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With This Ring: Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Wheelie: Fiction by KM Rockwood
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The Dreary Detective: Fiction by E.E. Williams
Deadly Meating: Flash Fiction by Jacob Graysol
Full, From the Grave: Flash Fiction by Craig Kirchner
Leave Me Alone: Flash Fiction by Roy Dorman
Free Key Day: Flash Fiction by William Kitcher
The Night the Monster Came: Flash Fiction by Tim Tobin
Some Things That I Learned in the Army: Poem by Richelle Slota
Double Negatives: Poem by RC Potter
Bird of Night: Poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Last Night: poem by Luis Cuauhtémoc Berriozábal
Poem for an Ex: Poem by John Grey
His Gallery: Poem by John Grey
Beachwood Canyon: Poem by Damon Hubbs
Stick Horses: Poem by Damon Hubbs
she blew me a kiss: Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
so much in common: Poem by ayaz daryl nielsen
After I Turned 40: Poem by Richard LeDue
The Alarm Clock: Poem by Richard LeDue
Sentimental Love Poems Shown to No One: Poem by Richard LeDue
The Children: Poem by Dawn L. C. Miller
The Deadly Shoes: Poem by Dawn L. C. Miller
The Sands of Inanna: Poem by Dawn L. C. Miller
Angelic: Poem by John Short
Robophobe: Poem by John Short
Worry Beads: Poem by John Short
not even Baudelaire: Poem by Craig Kirchner
Dream Doctor: Poem by Craig Kirchner
Neon Poem: Poem by Craig Kirchner
Another Chapter in Life:Poem by Amirah Al Wassif
The Same Old Story: Poem by Amirah Al Wassif
to bury a curious girl: Poem by Amirah Al Wassif
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Strange Gardens
ALAT
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

KM Rockwood: Wheelie

102_ym_wheelie_bernice.jpg
Art by Bernice Holtzman © 2024

Wheelie

by

KM Rockwood

 

Sylvia’s mom drove us to Riverside Park. She parked in a “Handicapped” space, affixing the placard to the rear-view mirror.

Once the river had flowed freely, but repeated flooding had led to the construction of extensive concrete barriers. Now a rough walkway stretched in either direction, and a broad set of stairs led down to another path beside the low wall next to the edge of the now-confined riverbed. This time of year, the water was low, maybe six foot deep. Beyond the wall was a sheer drop of twenty feet to riprap that extended for another ten feet before it met the water.

Mom got me out of the back seat and unfolded me. I am quite portable for a wheelchair. I fit easily into the back of a car.

She pushed me up near to the front passenger door of the car. As she opened the door, a delightful fragrance of soap and perfume wafted toward me.

Sylvia. My new partner.

I will always have a special place in my memories for my first partner, Simon, a teenager injured in an accident. Of course, he was not thrilled to be “confined to a wheelchair,” as the saying goes, but he made the best of it. Together, we could fly down the hallways at school, jump curbs and pop the most spectacular wheelies in the middle of the street. He gave me my name, “Wheelie.”

Eventually Simon grew too heavy for me, and I was sent to be repaired and renovated. After all those wheelies, I needed it. But I never regretted a minute of the excitement. I’d had several more partners, all short term, and I anxiously awaited what I hoped would be a lasting partnership.

Getting Sylvia from the car into my seat was a chore. I helped all I could, maneuvering myself ever so slightly so my seat lined up with Sylvia’s bottom. I braced myself to hold firm as Mom lowered Sylvia. She really should have set the brake, but she was so new at this, I took care of that myself.

I cradled Sylvia as gently as possible. I was anxious to please this new partner. Not only did she exude that wonderful aroma (and believe me, some partners could truly stink) she weighed hardly anything. And she was beautiful. Her dark eyes snapped and her delicate alabaster hands rested ever so lightly on my armrests. Her hair had been shaved for her surgery and was just a bristle beginning to grow back. Right now it felt prickly. I looked forward for when it would grow into silky tresses that caressed my headrest.

Such a perfect afternoon to begin our bonding. The sun was strong and a healthy breeze blew over the water. Leaves rustled, the late fall mums and marigolds displayed their last brave blossoms. Mom tucked a soft blanket around Sylvia, covering her from neck to toes. I grabbed the edges to keep it from blowing in the wind.

The walkway at the top of the cliff was a bit rough and had a slight decline, so I was vigilant. I eased my big wheels over the holes and bumps, smoothing Sylvia’s ride as much I could. At the edge of the park was a steep, twisting path down to the waterfront. I had maneuvered it in the past, with a short-term partner, but it would be a bit challenging for Sylvia’s first outing, so I locked my wheels. After a little shoving, Mom gave up. She turned us around and came back to a bench near where the car was parked. We stopped next to the head of a steep staircase that led to the path running right next to the river. She turned me so that Sylvia could see across the river. Another park lined the opposite shore. The railroad bridge crossed nearby—watching trains was always fun. I would imagine myself as a powerful locomotive, pistons setting my wheels to churning and gaining speed as I roared down the track.

But of course, that was only a fantasy.

Mom kicked my brake hard. Quite unnecessary. I would have engaged it at the slightest touch, or even set it on my own, had Mom forgotten.

Mom lowered herself on the bench next to us, sighed, and looked out over the water.

Frustrating. Sylvia and I could be rolling, exploring the park, figuring out how to work together as a team. She couldn’t use her legs, but her arms and hands seemed to have movement. She could learn to propel us at a pretty good clip if she practiced.

