinning walls and floors with neon hands and feet reaching out to try and grab us while compressed air jets blew puffs of air in our petrified faces. Caged demented figures peered out at us, screeching, begging for freedom. Hurry up, Run! The forced perception of running down an endless hallway of infinite depth while circus music intermixed with ghostly piano playing, creepy clowns laughing and shattering glass made our hearts race faster and faster. Run run… as fast as you can! The faster the tempo the quicker your steps! Stairs moving sideways, up and down, while walls try to swallow you whole! Mirrors, mirrors everywhere! Go left, no right! Bang into the mirrored, wall head first.  Hands up! Protect yourself!  Make funny faces! Stick your tongue out! We see ourselves everywhere we look! Convey or Convex? Short and fat, long and skinny!  (I prefer the latter!)

Next up…Spinning barrel! Run through, as fast as you can, as it’s spinning. You can’t walk through otherwise you will fall. Exit the barrel, take hold of the hand rails to the right. What’s this now? Built into the floor, spinning disks! Spinning toward the turning barrel! Tricky!

Hold onto the handrail,

loose grasp,

While Disk is spinning toward the barrel?

Wait? What?

Flip backwards, then…Whoops!

Hit my head on the barrel. 

“Mommy are you alright?” Becky cries. 

Is she talking to me? She must be. I’m mommy and that’s Beckys voice. But I can’t move. I can’t answer her!  

“Help, help. Can someone please help us! Mom stay here. I’m going to get someone.” She said, as she looked down at me lying flat on the spinning disk. 

Eventually, (Seemed like an eternity), someone walked us outside. When asked if I was ok, I apparently answered “I’m ok, I tripped over my own feet.”  (My demise later in the courtroom) 

“Can you tell us your name? Yes.

“Who’s the President? (Who cares?, Really, right now!) I answered correctly. 

After a series of questions, which were all answered correctly, Becky asked, “Mommy, do you know who Nibbish is?” I replied no. 

Alarmed at my answer, as this is a character I’ve been writing about since I was eight years old, Becky said to the ride operator, “You need to get my Dad.”

I was brought by ambulance (always wanted to know what it was like, but don’t remember the ride!),

to a local hospital. For twelve hours,  I repetitively asked my husband “Sammy, what happened?”

He’d reply, “You fell in the funhouse, babe.” I said, “But the funhouse is supposed to be fun.” Five minutes later I asked him again. He was so patient and kind. (He still is with me constantly repeating myself!)

They released me from the hospital, not recognizing a Traumatic Brain Injury. The first thing I was able to retain was twelve hours later when I woke up in our hotel room to the olive and ocean blue décor, wondering if this was my godawful taste, and what was I thinking, and it needed to changed immediately! From this moment I began the struggle of getting to know my new self. Memories were a flicker playing like an old reel to reel movie film projector.  Trying to capture fleeting moments of my past, my childhood, my children’s past, my husband(our past), my life as I knew it forever changed. I returned to the hospital the next day where they finally acknowledged a head trauma had occurred along with neck and hip injuries. It would be a long road to recovery but one I was ready to travel. Bags were packed! Ready for battle! 

After returning home, walking in my house was like a new beginning. Like Christmas! Picking up objects, opening drawers! Looking at clothes as if for the first time! Oh, this is all mine! Exciting, overwhelming! Getting to know my surroundings! I remembered most people. Funny thing was, I had a hard time remembering who passed away. My brain wouldn’t accept that for some reason. Bits and pieces of my children’s past were there but not all. I’d miss appointments scheduled because I would get in my car and forget where I was going. Scary at times! I’d laugh or cry uncontrollably. Neurolgy, MRI’S CAT-SCANS, all so confusing!

Approximately one and a half years of rehabilitation the neurologist explained, “Think of your brain like a hard drive. You smashed it. Your files are still there. Some you may be able to retrieve. Others you may not. We will give you coping strategies to learn how to retrieve them.” He also explained that at the time of the fall I was answering questions correctly at first then as the brain swelled the more I became disoriented. I don’t remember that vacation or any of the trauma that occurred. (I still can’t recall a lot of memories from my children’s past or my own which bothers me frequently.)

While rummaging through some things in the house I found a letter my husband gracefully hid from a neurologist: 

Patience Name: Kelly

Ranking of intelligence: 17%

TBI Due to fall in a Funhouse

Transient Global Amnesia

(Note: I now have an IQ of 102-not bad for having a TBI!) 

This was devastating to me and it needed to change! I worked hard to fight my way back. I read everything in sight. Went to bookstores, libraries, read the back of cereal boxes and shampoo labels. The doc said it was because I was trying to fill in all the empty spaces. 

