cambridge book review

The Silent Witness

Steven Salmon

An excerpt from the novel, The Silent Witness


wheelchairStan hid inside the apartment for a couple of days. He began to miss being outdoors in the beautiful countryside surrounding Poynette. Stan reflected back to his adolescent years growing up. The Everest & Jennings new electric wheelchair crept along the gravel road on a cool summer’s day with no clouds in the sky. A farmer cut hay in a field while another farmer raked hay. Alfalfa fields and contoured strips of corn wove through the hilly terrain. Pastures nestled in valleys or alongside steep hills. New ranch-type houses had been built along the road and near the woods giving residents a secluded area to enjoy their privacy.

Stan sat in silence listening to the wind blow, sending strands of drool airborne. He loved to watch farmers bale hay, cultivate crops, harvest and plow. Neighbors honked their horns at Stan. What Stan loved the most was watching a bee land on a sprig of wild parsley or seeing a chipmunk dart across the road. Off in the distance loomed the Poynette water tower.

The wheelchair had a hitch on the back. Stan pulled a wooden drag fashioned out of two-by-fours. Nathan welded a hitch to the wheelchair’s rear end. The drag trailed behind the power chair smoothing out pockets of pebbles. If Stan saw a pile of hay on the road he pushed the broken bale into the ditch.

A farmer installed an entrance to a field to have easier access for his equipment. A load of gravel had been roughly spread over the drainage pipe. Stan spent the whole afternoon grading the entrance by slowly inching his way across the drive.

Stan drove past an olive ranch house. The wheelchair hummed past an ancient barbed wire fence. The fence posts leaned forward and rusty strands of barbed wire clung to the decaying posts.

Beyond the fence lay a narrow strip of tall prairie grass before it turned into woods. Stan saw the orange Poynette newspaper box ahead of him and gradually the driveway became visible. The wheelchair turned into the drive leading straight down into the woods. He paused for a minute before barreling down the hill. Stan saw Nathan on the tower adjusting his ham radio antenna. Nathan erected the tower on a hill overlooking a cow pasture. Stan put a firm grasp on the joystick before going down the hill. He had the biggest grin on his face rocketing down the hill. At the bottom of the hill lay a creek bed, and then the wheelchair climbed a smaller hill opening onto a meadow. Stan passed a brown sheet-metal shed where Nathan stored a John Deere tractor, a plow for plowing snow, a three bottom plow, a disk, a garden tractor, a red Chevy pickup truck and the tan van with the wheelchair lift.

* * *

One day after a thunderstorm Stan drove his electric wheelchair outside of the house. Amber warned him not to enter the newly seeded muddy yard. But he became bored going back and forth in front of the garage. Stan decided to run down the front yard hill for the fun of it. He became stuck at the bottom of the hill and spun his wheels digging the wheelchair deeper in a hole. He heard the front door open and then Stan braced himself.

“Goddammit, Stan, I told you not to go down the hill! You don’t listen! You’re so stubborn! You’re grounded!”

Amber struggled to push and pull the wheelchair up the hill to the porch. She transferred Stan from his power chair to his manual wheelchair taking him inside the house. She took him to his bedroom and left Stan in his room without supper. Amber made him stay in the bedroom until Nathan put Stan to bed.

She spent the rest of the afternoon and evening scraping off mud caked on the wheels, motors, belts and the brakes with a dull butter knife. She dug dried mud from a couple thousand notches on both of the rear wheels. Amber washed the entire wheelchair with a damp warm washrag. She dipped the rag in a plastic ice-cream pail with warm water and soap. Amber stared at the pair of zigzag wheelchair tracks tearing up the front yard, but she reminded herself that her son was like any other teenage boy getting into trouble. The electric wheelchair was clean for school the next day.

* * *

Stan stopped near a metal ramp leading up to the front door when he saw his father climbing down from the tower. Stan’s eyes looked at the newly seeded yard and the oak-stained house situated on a hill.

Nathan and Amber’s vegetable garden lay between the house and the back yard. A pile of scrap lumber was underneath the tower. Guy wires were anchored at different angles throughout the back yard to secure the tower. Sprigs of tender grass sprouted up through the sloping lawn. Woods surrounded the meadow on three sides creating a secluded place. Deer grazed during sunset in the prairie behind the house. A trout stream led farther back into the woods.

