(Or My Life as a Bird)
By Oliver McDonald
“Why don’t you let me drive you to the bus stop?” my father asked as I awkwardly stood up from the breakfast table and picked up my crutches.
It was a familiar question, the one he’d been asking since I decided when I was ten, close to three years ago now, that I would walk the two miles down the driveway to where the school bus would pick me up. Every other kid did and I didn’t want to be different. I understood why he was constantly asking though. I had crutches because of a birth deformity in my hips, and that made the two mile trip take almost an hour. But hey, my dad had to walk ten miles uphill each way in the driving snow just to go to the cardboard box they used for a school in “the good old days.”
“You can pick me up from school at the end of the day.” I suggested. “It’s just a half day, and the computer club is putting the computer lab to bed for the summer in the afternoon.
Dad raised hands up in a gesture of defeat. “Fine, I’ll be by at about, say, 4:30?”
“Don’t forget about your party, dear,” Mom added as I went out the door. “I’ve invited Jessica.”
Jessica was the girl I was sweet on. Not that I dared admit that to her; every time I got near her, my palms became sweaty, and if you think that’s hard for you, imagine what it’s like for me. Last time, I nearly fell off my crutches. As I continued down the driveway, I was feeling nauseous, which at first I put down to nervousness about the impending birthday party.
Impending? That sounds like doom. Well, it would be if I made a fool of myself, but truth be told, I was looking forward to it. But this nausea I was feeling was worse. I refused, however, to give into it. I knew that if I was sick, the party would be cancelled. You only become a teenager once in your life and I didn’t want to miss it. So I willed myself to get better and didn’t stop until I got to the end of the driveway, where I gratefully sank onto the bench Dad built for me the day I announced that I was going to start walking to catch my bus.
I pulled the bus to a stop at the bench where Benito sat with his eyes closed and waited for him to struggle to his feet. That kid always amazed me; despite his infirmity, he wouldn’t let anyone help him. Other kids who had none of his problems wanted their parents to drive them the kind of distance he insisted on walking each day.
He didn’t seem to getting up; poor kid was probably asleep. I tooted the horn briefly and he stirred, but then just slumped back down on the bench. “Jessica,” I called to the back of the bus, “Can you go check to make sure he’s ok?”
“Sure, Miss Whitford,” Jessica replied as she got out of the bus and shook Benito’s shoulder.
Benito softly moaned. “I can’t wake him up,” she called me, her expression a little worried.
“Everyone, stay quiet!” I commanded as I got out of the bus to check on Benito myself. I felt his forehead to find it warm, “He’s got a bit of a fever.” I muttered to myself and debated a moment; it would be a bitch of a job to turn the bus around if I drove up to the farmhouse, but I couldn’t leave the bus. Perhaps..?
“Jessica, could you run up to the Sanchez’s house and ask his parents to come and check on him?”
“Sure can Miss Whitford,” she replied and started to run up the driveway.
I hope he’s ok. Jessica thought as she ran up the driveway. She arrived at the farmhouse, breathless, and knocked on the door. When Evelyn answered the door, she gasped “Mrs. Sanchez…. Benito…”
“Catch your breath, Jessica,” Evelyn replied, “and tell me what’s wrong.”
“It’s Benito,” she finally managed to blurt out. “We can’t wake him up and Miss Whitford says he running a fever!”
I always worry about him; he’s always pushing himself too hard, I thought as I ushered my five year old daughter out the door. Enough wool gathering, Benito needs me. “Get in the car Amelia, Jessica, I’ll drive you back to the bus.”
I got my keys and purse, checking to make sure I had my driver’s license, and told Amelia to hurry up.
I stopped at the end of the driveway and told Amelia to stay in the car as I got out. As I checked out Benito, Jenny Whitford filled me in while Jessica hovered. I smiled a little; it seemed the attraction was mutual. Benito didn’t think I knew, but it had always been obvious to me.
“Thanks Jenny, I’ll look after him. You’ve got a busload of kids to take to school.”
“He’ll be okay, Mrs. Sanchez” Jessica asked, her voice quavering a bit.
“I’m sure he will,” I replied. “I’ll just take him into the clinic. I’ll give your mom a call if the party is cancelled.”
Despite my assurances to Jessica, I was worried. I drove quickly to the Sun City hospital emergency ward, and when the emergency room attendants realized that he was unresponsive, they rushed him in. I went to the desk to register him.
“Thank you, miss,” the clerk said. “Where can we reach his parents or guardian?”
This was a familiar refrain. “That’s Mrs. Sanchez, I’m his mother.” I replied, sliding him my driver’s license as proof. It’s nice not having to worry about going grey, but why couldn’t MORFS have frozen my age a little older?. Hopefully this won’t be as annoying as the one and only time I tried to buy alcohol.
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Sanchez,” the clerk stammered. “I’m new here, and I… Didn’t realize… You look so young.”
“MORFS,” I replied as I handed over our proof of insurance. “Just get it logged in so I can go in with him.”
“Right away, Ma’am.” And true to his word I was soon able to go and talk to see Benito.
“Good morning, Mrs. Sanchez. Still looking as young as ever. I envy you.” Dr Fligstein greeted me. He was the young doctor that supervised my MORFs; well, at least he used to be young. I wondered what he was doing down in emergency.
“It looks like it’s MORFS, I’m afraid.
“He’ll be okay, won’t he?” I asked.
“We’ll do everything we can,” Dr. Fligstein assured me. “But he shouldn’t be unconscious and he’s already drained half of the energy pack. I suggest that we keep him overnight for observation.”
“You’ll call me if there are any changes, or he wakes up?” I asked. I would have liked to stay with him, but I have Amelia to look after as well.
“We will,” he replied. “I can’t make any promises, as this is a unusual case, but we will probably send him home tomorrow.”
To be continued….
The entire MORFS Universe can be found at http://morfs.nowhere2go.org/