What Offends This “Disabled” Man

Watching The Great American Read on PBS, and seeing so many of my favorite books profiled, I am reminded why I love to read, and why I love to write.

I have cerebral palsy. And I am legally blind. Fun times! Truly, I choose to see these traits as two factors that add to my life, and not two obstacles that detract from it. You may choose to agree with me… or not. I don’t care. It’s my life, and I’ve learned over many years that, as the great Ricky Nelson once crooned, “You can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”

At a young age, this is the mentality I took into writing. I had two people to please: My elementary school teacher, whoever it happened to be that year, and my Papa Dick. (The identity of the latter never changed.) Beyond that, as long as I was happy with it, any story I wrote was good and useful to teach me more about the mechanics and the craft of writing.

Years passed apace. Much quicker than they appeared to go by as they were unfolding. Those years that seemed to go by me as might a lumbering truck on a logging road–I look back on them now and see race cars in the rear-view. Through these years, I began to write seriously, and with the hope–the faraway wish–that other people might read my words.

I never thought I’d finish a novel. Short stories were easy. You conceived the piece, wrote it, and it was there for you to gaze upon and marvel at within a few days or weeks.

Novels, on the other hand, were an undertaking. What did I have to say that merited such room, such expansion of word counts, such varied language as must be used in a novel to avoid too much repetition? A lack of variety?

I always enjoyed novels. But I could never escape into them as so many of my peers claimed to be able to do. There was something in my head that told me: As much as you want to be a baseball player, you can’t be. You’re Derek. Your legs and your eyes don’t work. Sorry. No fun in the athletic realm for you.

As much as you want to be a super hero, you can barely walk. And you’re reading a book where people fly? Sorry, kid. Not happening.

Mysteries are fun to read, sure. But do you really think you could write one? Mysteries require clues and red herrings and compelling evidence and twists thought up well before they find the page. Your eyes will barely let you watch television. And you would presume to be able to write a mystery on par with the greats? With Doyle and Christie? Not gonna happen.

There was one subject I was steeped in and had researched my whole life. Being a guy with palsy and bad eyes, and wondering why. What if I could write a story about that? Then I could turn my deficits, the things society sees as lacking in me, and make them character traits as opposed to character flaws.

But would anyone care to read such a book?

“You can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”

I’m just gonna write the thing, and we’ll see what happens, I told myself.

Ten years later, my manuscript was ready. I was ready. Time to find an agent who’ll love my book the way I love it; completely and without reservation.

Every writer knows rejection. They know it hurts and it sometimes scars, but it is also an important part of the business of books. When any writer is first writing, as a kid, what matters is the storyMake the story good. By the time they’re an adult writing books for public consumption, what matters is, Will the thing sell?

I remain haunted, after many years, by one particular rejection note concerning my book, What Death Taught Terrence. It is the book I was always meant to write. The main character has palsy and bad eyes, as do I, and he wonders after the purpose of his life. He wonders why.

Rather than a generic form rejection, the kind all writers are used to (“We regret to inform you that we will not be looking to represent your novel. Our opinion is, of course, subjective. Keep searching to find your book’s perfect home. Good luck to you!”) what I got in this particular rejection note was an agent (or an agent’s assistant) who actually sat down and wrote to me, “Clearly, you’ve written this book for people with cerebral palsy.”

You will never find a surer way to offend this disabled man. I don’t remember the name of the person who wrote that note, but I definitely remember the sentiment it carried.

Would anyone ever say to Lee Child, for example, “Jack Reacher is white. Clearly you’ve written this book for white people”? Would they say to the great Mr. King, “You’ve written Misery to scare writers exclusively”? No. But somehow it’s okay to marginalize a book written by a disabled man simply because the person marginalizing it failed to understand it?  That’s how I took that particular incident, anyway.

I would hope our world is better than that.

The world in which I wish to be a published author whose words affect the people who read them–that world is better. And, if it isn’t yet, it will be.