Stan heard the jingle of Nathan’s security belt. He turned his head to see Nathan approaching the porch.

Nathan grinned at Stan. “How was your ride?”

Stan blinked his eyes twice and laughed.

“That’s good. Ready to go in?”

Stan blinked yes again.

Nathan smiled. “Fine and dandy. Let me unhook you and we’ll go in.”

Stan nodded.

Nathan detached the pin from the drag and the wheelchair’s hitch. He stored the wooden implement in the garage. When Nathan came back, they disappeared inside the house.

Stan drove inside the barrier-free house. He headed down an entryway that opened onto a spacious living room and a kitchen. Stan raced his chair around a butcher block island in the middle of the kitchen.

Amber yelled, “Stop racing in the kitchen! And don’t go in the hallway if your wheels are muddy!”

Stan drove on the subflooring in the living room.

Nathan helped Amber prepare supper. “At least the bedrooms and hallway are carpeted,” he said.

“And don’t forget the roll-in shower to bathe Stan,” said Amber. “And the sink without a vanity to wash Stan’s hair.”

“Having all thirty-six-inch-wide doors allows Stan to go anywhere that he wants. Wait until I finish the elevator. Then he can roam the entire house!”

Stan smiled looking at the sliding doors in the corridor.

“When I get the basement walls sheetrocked and the rest of the area cleaned up, then I’ll turn my attention to the elevator. But I’ve to get the rocket business going first.”

Nathan had worked as an engineer for General Motors for twenty-one years. But he wanted to try something new.

Stan and Nathan liked shooting miniature rocketships at a beach or a wide open area. He watched Nathan launch rockets in the sky. The puffy white streaks against the blue skies fascinated Stan. Nathan decided to go into business marketing and selling rockets to hobby stores around the country.

Amber and Nathan Richards grew up in Poynette, Wisconsin as children. After they married and discovered they couldn’t conceive, the Richards adopted a baby boy. Slowly Stan’s mother noticed their son had difficulty holding up his head. Doctors diagnosed Stan with cerebral palsy. Some doctors advised the Richards that Stan should be put in an institution.

Amber refused to believe Stan was mentally retarded since his eyes lit up every time she spoke to him.

He always wanted to know why a particular instrument performed a specific function.

Amber bought oatmeal and flour at a mill near their house. The mill sat on the Wisconsin River in a quaint village called Portage. Maples and oaks surrounded the red three-storied building. Posts linked together with rope outlined the manicured lawn and the circular cinder drive.

One day Stan sat in the tan Econoline van waiting for Amber to come out of the mill. He had an intense expression in his eyes watching the buckets gathering water up and going down before pouring the water out.

When Amber saw Stan’s curious eyes pointing to the millrace, she said, “Let me guess. You want to know how the wheel goes around?”

Stan nodded. He didn’t understand how the mill generated power. It wasn’t visible to him.

“The wheel generates power to grind the grain into flour.”

Stan grinned and let out a moan sounding like oh.

The millrace reminded Stan of the white brick farmhouse where he grew up. The millrace and the farmhouse resembled parts of the past that somehow continued to withstand the ever-changing environment. The house sat on a grassy knoll surrounded by farm fields. Stan sat in his manual wheelchair watching farmers toil in the fields until dusk.

* * *

Stan loved to watch Nathan tap Morse code in his office into one of his ham radios communicating to hams across the world. It fascinated Stan; his father communicated with people by tapping on a key.

Stan sat in the mall at a table that displayed the ham club’s equipment.

People watched the hams demonstrate Morse code and how to operate the ham radios.

He was sitting next to Nathan when a stout muscular blond man with red trunks and high-heeled black boots strode up to the table.

The man shook Nathan’s hand.

“Hi, I’m Marko the Magnificent! Is this your son?”

“Yes, he is.”

“Well, I’m the wrestler for the Danco wrestling bear. Would your boy like to pet my bear?”

Stan looked frightened.

“Danco doesn’t hurt people like you; only men who are stupid enough to step into the ring to fight him. Would you like to meet Danco?”