I reminded myself that Sylvia needed time to get used to this. Sylvia hadn’t been born this way; she had been in a terrible accident, and was not expected to ever walk again. As if walking was all that important. It must have been a shock to her, though. I would help her adjust, show her the advantages of using a wheelchair. She would have a good, full life.

We would go places together, see things, visit museums and restaurants. We would be limited only by high curbs and deep mud and Sylvia’s imagination.

After a long wait in storage waiting for a new partner, I was eager to get on with life. But I could give Sylvia all the time she needed. I snugged the blanket a bit closer to Sylvia and rocked her gently in the wind.

“It’s a pretty view,” Mom said.

“I don’t care,” Sylvia retorted.

“I thought you might enjoy being out in the fresh air,” Mom said.

“What, so I can see everyone else walking?”

Mom sighed. “I know it’s tough. But we’re doing the best that we can.”

“If that’s being pushed around in a rickety old wheelchair, it’s not good enough.”

Hey, wait a minute. I was aware that I’m not exactly new. But I’d been meticulously refurbished. I certainly wasn’t “rickety.”

“We’ve got that motorized wheelchair on order,” Mom said.

A motorized wheelchair. Of course. Most people these days wanted the motorized ones. But I’m still the wheelchair that folds and fits into the car. The motorized one might be fine at school and places like that, but I would be the one carrying Sylvia on trips and adventures.

“It’s not the same as walking,” Sylvia said. I heard her sniffle. Gently, I rubbed her back. She’d been through a lot.

“I can’t live like this.”

“I know it seems bad.” Mom’s eyes were filling with tears, too.

Not so bad, I wanted to shout. We’ll get everywhere you need to go, and most places you’d like to go. Just work with me! But I have no way of talking.

“We’ll get a van,” Mom continued. “With a lift on it. So you can just ride the motorized wheelchair right onto the lift and into the van. No more picking you up and depositing you in an old, broken-down wheelchair.”

Old? Broken down? No reason to insult me.

What were they saying?

“I hate this stupid wheelchair!” Sylvia cried, freeing her hands from under the blanket and pounding on my armrests.

Oh, Sylvia! Please! I felt a flash of despair. Sylvia had no intention of becoming my partner. She didn’t even like me. She was barely tolerating me.

Mom wiped her eyes. “You’ll like the wheelchair we ordered,” she said. “I tried out a floor model. It’s kind of fun to drive.”

“I can’t imagine any wheelchair being fun,” Sylvia said.

“That’s just because you’re stuck with this old one until yours comes in.”

I may be old, but I can be lots of fun! How could I make her understand?

“I don’t want to use a wheelchair,” Sylvia said.

“I know,” Mom soothed. “But once we return this hunk of junk loaner and you get the new one, see if it isn’t better.”

Hunk of junk. Loaner. Did that mean I was destined to never have another long-term partner?

The wind picked up a bit. I moved my wheels ever so slightly so that we were aimed toward the top of the steep stairs.

A sharp whistle cut through the sound of the wind in the trees. The harsh mechanical noise of a train chugging along reached our ears. A smell of diesel exhaust and oil drifted from across the river. Sylvia struggled to turn to see the train as it drew onto the bridge.

Mom was sitting quietly, her eyes closed and a tear trickling down her face.

Sylvia shifted restlessly and pounded on my armrests.

I released my brake and moved forward, slowly at first but gaining momentum as I angled toward the top of the stairs.

Sylvia could have reached out to catch the grips on my big wheels and stopped us. But she didn’t seem to realize we were moving until we bounced down the first step. Then she screamed.

Faster and faster we careened down the stairs. I struggled to stay upright with every bounce.

Wild thoughts assailed me. What kind of a wheelchair would deliberately run down a steep staircase carrying its partner? Surely the crash at the bottom will be the end of both the wheelchair and the partner.

I don’t care, I told myself. They think I’m old and decrepit and just junk anyhow. I’ll probably rust away in storage, an “emergency backup” who seldom gets used. Never have a caring partner again. Sylvia will crash along with me. They’ll be sorry then.

But at the last minute I changed my mind. Maybe I’d get another chance. There must be someone, somewhere, who would appreciate a good, hardworking wheelchair like me. If I crashed to the riverbed below, I’d probably end up smashed beyond all repair and be sold for scrap metal.

The staircase ended at a wide path running next to the river. A low wall separated it from the drop-off down to the rocks and water below.

We flew across the path. When one of my small front wheels hit the low wall, I gripped tight. The other front wheel hit hard, but I tried to keep them firmly planted on the sidewalk. I couldn’t stop the rear wheels from flying up off the ground in kind of a reverse wheelie, but I did manage to keep myself from sailing over the wall.

As my rear wheels rose off the ground, Sylvia tipped forward and kept going. Mom should have strapped her in. I released my grip on her and she went flying over the edge, screaming. When she hit the riprap below, her screams stopped.

My front wheels were bent, but they were replaceable. I would have another chance to find a partner. Someone who might appreciate me.

Unlike Sylvia and her mother.

END

KM Rockwood draws on a varied background for her stories, including as a special education teacher in inner city and alternative schools. In addition, she has worked as a laborer in manufacturing facilities and supervised an inmate work crew in a large state prison. She is currently retired.

 

Published works include the Jesse Damon Crime Novel series (Wildside) and numerous short stories.

Bernice Holtzman’s paintings and collages have appeared in shows at various venues in Manhattan, including the Back Fence in Greenwich Village, the Producer’s Club, the Black Door Gallery on W. 26th St., and one other place she can’t remember, but it was in a basement, and she was well received.

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