The Personal Injury Files

Damages incurred may never be rewarded, but at least they can be remembered. Forever. JASON GURLEY has the files on anyone who ever wronged him.

When I was eight my sister turned off the Nintendo while I was playing a game of Super Mario Bros., which everybody knows was intense and mind-screwing and daunting to complete. Later, when she found her Barbie doll embedded in the double-paned living room window, I casually informed her that this was what she got.

‘For what?’ she whined, tugging on the Barbie’s feet, trying to unplug it from the glass.

‘For turning off the Nintendo just as I was conquering world 5-2,’ I replied.

‘I never did that!’ she countered, just as she freed her Barbie and the window collapsed into a tall pile of shards inside the living room.

She pranced away, Barbie in fist, leaving me with a broken window to explain to my parents, who of course walked in right that second.

* * *

Sitting in my room, considering my actions, I decided that my fatal flaw was my lack of evidence. But how do you produce evidence of something intangible, like the turning-off of a video game system at a critical junction?

Written testimony.

How could I not have thought of this before? When all else fails, a carefully-worded, detailed analysis of a personal injury is almost all you need to weasel out of a situation, or to cajole a loved one into buying a Castle Grayskull for you.

I noticed that a single college-ruled spiral notebook filled up pretty quickly. And so my collection of logs grew. And grew.

And now, when my wife and I go apartment hunting:

Me: ‘We need a three-bedroom place.’

Her: ‘A bedroom for us, an office for you, and…a room for the baby?’

Me: ‘No. A room for us, an office for me, and a library for my personal injury logs.’

At which point she usually begins to weep softly and feels the urge to clean the bathroom.

A look through the stacks:

Casefile #18, September 1986
Guilty Party: Sister
Subject: Libel

Today I opened my closet to gather my school supplies for the first day of school. Here among my things was my treasured yellow pencil box, which proudly bears the Honey Bee sticker I found in my Cheerios last spring.

On my pencil box I saw that my sister had scribbled—in crayon—and all big loops and smears. But the real injustice was what she wrote across the top of my pencil box:


I immediately knew it was her, since dweeb was her latest word. She refused to clean the box, so I kicked her in the shin.

Personal Injury #18: My sister called me a dweeb, and, worse, spelled it wrong.

Casefile #54, June 1989
Guilty Party: W. (friend)
Subject: Humiliation

For a long time now W. and I have been friends. Today we got into a big fight because he was cheating at home-run derby: he was hitting the balls too far and beating me.

I threw down my glove and ran at him. I knocked him down, sat on his stomach, and starting pounding on him. Our mothers, who’d been enjoying an early bottle of vodka, came outside and gasped. And then didn’t try to stop us, but kept gasping.

W. blocked every punch I threw. You would think that, being a third-degree black belt and all he would know how to take a beating with pride. But instead he just laughed as I swung madly. And pretty soon our mothers followed suit and began to elbow each other and chuckle.

Personal Injury #54: W. embarrassed me in front of my mom, who was so underwhelmed by my fighting ability that I didn’t even get a lecture on how fighting is never the answer. Instead, she laughed at me.

Casefile #112, March 1993
Guilty Party: Miss Martini (teacher)
Subject: Unwarranted Detention

Today in English Miss Martini was teaching us all about etiquette in preparation for a field trip we’re taking to a genuine Italian 1) restaurant and 2) opera.

‘Does anyone know why there are two forks on this side of the plate?’ she asked the class.

‘Slut,’ muttered Jeffrey North.

The class held its breath.

‘What did you say?’ Miss Martini demanded of Jeffrey. But he kept his mouth shut.

‘Go to the office and tell them what you said!’ she shouted. We all watched as Jeffrey stormed out of the room.

‘Now,’ she said, fists on hips. ‘What did he say?’


‘Don’t anybody worry. I just want to know what he said.’

‘He called you a slut,’ I offered.

‘What?’ she cried. ‘You go to the office!’

The principal contemptuously looked me over while I explained that Miss Martini had demanded someone tell her what Jeffrey had said, and even said that we wouldn’t get in trouble at all. But Mr. Barkolo simply ripped a pink sheet of paper off a pad and scribbled down my name, a room number, and a time.

‘Be there,’ he said. ‘Now get back to your class.’

Personal Injury #112: Imprisoned by a slut.

Casefile #294, Summer 1991
Guilty Party: Parents
Subject: Animal Cruelty

Today there was a yellow note taped to our front door. In large letters it said HARRIS COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL DEPARTMENT. In the space below it read, ‘Picked up your dog. Neighbor complaint. Seven days to retrieve. Call below number for details.’

My mom called the number and learned the story, which she repeated to me with a hand on the mouthpiece.

‘Mr. Brooks down the street called the dogcatcher because Thor was digging up his garden,’ she said quickly. ‘They picked him up because he didn’t have a collar or tags.’

‘Let’s go get him,’ I said. Mom’s face went ashen and she hung up the phone.

‘It will cost almost four hundred dollars to get him out, Jason. We don’t have that kind of money right now.’

I started to cry and asked what would happen if we didn’t get him out before the week was up. Dad thoughtfully said, ‘They’ll kill him—er, euthanize him.’

We never got Thor back. I know nobody adopted him—he was a strange mutt, a blend of boxer and Labrador retriever. Nobody would adopt a dog like that, especially one that liked toting home dead rabbits, stuffing his snout into beehives, and picking fights with stray pit bulls.

Personal Injury #294: My parents killed my dog.
Last year my family met for Thanksgiving in Oregon, a convenient halfway point between their home in Alaska, my sister’s home in Washington, and my home in Nevada. It being the holidays and all, I casually mentioned that I was still none-too-impressed with the way they killed my dog.

My dad laughed and speared another slice of turkey.

‘Jason,’ he said with a mouthful, ‘We didn’t kill Thor. The pound wanted a lot of money in penalties, so we put him up for adoption. We even got a letter that he’d had been adopted by some family.’

Casefile #175423, November 2001
Guilty Party: Parents
Subject: Dishonesty

Tonight over Thanksgiving dinner my parents again lied to me about their long-ago murder of my beloved Thor…