Stan groaned and smiled.

“I’ll be right back.”

Marko disappeared. Several minutes later, he reappeared with the grizzly bear on a leash. A crowd gathered around Danco.

Nathan pushed Stan into the human circle.

Marko took Stan’s right balled fist to pet the bear between the ears. Marko asked, “Can he give Danco a Pepsi and an ice-cream cone?”

“I would have to help him hold it, but it’s doable.”

Someone fetched a Pepsi and a chocolate ice-cream cone from Baskin & Robbins.

Nathan pried open Stan’s right balled fist to place the cone in his hand.

Danco’s tongue licked the triple decker and then sucked the ice-cream cone out of Stan’s hand before it crumbled in his fist.

Nathan then lifted the bottle of Pepsi to Danco’s mouth with Stan’s fist on the bottom of the bottle.

The grizzly bear grabbed the soda pop from Nathan’s hand. Danco stood up on his hind legs guzzling down the ice-cold Pepsi.

Cameras flashed. The next day’s newspaper had a photograph of Stan smiling beside Danco drinking the Pepsi. The caption on the front page read, “A Special Boy Tames Bear.” The article recorded just another of Stan and Nathan’s adventures.

* * *

The members of Nathan’s ham radio club “adopted” Stan. In the summer the hams gathered to communicate in the jargon only they understood: “Oscar,” “Alpha,” “Delta,” “Tango,” “Papa,” “Zulu,” and the rest of the Roman alphabet could be heard echoing under the large tent as the sun glared. All day he and the club members sat under the tent until late evening. Nathan and Stan arrived early the next day to play with the radios.

The Richards helped strike and set up tents since Nathan had a pickup truck to haul the club’s gear. Nathan met the club members at a warehouse to pick up tents and gear for the ham’s showcase, but the building was locked. The men huddled together bewildered searching for an answer.

Stan laughed in the truck when the men came over to the passenger’s side of the pickup.

“All right, what’s so funny,” said Nathan.

The men looked in the direction Stan’s eyes pointed. Their hands rested on their chins thinking what Stan saw they didn’t see.

Suddenly one of the men said, “The back door.”

Stan let out a huge scream.

The man walked behind the sheet-metal building, and the door was unlocked. The tents and gear had been stacked inside the door.

The man yelled, “It’s here!” He waved to the other men to come help. The man carried a bundle of wooden stakes to the truck. He stopped at the passenger’s door and smiled at Nathan.

Stan’s laughter had caused him to slip down in his seat, and Nathan gave Stan a boost before he fell underneath the dashboard.

“Stan saved the day for us!”

Nathan beamed. “That’s my boy!”

Stan had another fit of laughter as he watched the men trudge back and forth loading the truck. When the ham radio club’s relay shack needed to be replaced, Nathan volunteered to do the job of hauling sand to build a cinder block building. The aluminum shack sat on a hill next to a two-hundred-foot steel tower out in the country.

Stan enjoyed the sand hauling; just being around his father was deeply satisfying and, of course, he liked watching the construction equipment.

Nathan took Stan in the pickup early one Saturday morning to meet Jerry to get a dump truck. Jerry, a ham from the club, was building cabins for the Boy Scouts. He planned to borrow a truck to haul sand.

Jerry had dug out a foundation for a scout cabin with a bulldozer when Nathan arrived. One of Jerry’s three dump trucks had broken down. He needed the other two trucks to keep moving earth and finish digging the foundation. Nathan knew Stan had looked forward to riding in a dump truck all week. Stan had ridden in tractors, combines and bulldozers but never rode in a dump truck before. Nathan radioed another ham named William and they met at a roadside café to locate some sand.

William worked as a contractor and knew a job site that had sand. He promised Nathan to have a loader load the sand in the pickup truck. When the men arrived at the development, Nathan and William had to shovel the sand by hand. Stan sat in the truck for two hours disappointed about not having a payloader to load the truck.

Nathan hopped into the cab exhausted, and said, “Sometimes things don’t work out the way you planned.”

