birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


I fell and busted my knee wide open or enough to need eight stitches. I was eleven. it was my right knee. I fell on gravel in our driveway in Pittsburgh. It was nighttime, and we were all outside playing as we did almost every summer night growing up.

I couldn't see all the blood in the dark.

I remember the stitches.

The stitches hurt but not enough to stop me from running and playing so hard all the following week every night outside too.

Pretty soon, the stitches cracked open and blood droplets appeared, and a wide pink scar began to form.

Mom said not to run around so much so as not to pop the stitches. But it was hard to sit still and as much as I tried, I always ended up running around again.

Finally, it was time for the stitches to come out.

We went down to the football office to find the team doctor. Dad was coaching for the Pittsburgh Panthers then. It was a pain for Mom to pile four kids in the car and drive to Pitt from the North Hills of Pittsburgh.

We got to the football office. The team doctor wasn't there, but Coach Jackie Sherrill was there. He offered to take my stitches out.

Mom agreed, so Coach Sherrill got a scissors and cut them out.

"I'll do it," was all he said.

He gave me a look that asked if I was tough enough to take it.

I really didn't want Coach Sherrill taking out my stitches, but I didn't want him thinking I was some girl weakling either.

So I just nodded that it was okay. I wasn't about to cry or flinch.

Was it an ordinary scissors from the desk? Or one from the team doctor? I think it was just a regular scissor.

But I don't know. I remember sitting on a bench in the locker room, and he cut them out and it was fast.

My brothers and sister watched.

What was Mom doing? I don't know. She never liked Coach Sherrill because he bragged about everything.

He said his daughter was potty-trained by six months old.

I guess I thanked him and we left.

Many years later, I heard that Coach Sherrill brought a bull onto the practice field at Mississippi State to have the bull castrated in front of his players to build up team strength to face the football season - as in that was what they were going to do their opponents.

I think about Coach Sherrill from time to time. I haven't seen him in years - not since I was a kid.

I still have a tiny pink scar on my knee from all those summer nights of not wanting to go inside and instead to keep on playing.


When I Smile

The Scar Under My Chin