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American Prose: 1830-1930|
Jennifer L. Nelson and
Albert V. Ballin*
In an Impromptu Don Quixotic Tilt with a Modern Wind Mill,
ONLY A FEW short months ago I visited this great and beautifully equipped County Hospital as a guest of Mr. And Mrs. Ormond E. Lewis, whose sister is a nurse there. Certainly this hospital is one of the largest in this country, and so it looked to me as I took dinner there with over five hundred nurses assembled in its dining hall.
It would have elicited a sarcastic smile out of me if a suggestion were offered that I might be carried there, lying flat on my back on a stretcher, to remain as a penitent (?) patient some time. But as such I have been for two mortal weeks, cogitating on the uncertainties of life in this world.
On Saturday midnight, July 10th, I took a blind deaf mute, Louis C. Schuman, from the Los Angeles Silent Club to his home on Harvard Boulevard, near Third Street. On my way back to the city, I walked along the latter street to the next one called Hobart Boulevard. I paused before crossing it, and all looked deserted and quiet. I had to turn and cross Third Street to board a trolley car going down town. I took scarcely two or three steps when the catastrophe overtook me. The reports of the police and three witnesses show that the driver was drunk and going at full speed behind me and turning a sharp turn.
The next instant, I felt as though I was lifted off my feet and hurled off the top of the tallest sky scraper conceivable. My first emotion was that of vexation at being disturbed while conjugating an original apostrophe. Next I saw myself diving through a narrow shaft of incalculable depth. At first I felt frightened, but soon I was fascinated with the delightful sensation and bewitchery of rolling gently through space with an ever accelerating speed, never wishing it to end. I never worried over the final landing which seemed to be miles and miles away. I imagined that in falling through the narrow well, I was pushing down the air under me, compressing it so densely that it would recoil me with beautiful resiliency and that I would then slide softly through the nearly solidified air and land on a great cushion of eider down.
I felt that I went through enough of this fol-de-rol, and that it was about time for me to get up and go about my business. To my astonishment, I awoke to the consciousness that I was flat on my back in the middle of the street, staring at twinkling stars, dazzling headlights of automobiles whizzing to and fro, and gazing at a fast gathering of people, a policeman or two. I tried to arise and failed, so numb I was everywhere except in my arms which were not hurt. The police talked to me, and, of course, I could not answer orally. I recollected that I carried, in my inside coat-pocket, my address book containing my visiting cards. I fished out one and handed it to the cop.
From sheer weariness I let myself fall back, never caring worth a fig what should befall me afterward. I was gently lifted and carried to the corner grass-plot to await the arrival of the expected ambulance, which came almost instantly to transport my inert self to the receiving hospital. There my wounds were dressed. The main injuries were an ugly gash on the forehead running from the roots of my curls to the right eyebrow, in the middle and over to the right cheek bone, deep cuts and bruises on the left leg, bruises on right knee and ankle, and a few other minor cuts elsewhere and a violent wrenching of the neck. I am sure I was hit first on the left leg by the auto-fender, and cast head foremost several yards hitting the asphalted street with my head. Perhaps my life was saved by the hardness of my skull. My glasses and teeth were shaken out. One plate was found on the top of an eucalyptus tree, and the upper plate was found at the door of Mrs. Rothert’s house. If she saw it first, she might have saved it to press artistic borders on her pies. These details are mere conjectures on my part, and never proved yet. Anyway, the glasses and plates were restored to me intact for a wonder.
The cut on the forehead was stitched with fifteen metal clasps, my left leg swathed in bandages and then I was put in a bed under an electric heater to thaw out the cold that shivered my body. After a while I was carried away in another ambulance to this General Hospital.
*For Albert V. Ballin’s biography, please see 236.
“In an Impromptu Don Quixotic Tilt with a Modern Wind Mill, called Automobile, with Dire Results to Himself” is from The Silent Worker 39, no. 3 (December 1926).