Stan nodded. He started to understand what Nathan meant. People like doctors, wheelchair vendors and physical therapists always promised him a new electric wheelchair in two months, but it always took a year to receive a new chair.

Nathan started shoveling out the sand into a pile next to a cement mixer and bags of mortar. No one came to help Nathan.

“And sometimes people never see a person’s hard work. And sometimes you have to grin and bear it!”

At the time Stan wondered what Nathan meant. He worked harder and longer than anyone else to achieve his dreams. People kept putting obstacles in his path. People always said to Stan that he deserved the best, but when he needed a new power chair endless rules and procedures had to be followed. He was just another number to Medicare and Medicaid.

It confused Stan when he had to wait a year to receive a new electric wheelchair or an input, but at the same time people treated him like he was special. To Medicaid and Medicare physically disabled people are just numbers that had to wait their turn to be approved for specialized equipment. But he attended the mall, fairs, circuses and any social outing with his parents. At times a person might come up to Stan giving him money or offering to buy cotton candy or lemonade. He never asked or wanted these gifts that people gave him. It embarrassed and humiliated Stan. He saw himself as a curious normal boy asking questions, not a helpless cute cripple.

Nathan took Stan to ham radio swap meets where he bought or traded radios.

Stan stared at the radio knobs and grunted at Nathan until he explained what a specific knob did. He always wanted to know about everything no matter how small it was. Stan wanted a detailed explanation of what function a knob performed. He didn’t stop his questioning.

* * *

On a cloudy summer’s day Amber let Stan outside in his electric wheelchair to take a ride. She guided him down the steel ramp onto the driveway. Amber stared at the clouds in the sky.

Stan wanted to zoom up the hill when Amber said in a high tone of voice, “Now don’t make me come and have to find you like that time you were driving on Bora Road and a thunderstorm popped up. It was lightning all around us! There’s a thirty-percent chance of rain this afternoon. So you keep your eyes on the skies and don’t go very far. Hear me!”

Stan groaned.

Amber watched the Weather Channel each morning before Stan got up trying to figure out what to put on him for the day. The Weather Channel stayed on the TV all day. When a tornado watch or warning was issued, Amber rushed about the house getting ready to hide in the basement or a closet until the storm passed. If the temperature was too cold or hot, she didn’t allow Stan outside. If she saw a chance of precipitation in the area, Amber didn’t want to have to chase Stan down in a thunderstorm. She dressed Stan too warmly at times in the winter. She knew that Stan loved the outdoors, but she felt that she needed to protect him from the elements.

He didn’t like his mother’s overprotective attitude, but he understood. Stan knew that Amber’s word was final.

“I mean it!”

Stan nodded at her with drool dribbling down his chin before he turned to head up the hill.

* * *

He hated people that he knew were overprotective of him, like Mrs. King. Stan finished eating lunch in the cafeteria. Mrs. King wiped off his mouth and took off the paper towel protecting his shirt. He headed toward the door that led to the back of the school where the students were before Mrs. King stopped him.

“You can’t go out unless you have your coat and a hat on. You wait here and I’ll go get them.”

On days when Stan ate lunch and Mrs. King wouldn’t let him go outside due to coldness, he decided to visit Gina in the school office and flirt with her.

Stan appeared at the school secretary’s office when Mrs. King and the secretary ate lunch. He loved to sit teasing Gina and spending time with her alone.

But Principal Barlow showed up early one afternoon before the lunch ended. He stared at Stan while talking to Gina in his blue dress pants, white shirt, and pink and grey striped tie. The potbellied bald man with thick black bifocals said, “Stan, you shouldn’t be here! Gina is working. Please leave now! And don’t let me see you in the office at this time again!”

Stan left. He sat close to the music room door listening to the band rehearse on the days that he didn’t go outside. Stan felt alone as drool dripped on his shirt. The music played, but his loneliness increased with every beat eating his heart away.

Stan sighed.

* * *

He had saved his weekly two-dollar allowance for three months to purchase a clock radio for his bedroom.

Nathan took Stan to Roger’s Appliance store in downtown Poynette.

A heavyset middle-aged salesman observed Stan grunting to Nathan trying to decide what radio he wanted. The salesman watched them discuss the pros and cons of each brand.