I don’t want to please everyone with my words. But, while pleasing myself with them, Dear Reader, I sincerely hope they will get to you one day and make you question the world we inhabit. And maybe, just maybe, they will make you feel a little bit better and make this life a little bit easier to live.

 

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On The Doorstep…

I sit here today on the doorstep of my 36th year. That number is a little bit awe-inspiring, a little bit frightening, a little bit exciting, and a lot strange to me. I am the same guy who, as a boy, watched the Mariners triumph over the Yankees in 1995 in the now-imploded Kingdome. Edgar Martinez’s double, featuring Ken Griffey J.r.’s mad dash from first all the way home, and the boy I was using my father’s frame for leverage to leap high in the air as the play unfolded; this scene feels like it might have happened yesterday.

That boy was the same boy who, at twelve, just a year prior to The Double, opined about how much I wanted to be grown-up. I’d do things different if I were a grown-up. Now I look back and think how wonderful twelve felt. Very little pain. No worries. Everyone I love(d) still alive and healthy, and eager to see what I would write next, where I would go next, what I would do with this life of mine.

Thirty-six is an odd age. Life is far from over (knock on wood), but enough of it has accrued behind you to look back on it. In a manner somewhat similar to the plot of my forthcoming novel, What Death Taught Terrence. The how and when of its forthcomingness are as yet unknown, but if anyone would like to fill me in on them I’m all ears!

I’ve heard so many stories of my birth I can practically reconstruct it. The Seattle Supersonics (who are they?) were in the playoffs on my Mom’s hospital-room T.V. She told my dad to turn it off; the stress of the game was giving her contractions. Then I came into the world in a Seattle early-evening on May 11th, 1982. A harrowing birth, to say the least, a doctor who should not have been in his profession, or should have left it many years before, essentially gave me cerebral palsy. Hippocratic oath broken. Harm forever done.

My first solid memory is of my grandfather teaching me a song. Written to the tune of Winter Wonderland, it was really just a verse from a longer barroom ditty:

“Kenbok’s here, can’t ya smeell him. Millie thinks we should expel him. His feet in the air, his butt in the chair, sippin’ on a little glass o’ beer!”

The first song I ever learned. One of the memories I treasure.

The next memory is of my surgery. I go into it in-depth in my book, so I won’t do so here. It’s enough to tell you I found out what pain was that day at four years old, and I’ve never forgotten. The silver lining: Getting to spend many defining days at Disneyland following the surgery and its many yearly follow-up appointments. Mickey Mouse is the man!

The next memory that comes to mind, that I can see so clear in my mind’s eye as to want to jump right back into it, is the first meeting between my best friend, Luke, and me. At eight years old. It started as a not-all-that-fun summer day in a summer daycare that–for an unathletic kid who couldn’t run, couldn’t throw, could barely stand without feeling pain that might bring him down–was something close to torture.

Oh, and no one there would play with me, either.

I literally stood in the middle of the room and said, “Will somebody please play with me?”

“I’ll play with you,” Luke said. Friendship cemented.

Luke liked the Mariners. So I liked the Mariners. He was the first to tell me about the film Field Of Dreams, when we were eleven. I went home and watched that movie eleven times in one night. (It’s a fairly short movie, and I had nothing to do in the weekend-morning, so I could do that.) I traveled with he and his family across the country, watching baseball games as we went, to the Baseball Hall Of Fame And Museum in Cooperstown, New York. We were fifteen and probably didn’t understand the monumental undertaking that planning such a trip was, and without the help of something still in its infancy; the Internet.

At seventeen, I gave a girl my first kiss. She didn’t deserve it.

Yet that short-lived relationship–we were officially together five days, though afterwards she wanted to white-wash it; don’t worry, unnamed person who knows who they are; I wanted to forget it, too–taught me so much. Mainly: Always be yourself. Don’t change for another person, thinking you’re bettering yourself. Change because it works for you, and if the person you’re with loves you, they’ll understand and support you. I never needed to wear a pair of jeans or a trendy pair of shoes to prove to a girl I was worth dating. Can I go back and tell myself that? It’ll save me about a year of needless heartache.

