Tuesday, October 18, 2016
The Birth of Super Crip: Chapter 1
Red closed his locker, the clang of the metal door being slammed shut coming just before the bell signaling the end of lunch for juniors. He stopped at his locker once a day after lunch because he knew he could steal a little extra time in between periods. Kids with disabilities were always allowed to leave class a minute or two early to try to get a head start on reaching their next class before the halls filled with students at the bell. Some teachers were sticklers about them not leaving too early even if the lesson ended a few minutes before the bell. But lunch monitors rarely said anything even if they left as much as five minutes early, and even then a request to use the restroom always sufficed. He pushed the lock up, pressing the shackle against the inside of the hole in the handle of the locker to clamp it down, and he used his thumb to move the dial away from the final digit of his combination. He put his book bag over the back of the seat of his power wheelchair, which most people referred to as a scooter despite his protests, and turned to head for his next class only to find Chuck Groslin blocking his way.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Chuck asked. The football player towered over Red. Chuck’s stocky build was imposing to most of the kids in school.
Looking up at the familiar crew cut and lettered jacket that Chuck would wear even on the hottest days of the year, Red rolled his eyes. “It’s fifth period, Chuck,” he said. “Try to keep up. I’m going to the same place every time you do this. Social studies. It’s high school. Pretty much the same schedule every day.”
“What?” Chuck said again, adding a look of disgust. “I can’t even understand you when you talk.”
Red felt himself tense up, even feeling slightly light-headed for a second. Cracks about his speech disability always got under his skin the most. “So maybe you shouldn’t keep asking me questions, Einstein,” Red said, dismissing any thoughts of making light of the daily ritual. The hallways started to fill, and Red noticed Chuck’s girlfriend approaching him from behind. Red slowly started to steer his wheelchair past him.
“C’mon, Chuck,” Tara said, trying to gently push him on his way. “Just go to class.”
Instead, he took a step to his left to block Red’s path. “Did I give you permission to leave yet?”
Red glared at him, tempted to take a swing at the football player. “Move,” he growled.
When Chuck just stood there, Red made another attempt at steering around him. Suddenly, he felt the bully’s hand on his chest. “Where do you think you’re going?” Chuck asked again, standing right next to him and leaning down into his face.
A wave of energy surged through Red as he reached out to grab Chuck’s jacket, but he caught nothing but air. Blinded by darkness that came and went so fast that he wasn’t sure it happened, Red suddenly felt light-headed and saw dots everywhere. He heard a loud bang as if someone had slammed a locker. He caught a jumbled glimpse of Tara’s bulging eyes as she covered her mouth. Grabbing the armrest and handlebars of his power chair to steady himself, he wondered if he was having a seizure, though he’d only ever seen a couple of his friends have them. Other kids were pushing against him, a small crowd gathering to see what had happened.
Finally, his eyes started to focus. Chuck was lying on the floor with his head against a locker, and Tara was on her knees beside him trying to offer comfort. Did he slip? Red wondered. How did he get on the ground? He looked up again and noticed the other kids were starting to head to class.
Red took the opportunity to finally make his way around Chuck. His head felt as though it was swirling, almost like the momentary dizziness he often felt after getting out of a pool, but it wasn’t going away as fast. He purposely tried to take a deep breath, getting a good inhale on the second try. Exhaling, he was pretty sure that whatever he’d just experienced was starting to pass. It felt as though something was receding from his head. He didn’t look back at Chuck until he was several feet down the hall. His tormentor’s eyes looked up at him, seemingly as confused as he was. Feeling a couple pats on the back, Red vaguely heard kids say, “Nice job” and “Way to go.” He looked up at them, wondering why they were congratulating him.
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