Also found, a letter from Disney Hyperion Press: (Mickey Mouse Letterhead)

“Your stories are too sweet and sentimental for our storylines.” 

(Of course they are, I didn’t have Bambi’s mother getting shot!)

Note on top in my handwriting; May I resubmit? (Need to resubmit with bad guys…always good vs. evil)

Answer: Yes!  With a callback number and name of contact. 

Also found:

A letter…A crystal company in CA. 

“Congratulations! Your character Nibbish will appear in our catalog!” 

Also found; Local Newspaper clippings and recorded VHS tape of TV stations; “Local author brings her characters to life she’s been drawing/writing about since she was eight yrs. Old. 

I watched the tape over and over again. 

Also found; A grey journal documenting publishers toy manufacturers, contacts, phone numbers etc. 

Last entry Date: June 1992 …Then pages eerily blank

Date of the fall: July 1992

Also found; A huge binder from the Institute Of Children’s Literature.

Hmmmm…Now this is interesting! I asked my husband about it. 

“I signed up for a course?” 

He said, “Yeah, you did Babe!”

Also found; Six Manuscripts! Early sketches, (documenting the birth of the idea)! Illustrations! Flip books! Game ideas! Tiny note pieces everywhere with snippet ideas written on them! A black portfolio (I found out later my Dad has given me because he believed in me!) Everything that I had been doing since I was eight years old! 

Also found; notebooks upon notebooks of other picture book ideas just waiting to be written! 

So, I’m a writer! Wow, this is great! I can’t even put a sentence together properly. My word search is off, grammatical errors everywhere, can’t even talk right! Never mind write right! I had a lot of work to do! 

I’m trying to remember that which I’d rather forget! 

“NOT GUILTY!” Those were the words that ran though the courthouse. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial. Ones fate judged by twelve locals who work or related to someone whose livelihood depend on this amusement park being in operation. Big shot lawyer, only doing his job, “Hey, we all forget things once in awhile. Don’t we?” He said to this uninterested group of twelve who’d rather be anywhere else than deciding my fate. A Marine (the young ride operator at the time of my fall) testified via VHS. Outright lied, stating that he was present when I fell and offered to help me throughout. My daughter, who spoke the truth, disagreed. Any regrets? MR. MARINE, when you swore to tell the whole truth and nothing but? Just wondering? 

I left the courtroom after the verdict and was greeted by a soft rain. I recall an African American man appearing from behind one of the cement pillars offering me his trench coat. He must have noted me shivering (cold, nerves, exhaustion, pure anger). I politely shook my head no with a forced smile. He then spoke such soft words of warmth, “Justice will be served in the end.” I bent my head down and the tears began to  flow freely. Moments later, when I looked up to respond, he was gone. 

I’d like to think of him as my own Morgan Freedman, for I felt a peacefulness swell in my heart and I believed it to be true. 

Will justice be served in the end? Redefine/Surrender yourself and you will find your truth, your purpose and search for it in others. Sometimes it may be hidden under years and of wear and tear and bitterness but don’t ever stop believing! I haven’t! 

Silver lining in the darkest cloud:

I’m able to read/review/edit my work from another’s perspective…

MY OWN! 

I have one more assignment to go and I will graduate from The Institute Of Children’s Literature 

I’m still writing about my childhood story Nibbish and I’ll never give up! 

Memories 

Tiny treasures like Twinkling Stars

Some may dim…Some shine no more. 

As we struggle to find the truth,

Our souls forever store. 

Call it a hiatus if you will! My brain may have been on little vacation but my imagination never stopped working! 

*Note; Please forgive any mistakes in spelling, grammar, punctuation

I LEFT THEM IN THE FUNHOUSE! 

*Fact: Over 30,000 injuries happen each year in amusement parks Nation wide. They are so loosely regulated. A coordinated federal effort to collect data  is needed to ensure safety at amusement parks.

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19 comments

Zilla Babbitt
13:27 Jun 21, 2020

You asked me to read, so here I am. Wow! What a great story of survival even after your own brain has stumbled. Keep rising. Two main things. One, use of exclamation points. These should be used very sparingly, only in case of actual exclamations, like "Swell!" Not, "It was swell!" Unless in dialogue. You use exclamation points more than periods here. Two, descriptions. I might be making myself into a hypocrite here, because I LOVE descriptions and they're everywhere in my stories. But here in the description of your daughter: Exact desc...