The next memory that comes to mind is of a relationship that lasted much longer–about four years–and which I am grateful for because of what it taught me. But it, too, would never have worked. I see that now. Too many compromises. (Compromises are fine, if both participants in a relationship are willing to give a little; if only one gives and the other takes, that’s not compromise. That’s being taken advantage of.) I still retain love and appreciation for her family, so I won’t give any names or identifying characteristics. I am grateful to know now what not to do later because of what happened between us.

About five years before I entered that doomed relationship, my grandfather, there for me for the first twenty years of my life without fail, succumbed to the lung cancer he’d fought valiantly. I won’t say much about that here. Again, it’s in the book, and hopefully you’ll read about it that way. But that loss, that first he-loves-you-but-he-can’t-come-back-to-you that I’d ever experienced… it changed me forever. I like to think I was already an empathetic person, thanks to my palsy, but watching Papa Dick go increased my empathy quotient ten-fold. Before he went, when it was becoming clear such an exit was imminent, I wrote Papa a collection of poetry, Prose From A Grandson To A Senior Fellow. It was the last book he’d ever read and remains a solid part of the legacy I know I will leave someday.

Truthfully, following Papa’s passing, there was a sizable chunk of time lost to anger. To indifference. To what-will-become-of-me-anyway? But I think I needed that time of reflection. It gave me both the time and the fuel to write my novel. And it let me ruminate on what I wanted out of this life.

I spent a long time as an on-line dater. I was always the one writing the e-mail. And I never mentioned anything about my palsy, or the bad eyes that accompanied it, in my profile. I always gave the women that little nugget to chew on in my second e-mail, if they responded to my first. I met some pretty great people in this way, but I didn’t feel the kind of meshing that told me, This is the one.

Then, about two years ago, an e-mail came in that I’d never forget. She liked my profile. She liked the idea of visiting museums, as did I. She loved Disney, as did/do I, and specifically Disneyland. “I think we could have fun together,” she said in one of the e-mail’s last lines.

We have ever since. I treasure her, and my family loves her, too.

I have no idea where life will take me from here. Well, I have maybe a rough sketch, but that’s all. But whatever happens, however my book gets to you, dear reader, however my career moves forward, I will take on the challenges placed before me knowing that I do so with the support of my loved ones and that, at the end of the day–whatever someone may think of my palsy, my bad eyes, or the way I walk, my family is my safety and my love. I thank all of you who know me personally, because you are that family. Be you a family member or a friend I haven’t talked to in years, you changed me by simply being in my life and coloring it.

 

 

 

 

Disneyland Is Where I Feel Freest

When I was a kid, there were certain things I took as gospel, even though none of them were in The Bible. These were:

-My Papa Dick could cook anything. (Always was true, always will be true.)

-Bob Barker would host The Price Is Right forever. (Until Drew Carey comes along and turns  slightly less than a quarter of the airings into shows with themes. It’s kinda weird, but the new games are kinda cool.)

-The Mariners would be in last place forever. (This particular belief was proven wrong in my thirteenth year, 1995, when the baseball gods decided to smile on our little hamlet.)

-My dad was going to be a famous writer someday.

-I was going to be a famous writer someday. (Not because of him, or thanks to him, but one of us might ride the coattails of the other, and that was fine.)

-Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth.

 

Of those beliefs, I’d like to briefly discuss the last three, the final one in detail. First, yes, I believed then, and believe still, that my father, and myself, can be famous authors. It is one of my deepest dreams that this will become so for us. I don’t know if I desire fame so much as the security that can be found in doing something you love and being paid for it.

I didn’t turn to writing because Dad was writing. I came to it because it was always easy for me, and I love it. Then, as now, I love it. I have finally written the story for which I feel I was put on Earth. It is mine to tell, and I’ve told it. The only mystery now regarding my book: Who will read it, and what will they say when they do?

