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Story pick: An often-invisible, life-altering wound

By Theresa Vargas

On Sunday, Story Lab’s own Chris Davenport delivered a haunting and masterful story about an outcome of war that would be easier to ignore: traumatic brain injuries. The power of the piece is in the subtle details, in taking us into private moments that are both uncomfortable and revealing.

One of those comes as John Barnes, who is white, visited a Walmart and an overweight African American woman passed by him. One result of his injury is that impulsive, offensive comments slip out of his mouth more easily. In that moment Davenport shows us the effort it takes for Barnes to restrain from saying anything. He writes: “Just a once-up-and-down glance and a smirk. Then, only after she was out of earshot, he uttered one quick comment: 'Two sacks of potatoes. No, 2.75 sacks.'"

Another moment comes during a visit with his speech therapist:

"Do you eat a banana before you peel it?" she asks.


"Does it typically snow in July?"

It does.

Then the therapist shows him a rose and asks what it is.

"This would be a telephone," he says.

As I read the piece, for the first time it hit me how many soldiers are living among us, permanently altered in ways none of us would know if we stood behind them in a store line -- or if they snickered about us as we passed by.

By Theresa Vargas  | October 4, 2010; 12:38 PM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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