“A General Electric is a wise choice. It’s durable and reliable.”

Stan smiled and nodded at Nathan, who replied, “That’s what I would have bought.”

Nathan pushed Stan to the sales counter to pay the salesman. The sales manager grinned at Nathan when he handed the radio to him. Nathan retrieved Stan’s wallet from his backpack to pay the salesman. Stan giggled and strands of drool hung from his bottom lip.

The manager wrapped the radio in a bag and handed the money back to Nathan.

“What’s this?”

The salesman grinned and said, “It’s a gift from Roger’s Appliance. I feel sorry for him being a cripple.”

Stan squawked and wildly flung his arms in anger at the manager.

“Calm down, Stan. He just doesn’t understand.” Nathan tossed the cash to the man. The salesman yelled, “I didn’t mean to make the cripple upset.”

Fortunately, Stan didn’t hear the salesman’s last comment.

* * *

Stan didn’t like when people were disrespectful and treated him as a cripple. It reminded him of an incident with his neighbor, Eric, who lived in the olive ranch house. Eric’s dad hunted muskrat, raccoon and deer in the large woodsy section nearby. Eric owned a BB gun. He shot at crows or at the bullseye target set up against a tree in the back yard.

Stan was driving his wheelchair on his way home one afternoon when he passed his neighbor’s house. Eric was shooting baskets in the front yard.

When Stan drove by, Eric stopped to stare at him.

He made monkey faces at Stan and yelled, “You’re a frisking drooling goat that needs to be shot!”

Stan kept on driving home. He heard a door snap open. He heard a click followed by a sharp ping. Both shots ricocheted off of the wheelchair’s hitch near the battery. One pellet flew past Stan’s head nearly missing his eye by inches.

Eric’s mother flew out of the front door after she heard the second shot fired. “Eric, you put that gun down immediately!”

Eric’s father Bill raced out of the house. He looked into Eric’s eyes.

“Do what your mother says now!”

Eric put the gun on the ground.

His mother said, “You get your butt in here right now!” She swatted him on his behind as he entered the house.

Bill ran over to Stan. “Are you okay?”

Stan blinked.

“I apologize and want you to know that will never happen ever again, I promise.” He walked Stan down to his house to explain what happened to Amber and Nathan.

Eric didn’t receive another gun until he learned to respect the privilege of having a gun.

* * *

He virtually had no friends all through school. It frustrated him at times not being able to talk to his peers. In his mind, he believed Gina was his “girlfriend.” In his heart he knew Gina was just a good friend. The word girlfriend sounded better in his head than a friend. His ultimate wish was to have a physical relationship with a woman. Stan dreamed of marrying a beautiful girl like Gina and spending the rest of his life with her. He wanted to have sex with Gina and fantasized various sex scenes in his mind.

Stan had a favorite sexual fantasy of Gina giving him a bath. He lay in the bathtub with Gina kneeling next to the tub and washing his entire body. She washed his hair first. Gina then dampened a washcloth with warm water before lathering the cloth with soap. Stan watched her wash all the parts of his body. She smiled at him as she washed his face. Gina proceeded down his body, lathering his arms, hands, fingers, armpits, neck, back, upper torso, buttocks, legs, feet and toes.

He looked up at her. His eyes directed her attention to his erect member.

She washed his testicles and then put the rag on his penis. Gina ran the washcloth up and down the shaft of his member. Gina deliberately went around and around the tip of his cock with the soapy washcloth. When Gina picked up his member to lather the base of his penis he ejaculated.

“You became too excited.” Gina grinned at him before squeezing the washcloth with warm water in between his legs to wash away the soap and semen.

He liked to sit in front of the girls’ locker room imagining a line of naked girls taking a shower after gym. Stan envisioned himself walking into the showers and watching the young women showering. When he had fantasies about women, Stan had the ability to stand and walk. He never wished that he could stand up. But Stan dreamed about having sex in an upright position as he made love. In this sexual fantasy Stan took off his clothes and went down the row of naked girls sticking his member into each girl. Gina was the last girl standing in line.