Where did I learn to believe in dreams? From my dad and my papa and the people who love me, sure. But where else was this belief reinforced?

Disneyland.

The happiest place on Earth.

In my opinion, it’s part of the Disney culture to champion dreams. And I love that.

Being handicapped, you get used to hearing what you can’t do. It is a refrain, and nowhere is it louder than at amusement parks: “You can’t do that. Sure, it looks fun, and other people are doing it. But you would be a liability.”

“Why?”

“If you got hurt, you might sue, so it’s just easier to tell you no from the outset.”

It’s like places blame the disabled for being disabled, as if it’s something we did or let happen knowingly, with full knowledge of what our disability would mean in life going forward. So many doors will be closed to you, but you know that, right?

At Disney, they take this happiest place on Earth stuff seriously. They mean it. Being handicapped is no disadvantage. For once, when I’m there, I feel as though I’m on equal footing with the able-bodied.

This is a thank-you, not just to the folks of Disneyland but to all of Disney, for always making this handicapped guy feel welcome, ever since I was a kid and first walked with Mickey down Main Street U.S.A. Having just spent the better part of last week in California with my loving girlfriend, we made memories we won’t soon forget. Thank you all for helping to make that possible. I feel at home in your midst, and I always will!

A Handicapped Guy Who’s Always Loved The Fast Rides!

P.S.

If Hyperion Books (a Disney-owned publisher) ever saw fit to make my book available to the world, I would be eternally grateful. Just putting that little thought out into the universe and seeing what might come back, considering the fact that I’ve always felt a part of the Disney family!)

 

 

 

 

A Trip To A Magical Place–A Short Story!

This post is a particularly fun one for me. Fun but time-consuming, requiring a good deal of concentration, and it’s taken me a while to complete. It involves me, being creative. I have taken the last few days to compose a story that, in my mind, epitomizes the kinds of stories I’d love to read and which I enjoy writing. I like to write main characters who are like me, because there just aren’t enough of them out there. I am also fascinated by the idea of time-travel. But you don’t have to share my fascination to enjoy this piece. At its heart I hope this story has and shows its heart. I hope you love it!
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This story is for Scooter, Katie, Mom and Dad, and my new friends on twitter!

Looking back, it wasn’t as perfect as I thought it. It wasn’t as simple as I made it–as everyone around me made it seem. There were struggles and hardships and tough times, of which I had little more than an inkling, and I never knew the full extent. But that’s because I was a kid then, and kids aren’t supposed to know those things.

