The story of Dani Higgins and her exceptionally bad week

One of my favorite episodes of The Mary Tyler Moore Show involved a week in Mary's life leading up to her receiving an award. During that week, she caught a cold, the dry cleaner ruined her dress, her hair wouldn't hold its curl, a shoe's heel broke, and on and on. It was just this gathering storm of gloom. I thought about that when I heard about the plight of this kid I know.

Dani Higgins is a junior at Benson High School. For the past 125 years or so, Benson has been a small mining/farming community-slash-railroad stop, but having recently been discovered by the developers' crowd, in a decade or so, it will be the new South Tucson. Anyway, Dani is one of those small-town/small-school dynamos who does just about everything for and at the school; she hits the books, plays on the teams and works in the snack bar when she's not playing.

Unfortunately, the snack-bar section of her résumé is about to be expanded, because she had the crap week of all time.

First off, you have to understand that despite the fact that she's this big, she's a stud athlete. She holds the Class 2A State record in the 800 meters, finished second in the 1,600 meters (mile) at state last year, and anchored both the state championship 4x400 relay team and the 4x800 team that finished second in the state. This past fall, she finished second in the state in the small-school cross country championship. Between all that running, she also played basketball.

She and her equally diminutive best friend, Sabrina Molina, work together at the Dairy Queen on the main drag, hang out and play the guard spots for the Bobcats. At least they did until the Week From Hell.

Dani had been struggling a bit. She would go to school, go to basketball practice and then, through some obsession, go running for an hour or so after that. Through overwork, she developed a condition in her calves that caused excruciating pain. She had to take a few weeks off from both running and basketball.

When she was finally cleared to play, she was rounding herself back into her own disgustingly high level of conditioning when disaster struck. She was playing in a basketball game when she grabbed a loose ball. She landed awkwardly, and before she could gain her balance, she was bumped by an opposing player. "She didn't even hit me that hard, but I heard and felt the pop in my knee, and I knew it wasn't good."

The collision had torn Dani's ACL and had damaged the meniscus. There would be no more basketball season, no track season and, quite possibly, no senior-year cross country next autumn. But her week was just getting started.

As the seriousness of her injury settled in, she was confined to crutches. But the big winter formal, the social event of the season, was coming up in a few days, and crutches just didn't match her dress.

Turns out it was a moot point, because her boyfriend decided to break up with her VIA TEXT MESSAGE! And who says chivalry is dead?

Still, she soldiered on, figuring, how much worse could it get? I mean, if God decided to throw a meteor down at her, she's really tiny, and she's got one good leg; she might be able to dodge it.

She decided to go to the dance anyway. There was this freshman boy that she knew, kinda small like Anthony Michael Hall in Sixteen Candles. (This was way before he got all buff and stuff and discovered his Dead Zone.) Dani told the guy that they should go to the dance and hang out together.

Well, some senior girls got all up in her business and told Text Message Boy that Dani was cheating on him with a freshman, which is technically impossible, since there has to be an electronic record of that breakup text message someplace. This caused all kinds of drama. It was like an especially melodramatic episode of Smallville, which, if you think about it, also has meteors in it.

Dani has her knee surgery today. She'll begin rehab as soon as possible and is aiming for a return to competition in the latter half of next fall's cross country season. That's iffy, and she doesn't know if she'll play basketball again. If the cross country doesn't go, she may just focus on track because, while she's a good student, she's been hoping to get some kind of running (track and/or cross-country) scholarship for college.

In the meantime, Text Boy has been sniffing around again. She says she doesn't know if that's a good thing or not. I know; I was thinking the exact same thing.

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