Mario Villalobos

Kneecap Magician

  • Notes

“In another lifetime, I used to be an EMT,” I told the 8th grade student on our way to the gym. She giggled and continued walking. “Back when I was a firefighter. Me and the principal used to be EMTs, actually. Once upon a time.”

“Wait, for real? I thought you were joking.”

“What? I never joke,” I deadpanned. She laughed again. “So tell me again what happened.” She did, and I started to walk faster.

We walked through the lobby doors, and she led me toward the basketball courts. A small group of middle school students were huddled around the boy. The PE teacher held him up from behind while her husband lied on the ground next to the boy’s left leg. The teacher held tight to the boy and winced. The boy groaned in pain.

“There,” her husband said.

He popped the boy’s dislocated knee back into place. The boy’s face was whiter than the fresh snow that fell overnight, but he was fine.

“You popped it back in?” I asked the husband, another teacher on staff. He said yes, and I, motioning to the student who fetched me, said, “She made it sound worse than it was.”

“It looked really bad,” the PE teacher and wife of the kneecap magician said. “It really looked like the bone was going to cut right through the skin. I panicked, so that’s why I sent her to get you, but then I remembered my husband was just in the other building, so I had another student fetch him.”

The husband and another student helped the boy to his feet. He couldn’t put any pressure on his leg, but he looked relieved to have his kneecap facing the right direction. I looked the boy over, made sure he was okay, and I helped him to the locker room. He sat down on the bench and stretched his leg out. I looked at his knee, and sure enough, everything looked to be in working order.

Another teacher prepared a bag of ice and gave it to me. After I gave it to the boy, I left the locker room and called the principal. I gave him the details, and he told me the boy’s father was on his way. “He’s an hour away, though.”

Fucking Montana.

I told to the boy to rest and to keep the knee iced. “The swelling needs to go down,” I told him.

I talked to the PE teacher and she told me that her husband, a former football coach, had vast experience popping arms back into their shoulders, but he had never done knees before.

“Joints are joints,” I said.

We talked some more, and I checked on the boy again before I left and walked back to the main office. A few minutes before the end of school, the boy, helped by another student, walked to the front office with all his stuff. We sat him down and grabbed a chair for him to rest his leg on.

“The fact that you could walk all the way over here with very little help is a good thing,” the Superintendent said.

“Yeah,” the boy agreed.

Once the bell rang, I grabbed my stuff and left the building. My EMT license expired two years ago, but every now and then, I think about renewing it again. Today was a good example why.

I love seeing children in pain.

No, I’m joking. I like helping people, I like action, and I like solving problems. Being an EMT had all of that, but I let my license lapse right before COVID shut the world down. Every now and then I think about renewing it, but—I don’t know—I feel like that part of my life has ended.

Time marches forward and all that.

I was hoping to see a mangled kneecap, in all honesty. Next time.