With this realization heavy on my mind, I step into the “machine”. I’m still unsure it will work as advertised. Even though it’s worked as advertised for so many before me. I look around, wondering if the inside will somehow be grander than its bland, barely-painted exterior. Short answer: No. It isn’t a phone booth, because I swear to you those don’t exist anymore and are all but fazed out, except in the most rural locales, but it isn’t much bigger; a compartment, let’s call it. It’s the size of a one-car garage with one red button and one green button positioned next to each other on the wall opposite its accordion doors. Their functions are easy enough to understand. Red: If you get cold feet, press this button, and the mission is scrubbed, and someone will be in to retrieve you post haste. Green means: All is a go, and the one-minute countdown will begin in ten seconds. All of this was covered in the mandatory “pre-flight conference call” of an hour ago. Other than the buttons, the little room is a sterile white-cream, no adornments whatsoever besides a little round loudspeaker in the precise middle of the space that lets only tinny sound escape it.
“You ready?” one of the mission-controllers calls over that loudspeaker.
“No. But it’s time, isn’t it?”
“It is, Mr. Spade. We need to go now. The window will close soon.”
“Then let’s do it.”
“You will have five days in your past to do what you need to do. We don’t need to know what that is. In fact, we don’t care what that is. Not to sound callous, but we just don’t concern ourselves with such things.”
Other than changing history. They hate the idea of any passenger even attempting to change history. Changing history is expressly forbidden. When they say “do what you need to do” I think they mean simple things. Moments. Maybe you want to relive a particularly memorable Christmas party, the moment you won the state championship and were the most famous person in your town for a good month and a half. A first date. A marriage proposal. The first time your child said, “I love you.”
“What about conversations?” I posed this question to Kelly, my “account executive”, as we talked by phone a few days before I made the trip out to the rural town in Nevada where the time-travel facility is located. (Yes, the place has a name, and yes, I know it. But I also know if anyone inside that company reads these words, I won’t be long for breathing. I like breathing. Maybe I’m being dramatic and  they’d just have someone break my legs, but that would suck, too.)
“You can have conversations,” Kelly counseled with what sounded like a smile, probably forced and probably worn daily. “Small-talk, for example, is fine, Mr Spade.”
“Colin. Call me Colin.”
“Okay, Colin. Yeah, small-talk is fine. ‘How’s the weather?’ ‘Do you have the time?’ That sort of thing.” I found her last small-talk example ironic and blinked at it, but I don’t think she noticed. “We just can’t have you giving away state secrets. You know, what’s going to happen in the future, who lives, who dies, which happy couples will be divorced within five years. That type of communication would throw off the balance of the universe.”
“How do you know?” I asked. I wasn’t challenging her. I was just curious. I wanted to know everything I could before I took my flight.
“It’s time travel, Mr. Spade. In order to get it to work, something once thought impossible, we have some of the finest minds in the world working with us.”
It was the kind of response that, while it came in the form of a statement, did not invite me to reply. My next couple of queries died on their vine, wilting in the open grasslands of my mind.
The thought of Kelly and of small-talk and what might happen when I press the green button fades, and my current reality returns. The disembodied voice in the speaker still droning on.
“In the unlikely event that you should break any laws while in the past, you will have to answer for them…”
I’ve tuned out that loud-speaker-voice. It isn’t hard to do, considering you really have to focus to understand it in here, anyway. Now I’m working on slowing my heart rate, breathing evenly and deeply, as entry into the past is supposed to be made easier if the passenger is as calm as possible. As an aside, if my past self, whom I’m about to go back and inhabit, saw that I was willingly using so many adverbs, he might try to have my writer’s license revoked. It’s a metaphor, there isn’t such a thing as a writer’s license, of course, but trust me. I was past me, and I know past me, and it would annoy him enough to turn his face red.
As for my mission and the flight I’ll soon be taking…
The window will close soon. What does that mean? Isn’t it cool how I not only know what I’m thinking, but I can guess, with alarming accuracy, what you’re thinking, too? Imagine time as a wide sky, its vastness nearly incalculable, encompassing everything that’s come before and all that will come after. Each “flight” along time’s skyway must take off within a specific window of time during which the time and events the “passenger” wishes to go back and relive are most accessible, best aligned. Think of the shifting alignments of the planets, and you’ve got a pretty good idea what we’re dealing with. Taking a flight to an event outside its best windows is not advised. It’s dangerous and could result in “the unexpected–and permanent–loss of the passenger to his or her time period and any and all others”. Essentially, they’re talking about death (without talking about death). It’s not clever. It’s lawyers speaking a language reminiscent of English.
My mission is a simple one. Or maybe it only appears that way because it hasn’t begun in earnest yet. I haven’t broken the tethers of my own time to float free among the eons. Tell Dad to go to the doctor. When he asks why and says he’s perfectly healthy, and besides he hates doctors, tell him you’ll be having a baby soon, and you want him there when she’s born. That’s what I have to do. It’s mostly true, and it doesn’t totally tear the small-talk rule asunder, if I am careful. I met my wife a year and a half after Dad passed (Mom loved her from the start and swore Dad would have loved her, too), and ten months after we met she was pregnant. We were married before the baby came, and we’ve been married twenty years now. Our baby is successfully navigating her way through collegiate academia.
Dad was gone. Mom was grieving his loss much differently than I was (she wasn’t eating lots of pizza and watching too much baseball, claiming it’s what she would have done with my dad if he were still here; that was what I was doing.) She had decided to go back to school for creative writing, something I’d always wanted to do but for which I’d never found the guts; she reasoned that Dad would have been proud of her, and it was a career-change the avid reader inside her had been calling for since she became a mother and began gathering material.