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Kelly Vavala
15:38 Jun 21, 2020

Hi Zilla, thank you for reading and for your feedback. I was going to use an exclamation mark haha because as you can tell I love them. I think because a period just doesn’t seem like it’s enough sometimes. Also, your second point…this was actually a description of the funhouse facade itself. I was describing the chubby girl on the outside Advertising sign. Not my daughter. Lol She happens to be a very tiny girl who was only 9 yrs. old at the time. Brown hair and hazel eyes. I didn’t feel the need to describe her. Thank you for reading! Enjo...

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Zilla Babbitt
16:33 Jun 21, 2020

Oh, that's right, sorry :) I went back and read it and hit myself in the forehead but oh well. You're so welcome!

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Kelly Vavala
19:42 Jun 21, 2020

It’s all good lol 💕

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Harken Void
11:07 Jun 21, 2020

At first I thought this story was fiction. But the further I got into it (and later confirmed by the comments) the more it felt like actually experiencing something that realy happened to someone. I'm sorry to hear about your accident, but am happy to see that it didn't stop you from writing! I cannot imagine how this must be for you, having to deal with the trauma. But here is my feedback: As a work of non-fiction, I think it's perfect and shouldn't be changed, as the very structure of it speaks almost as much about the difficulties of...

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Kelly Vavala
11:53 Jun 21, 2020

Hi Harken, I so appreciate your feedback especially coming from such a talented writer like yourself! I understand what your saying about the non fiction part leave it alone as it explains exactly what is happening due to the brain injury. Type of writing etc. Why I’m writing like I am. I also so have a problem with past and present tense. New dialogue in a new paragraph noted. Italics inner dialogue got it! Smoother transitions! Criticism accepted and well justified! Thank you again! And just love your stories!

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Harken Void
12:21 Jun 21, 2020

Thank you so much, Kelly :) It's always lovely to hear people enjoy my stories. I hope you find my feedback useful and keep on writing!

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Praveen Jagwani
10:11 Jun 21, 2020

Hello Kelly, Your story took me on a roller coaster of emotions, even though an amusement park simile may be impertinent here. I am inspired by your strength and desire to write, despite your misfortune. Isn't it remarkable how Grit makes us overcome gigantic obstacles, with a little help from family and your very own Morgan Freeman :) My favourite paragraph is the Funhouse one. It is well crafted. Best wishes. Stay blessed and keep writing.

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Kelly Vavala
11:57 Jun 21, 2020

Hi Praveen, thank you for taking the time to read my story and your genuine kind feedback. Love the simile! It was FUN! Love my Morgan Freeman Angel! You seemed to pick up on a lot of the key components I loved about my story. Thank you! I’ll read some of yours in return!

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Laura Clark
22:32 Jun 20, 2020

Hi Kelly, this is a strange comment to write as you’ve said this is non fiction - I’m so sorry this happened to you! This whole thing seems really traumatic. I have experience with TBIs with a close family member so this actually gave me a bit of insight. Thank you for sharing it. In terms of looking at it as a piece of writing, I think that this is quite disjointed in sentence structure and sequencing at times BUT this really really works here because it beautifully mimics first the funhouse and later the confusion from the brain injury...

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Kelly Vavala
22:51 Jun 20, 2020

Laura, thank you so much for your feedback! And also your concern about you enjoying reading about someone’s trauma! After all, isn’t that sometimes what makes a good story? Trauma… I just happen to be a real person lol not fictional! So, it’s ok! I give you permission and I’m glad it at least held your attention! I was able to write this as if I was speaking about someone else. I see what you mean about the sequencing. I wanted the first paragraph as an opening describing the funhouse itself as to how much I despise them, but I can see whe...

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Laura Clark
23:00 Jun 20, 2020

Thank you for sharing it!

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Kelly Vavala
23:27 Jun 20, 2020

💕

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Batool Hussain
18:27 Jun 20, 2020

Great story Kelly:) Good job!

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Kelly Vavala
22:18 Jun 20, 2020

Thank you for your feedback! Appreciate

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Batool Hussain
10:32 Jun 21, 2020

You're welcome! Mind checking my recent story out? Thanks.

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Good job, Kelly! I like this story a lot. You did a good job with this prompt. Maybe you should just include the notes and facts in the comments because I heard from another judge that judges don't really like the author's notes. Could you please check out my story when you have the chance?

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Alana Lawlor
18:21 Jun 25, 2020

Great story Kelly. There's something about the writing style that give it a manic energy. Because of the brackets and punctuation, I kind of felt the protagonist's disorientation. Not sure if it was intentional or not, but I think it works really well. I noticed from the comments that this is a true story, I'm so sorry about what happened to you. What a scary thing to go through. Great job on this piece and I hope you continue with Nibbish!

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Kelly Vavala
12:53 Jun 26, 2020

Thank you for reading Alana! And yes falls in the category strange but true!

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