* * *

During science class a blonde touched Stan’s arm causing a boy to shout, “First comes love, then comes marriage, and then comes another retard in a baby carriage.” Sometimes a girl made eye contact and smiled at Stan. He flashed his big grin at the girl before he nodded.

One morning before second-hour Stan drove up to Gina’s locker to say hello. Robert pressed his body against Gina’s as they kissed.

Stan grunted.

Gina pulled away from Robert, and said, “Hi, Stan.”

She smiled.

He grinned.

Robert stared at Stan and said, “Go away, retard!” He glared at Stan and pointed to his bulging member. “You and I know what she wants. And that’s meat, pal! I’ve plenty of it and you don’t! So, leave!”

Stan backed his wheelchair away with his head bowed down.

Gina glared at Robert and tapped her right middle finger on Robert’s brawny chest. “Don’t you ever treat Stan that way again or I’ll break up with you. Stan will always be my friend and you better get used to it!”

Robert stood dumbfounded against Gina’s locker watching Gina run to catch Stan to apologize for Robert’s behavior.

She hugged Stan. Gina walked Stan to English class and talked about the English quiz they had next hour.

Stan instantly forgot Robert’s stupid comment.

* * *

Robert and some of his friends smoked pot under the gym bleachers the day before Christmas vacation.

Stan drove around the indoor track when he saw Robert. Stan said “Hi” to Robert.

The boys blew smoke at Stan and called him names. But Principal Barlow refused to take any action against the boys out of fear that they might hurt Stan.

After Christmas, Stan took Robert aside to express his feelings.

Robert patiently watched Stan’s right index finger spell out words on his communication board and forming a sentence. Robert read the words out loud: “If / you / ever / do / that / again / to / me / I / will / tell / Gina.”

Robert looked at Stan and said, “You go right ahead. Do whatever you want! I don’t care what you do! You moron!”

* * *

Stan lay in bed thinking about Gina. He woke up early Saturday mornings to have Nathan take off his pajamas.

His father had earlier discussed the birds and the bees with Stan, allowing him to explore the sexual pleasure of manhood. He covered Stan up before closing his bedroom door. In a couple of minutes Stan kicked off the covers. He stared down at his penis watching it become aroused. He imagined Gina lying naked beside him. Stan pictured her round firm breasts and taut nipples brushing against his skinny chest. He envisioned her smooth pale stomach and the hairy black triangle in-between her legs. Before Stan knew it he felt a tingle at the tip of his penis. Stan watched semen burst out of his member as he imagined he was having intercourse with Gina. It was these fantasies as well as Stan’s first wet dream giving him a physical connection to Gina that he would always remember.

In Stan’s sexual fantasies, he pretended to be Prince Charming who swept girls off their feet. Stan was surrounded with girls dressed in skimpy outfits at his beck and call. He wanted a physical relationship with a girl, but he knew deep down inside what he thought to be a horrible reality: no girl would ever kiss him or press her breasts against his drenched shirt.

Stan dreamt about taking Gina out on a date. He saw himself being with Gina at the movies and putting his arm around her shoulders.

She gave Stan a peck on the cheek causing Stan to laugh and disrupting the entire theater.

In the dream, people stared at the beautiful girl holding hands with the “cripple.”

* * *

Stan raced his electric wheelchair in mud or snow just like boys riding their bicycles. He wanted new records of Michael Jackson, Boy George, and The Talking Heads to play loud in the privacy of his bedroom with his parents threatening to turn the volume down. He dreamt about having friends to “hang out” with like his peers did on the weekend. Stan wanted to date. In his future, Stan pictured himself attending college, having a job and getting married just like anyone else.

Stan knew how society viewed the physically disabled; they were “special.” He cringed when he heard the word “special.” He always had to laugh when he was called “special.” If he could have talked, Stan would have said, “Go fuck off!”

No one believed he attended school except for his teachers, classmates, Principal Barlow and his aide, Mrs. King. He developed a hard exterior shell. Some people believed that Stan was delicate and innocent, but they hadn’t experienced the endless name-calling he endured each day at school. Stan had to build a wall to protect himself or the constant attacks would have eaten him alive.

* * *

The VFW gave a Christmas party for the disabled children in the community.