My mom was just as well suited for the work of writing stories as for that of raising a child. But her first journey into motherhood would prove to be her only trip, for which I’d always felt guilty. She wanted a kid, sure, but she didn’t want a kid with cerebral palsy. No one ever does. The fact that she couldn’t do better than me hurt, and I took it personally. Maybe, unbeknownst to me, the difficulties that came with my rearing took such a toll on her she couldn’t–or didn’t want to–have any more.
I met my wife, Ellie, at this point in my life, no doubt the lowest. There aren’t too many junctures competing for that crown. A trusted friend of mine, seeing how down-in-the-dumps I was, suggested I join a dating site.
“I don’t want to do that,” I argued. “I’m used to rejection–I send out queries for my stories, and rejection is a part of the deal–but that doesn’t mean I’m eager to invite it into my personal life.”
“You don’t have to tell anyone you have C.P. until you’re ready, until you think they’re ready,” she said on the rainy Sunday afternoon that she helped me set up my profile.
“You’re advising me to lie?” I shot back, surprised. We had been friends for a couple years by then, and this friend had never struck me as the dishonest type.
“I’m advising you to do what’s best for you. “I know you. You’ll tell anyone who needs to know that you have palsy, that it’s a part of who you are. But why reveal it until you absolutely have to?”
She had a point. I relented and let her mark (none specified) when the website asked for my body type, hoping that lack of a designation would weed out some of the more superficial people.
I found Ellie about a month later, following a succession of awful dates that almost put me off on-line dating altogether. Thank God I persevered. She responded to a note I’d sent after I came upon her picture–a cute brown-haired girl in a baseball cap with a dimpled smile wearing sunglasses and a real grin on a nothing-but-blue-sky day. She stood next to a black lab on a sidewalk, her hand atop its head, apparently giving the dog a good scratch behind the ears. In my note I mentioned that I, too, had a black lab, a fondness for baseball, and was a stickler for grammar, which she had correctly navigated in her profile. She wrote: “Thanks for writing me. You’re cute. (She added a smiley-face here.) My name’s Ellie. Hope I’ll hear from you again soon! Have a good night!”
I did. That night was wonderful. The joy of a relationship at its beginning. The projection you can’t help but participate in. Maybe she’ll love movies and books like I do. Maybe she likes the same music and believes in the same values and ideals. Of course, it’s more complicated than that. It always is. A relationship is a lesson in compromise. But on that first night you’re aware of the existence of someone who thinks you’re cute, compromise is the farthest thing from your mind.
By phone, I tell her that my dad just recently passed away. Instant sympathy points. She’s coming over! If I play this right, I might get laid. I have cerebral palsy. She knows and says it’s no big deal to her, as long as I’m the guy she’s been talking to for the past three months. I assure her that I am. If I play this right, I might get laid. Horay for beginnings.
The only problem with “getting laid” is that it might lead to having a child. She’s a little girl I hadn’t expected but for whom my heart just broke when I first saw her in the hospital nursery, and it has broken, overflowing with love and appreciation–the need to protect her–every day since. I’m not sad I have her, by any means, but if anything or anyone can make me instantly emotional, dissolve me into a pile of goo, it’s Casey. If you’re a parent, you know what I mean. There’s just this certain look she can give me, and I know that little Case could have–and will have–anything she wants.
Since her birth, and her ascent into teen-hood, she has learned from me a few things. At least, I hope so. She has learned that cerebral palsy is what I have and what I must deal with. It does not, however, define me. She has learned to love baseball and football, and that these sports are great times to sit in front of the TV or at a ballpark or a stadium and bond with Dad.
She has also learned that I miss my dad. And she’s encouraged me to do what I’m here doing today.
“Sure, Dad, you’ll be breaking the rules, but sometimes rules need to be broken. And I think this is one of those cases.”
“Why?” I asked, still uncertain as we drove–she drove, because I’m not allowed to drive, and I rode–towards my “free consultation” with the company, which Casey insisted on attending. “I’m no more special than anyone else. Why should I be allowed to break the rules, while everyone else had to abide by them?”
“That’s not what I’m saying, Dad. I’m saying it’s a stupid rule, and it should be thrown out. You might be the first person to break it, or you might be the fourth, or the fortieth. We just don’t know. You’re going to tell these people you want to go back to your childhood, to relive a day back in a simpler time. They’ll buy it, and it’s what you’ll write in your paperwork.”
Casey is convincing. And I know she’s right. That is what I will do. But I’ve always lived my life on the safe side of Caution street, and:
“What if it changes history? I could be in deep trouble then.”
“You could, that’s true. But there are also good things that might happen, if you manage it. If you change history, then I might get to meet Grandpa. To me, it’s a win-win. You get to go back in time and see him. Win. You might change history, and I might get to see him also. Win. Stop doubting yourself, Dad. You’re doing this!”
I look at the machine’s clock. It’s on the far wall of this room, one of those old things we all used to see in school that the teachers employed to show you how to tell time. The white face. The numbers. The two hands, Big and Little. It reads: 3:40, and I know Casey is glancing at her own clock, or will be soon. Home from school, her weekend just beginning, she’s aware my trip is about to commence. She’ll be cheering me on, my window at its widest. (She came with me for the consultation, we made a weekend of it, had a great time that involved a small theme park and some In N Out Burgers, but Elie wouldn’t let her be here for my “launch”. “You have school,” Ellie said. “And your dad will be gone longer than three days, we have to assume. I’ll go see him off, and then the two of us will be back home in no more than a week.”)
A week. Yes. That’s right. Lest I forget that, just as there’s a juncture when a flight’s window is at its widest, flight windows can also all but close. Mine will be closed in a week, which means I’ll need to return by then, or I likely won’t return at all.

