CHAPTER FOUR (draft)

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CHAPTER FOUR

 “Oh, no, just no!” Gracie mutters, staring with great big eyes at the student in the wheelchair, who has been somehow lifted up onto the stage. It’s a dark-haired boy I’ve never seen before, probably from another school, and he looks frail.

“Poor guy. . . .” George frowns. “This must really blow for him.”

“It’s really unfair.” I stare, while a weird numbing sense fills me. Regret or pity, or I don’t know what. Maybe this is what resigned despair feels like. Whatever it is, it makes my gut cold.

The auditorium has once again grown really quiet.

Principal Marksen stands looking at the disabled boy, and for the first time his tough face has cracked and he looks really uncomfortable.

A woman teacher comes up to the wheelchair, leans forward gently and speaks something to the boy. After a pause the boy nods. The teacher then reaches into the box and hands a blank token to the Principal who frowns, then encodes the ID data.

The Principal leans down and hands the token to the boy.

The kid looks up, and I watch his skinny neck move, and the tightening of his lips. He takes the button and pins it to the front of his sweatshirt.

The teacher then pushes the wheelchair closer to the hoverboard.

I hold my breath as the boy lifts himself off the wheelchair with his hands and arms, and then drags himself along the floor. Then he pulls himself up with unexpected strength lifting his body onto the hoverboard, lies there on his stomach for a few seconds, then manually pulls up his legs, adjusting them to lie along the length of the board.

“Wow! No way!” Gordie opens his mouth.

Everyone else is making noise too.

“Go!” says the kid without the use of his legs. His voice is calm, he is holding on with both hands, while lying on his stomach, and the board sails forward over the stage. He soon moves into a smooth descent and finishes at the end of the run with a confident “Stop!”

Here, he lifts himself onto the linoleum near the edge of the mat, and ends in a sitting position on the floor. He commands the board to return.

As the board is flying back, the teacher who had assisted him on the stage has picked up the wheelchair and is hurrying it down the stairs with the help of someone, and then pushing it along the auditorium in a hurry.

As the kid waits for the chair to be brought to him, the Atlantean in the back leaves his desk and approaches the student. Ligerat stops before the seated boy and shakes his hand. He then scans his token and for the first time there is a smile on his weirdly Egyptian face.

The auditorium erupts in applause, and it’s pretty much a standing ovation. A few of the teachers and even the students are wiping their eyes.

“Wow! That was sick! Amazing! Man, that kid, what he did—just wow!”

George turns to look at Gracie. “Now you have no excuse whatsoever, Gee Four. If that poor kid in a wheelchair can do it, so can you! That was pure inspirational!”

But Gracie does not need to be convinced. She is holding her head up and she is suddenly calm. “I know,” she says. “I can do it.”

“Exactly,” I say. “We can all do this thing.”

And just for a moment I believe it. Thanks, kid in a wheelchair. I might not have done it without you.

As I think it, I’m not even kidding.

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