Stan’s bus driver, Sue Pleasant, organized the party in early December. Sue had a big heart for the children who rode her bus. She sang songs, made homemade apple butter and cookies for the children on Halloween. Her idea of Christmas was to get the children and their families together for a turkey dinner. Santa Claus came bringing presents. Pictures were taken with Santa.

He was tired of being “special.” Earlier that day a boy at school had called Stan a retard bastard.

People’s noble deeds embarrassed Stan like when Santa Claus gave him a stack of candy canes at the VFW Christmas party.

He saw the Easter Bunny hopping down Main Street. Stan looked the other way to avoid being hugged by the Easter Bunny.

When the Poynette high school eagle mascot embraced Stan after Robert threw a last-second touchdown pass to beat Point, he feared that Gina saw the Eagle hugging him.

But she didn’t see the embarrassing moment. Gina ran over to Stan to get him to join in the celebration taking place at midfield.

At times he didn’t mind clowns coming up to give him candy. One of the few perks of having cerebral palsy was going to places with Nathan and receiving candy from people. Stan rode in the pickup when Nathan cashed a check at the bank. He grinned from ear to ear at the bank teller. The teller put a Dum Dum sucker in the envelope of the deposit. Before Nathan drove away he took off the wrapper from the sucker and popped the Dum Dum into Stan’s giant mouth. Stan laughed.

When Nathan pulled ahead he said, “You’re way too old to be getting a sucker, you know. You’re thirteen years old for heaven’s sake.”

Stan bowed his head feeling ashamed, but he enjoyed sucking on the cherry Dum Dum. Stan imagined the sucker to be a woman’s nipple.

Stan liked going into the Ace Hardware store on Main Street since Harold Swanson gave away free beef jerky sticks to children who came into the store.

Gina helped Harold on Saturday mornings ring-up customer’s purchases while Harold restocked the selves. It gave Gina a way to earn extra spending money to buy the Chic jeans she always wore and to afford pizza at Happy Joe’s.

Before Gina started working on Saturdays, he sat in the truck when Nathan walked inside to buy what he needed.

Stan liked to watch the traffic pass by on Main Street as he sucked on his Dum Dum. He waited for Nathan to return.

Stan entered the store howling.

Harold dropped a bundle of copper fittings on the floor.

Gina knew immediately who it was without seeing Stan. “Stan is here. I’d know that howl anywhere.”

Stan yelped and laughed.

She came over to hug Stan.

“You always scare me half to death when you howl like that,” Harold said.

Nathan replied, “I’m sorry about that, Harold, but when he sees Gina he goes crazy.”

Harold laughed.

Gina said, “Are you ready for the history test on the Industrial Revolution on Monday?”

Stan blinked.

“I haven’t studied for it yet. Mrs. Andrews is the most boring person I know! I hate her pop quizzes. I wish that I had your photographic memory, Stan. You’ll ace the quiz.”

Stan giggled.

“Be right back, Stan. I’ve got to ring-up a customer.” She walked behind the cash register to ring-up a customer’s purchase before she returned to Stan. Gina watched Stan point to letters on his communication board spelling out words to her. Sometimes she laughed or screamed, “That’s not true!” She stopped talking to Stan when a patron had to be waited on.

Sometimes Gina didn’t always have time to speak to Stan.

He worried Gina didn’t want to be friends anymore. Stan moped the rest of the day wondering if he had done something wrong.

The next day Gina talked to Stan like nothing had happened. Their friendship reminded Stan of a giant rabbit’s foot he kept dear to his heart.


Steven Salmon has severe cerebral palsy. He uses a voice recognition computer since he is unable to use his hands. Steven uses Morse code and a word prediction software program called CoWriter. He writes every day (a process he has shared on YouTube). Steven has published three books, Buddy Why, The Unusual Writer, and Cat’s Tail. He has a Bachelor of Science in English from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He also has an associate degree from Madison College where he freelances as a writing assistant. His mission in life is to educate people that the severe physically disabled are and can be valuable contributing members of society if given a chance to succeed. Currently, he is writing his sixth book. He loves basketball and the Green Bay Packers. Steven lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

June 20, 2013 Posted by | fiction, novel | , , , , | Leave a comment