Thursday, December 30, 1999

The Bully

This story originally appeared on the Secret Garden website, and is archived here at the request of author Doug Rogers.

Sometimes life is funny as hell.
By funny, of course, I mean peculiar. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Roy Coxson was a bully. I had met him for the first time on the playground in the opening days of the fourth grade. He was the guy who pushed me in the chest and made me fall down over Donnie Ritchen. Donnie was on all fours, and I found my feet flying out from under me, and I hit the ground hard on my back. Roy kicked some dirt in my direction, they hi-fived each other, and ran off. Over the following two years, Coxson had done nothing to change my opinion of him. If it is possible for a twelve year old to hate, I hated him.
And then there was that day just before Christmas break when our teacher made an announcement to the class. Roy Coxson, it seemed, had gone deer hunting with his brother and father. The old man had handed the shotguns to Ben while they crawled over a fence. The eight year-old had promptly dropped one of the weapons, and it had gone off. The shot caught Roy in the right arm and the right side of the chest. So Roy was in the hospital, and we were told if we wanted to visit him, it was room 614 at Jefferson Hospital.
I thought little more about it until we came back from Christmas Break. I noticed that Coxson wasn't in class. As soon as we came to order, our sad-faced teacher gave us an update.
"I know you have all been concerned about Roy Coxson. I got a call from his father last night. Roy won't be back in school for at least another month. His lung is fine, and his breathing is much better. But..." She paused a moment and swallowed. "But the doctors say they haven't been able to fix the damage in his arm very well. They are going to amputate his right arm this afternoon."
Mickey Kentz bent over to my desk and whispered "What's amplatate?"
"It's AMPUTATE," I whispered back. "They're gonna cut his arm off!"

Monday, December 20, 1999

Cindy's Fault

This story originally appeared on the Secret Garden website, and is archived here at the request of author Doug Rogers.

When you come right down to it, it's really Cindy Thurston's fault that I only have one leg. Now that I have your attention, let me start at the beginning.
Cindy and I had gone to school together since she moved here in the third grade. I can remember the first day of school that year. She came crutching in on those forearm sticks she used back then, and I remember thinking "Far out! This girl ain't got a left leg!"
The teacher introduced Cindy to the class, and explained to us that she had been very sick a few months ago and the only way the doctors could make her well was to remove her leg. She didn't throw words like "cancer" and "amputation" at us. Hell, we were only 8 year olds at the time! Cindy let everyone who wanted to take a closer look at her leg (we were all wearing shorts back then!) I didn't know what a hard-on was back then, but I got one all the same.
That night, when I went to my room to go to bed, I had a thought that thrilled me in a strange way. As I was putting my pajamas on, I doubled my left leg up and put it down the leg of the loose pants. I tied a knot in the end of the pant leg, and stood up. Using the bed to walk on with my knee, I got around to where I could see myself in the mirror! I felt crazy! But my heart was pounding, and the feelings were good everywhere. I remember thinking, "I wonder if Cindy feels this way when she gets ready for bed!"

Friday, December 10, 1999

Circles I

This story originally appeared on the Secret Garden website and is archived here at the request of author Doug Rogers.

I'm not really sure what sort of turn my life would have taken if I hadn't met Corky. Quite probably, I'd be dead. In a very real way I owe my life to him.
It was the summer I had turned fourteen. I was running away. I was running away in every sense of the term. I was fourteen and I was running away from the small town where I had been raised, from my parents, from the thugs at school who thought it was really funny to pick on the small kid everyone thought was gay. Well, they were right, but what of it? I never bothered anyone! I was running away from all the problems that had been dumped into my life in the past eight weeks! I was tired of it all and all I wanted was out. So I had saved my allowance for the past four weeks and stolen everything that was in my mother's purse the summer afternoon I finally decided to do it, and I had bolted!
It doesn't take much money to hitchhike. It's scary as hell, but it's cheap. I'd only had one close call so far. This guy in his late 30's I guessed had picked me up outside of Carson City. He'd seemed nice enough and had chattered on and on as we headed down Route 28 toward Lake Tahoe. About the time the night fell he pulled into a Mickey D's just outside of Tahoe.
"You hungry?" he asked.
"Yeah, I could eat," I told him. Actually, I wanted to get out of the car and stretch. My knee was throbbing something awful and I needed to walk it off.
"Great," he said. "Let's grab a bite here, my treat!"
He didn't have to make that offer twice. We sat in the plastic restaurant eating the plastic tasting meal. I'd never thought much of fast food, but at least this was filling and someone else was buying it.
"Want another?" the guy asked, pointing to the smudged carton that had held my Big Mac.
"No, I'm good," I said. "Thanks. I was hungry."
"You on the run, kid?" he finally asked.

Wednesday, December 1, 1999

Circles II

This story originally appeared on the Secret Garden Website and is archived here at the request of author Doug Rogers.

 Circles I

I think I woke up fairly soon after coming back from surgery. I say 'I think' because I'm really not sure of anything that first day. I was drifting in and out a lot. Of course, the doctor had told me that would be the way of it. He was keeping me pretty well sedated to let the major healing begin and keep me out of pain. That suited me just fine. Somewhere in there it occurred to me to look down at the foot of the bed. At first I thought the operation hadn't been done yet: I saw the twin rises of my feet right where they should have been; there was no void on the left side. I drifted back into the blackness again.
It was, I think, the next time I drifted into consciousness that I became aware of the tight feeling all around my left thigh. I focused again on the shapes at the foot of the bed. Ah! Of course! I was seeing the instant prosthesis that Dr. Burns had promised he would fit me with. He said he did that for most of his younger patients after amputation anyway, but after what Corky had told me about being able to get up and actually walk after a day or two, I wanted to be damned sure I was one of the guys who got one!
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Thank God! It was over! The twin specters of the horror of having a leg chopped off and death were both past now, one having banished the other. The cancerous knee was gone. The doctor had promised me the night before that the tests showed it hadn't spread; they had caught it early enough. Gingerly, I tried to lift my left leg. It seemed to weigh a ton. I simply shook my head, smiled a silly grin, and drifted back to sleep.