I take a deep breath. Like diving into the deep end of a swimming pool. “Here we go,” I say, but I’m not sure anyone hears me.
I mash the green button. They can tell you what they think is going to happen when you launch your time-flight–“Your ears will probably pop with the change in air pressure. It is going to be loud. Rock-concert loud. Protect your ears”–but the people giving that advice have never traveled as I’m traveling now. Suddenly, a thunderous sound emanates from somewhere within–just over my right shoulder? It’s not so much loud as it is downright overpowering. The room expands and seems to wobble in front of my eyes, as though something, or somewhere, else is trying to replace it.
Then something does.
The machine is gone, but now I understand–remember–why it resembled a garage. That was explained to me sometime ago.
“You can find a garage just about anywhere,” Kelly, the account executive, told me. It was one of the last things she’d said to me before we hung up and I began in earnest preparing to travel through time. Somehow I’d retained everything else she said but forgotten these words, or tucked them so far back in my head as to render them almost inaccessible. “If there isn’t a garage nearby, maybe there’ll a barn, or a shed, and those types of places work just fine. Our technology finds the nearest suitable landing area–it has to be empty, mind you. If someone actually sawa time traveler materialize as time-travelers do when moving from time to time, they’d either be so surprised they might faint dead away. Or worse, they could run and tell an authority figure. Now, it depends on the time to which one is traveling, but if that person isn’t thought to be crazy, if they are taken seriously, that could put the company–all it does for the word, as well as its employees–in grave danger.”
I was tempted to ask, What does your company do for the world? Because that sounded like a reach to me, like she was overplaying a not lackluster but far from wonderful hand. Yet I stayed quiet. I have a mission here, and it won’t be helped if I piss this woman off.
I pick myself up off the dusty ground. I fell as the machine “landed” with a lurch and a shudder. Then I make my way to the garage door and wrench it open by hand, unsure what I’ll see next, or where I might go, and even shakier than I’m used to being on my feet; cerebral palsy compromises my gait and my muscles, but it is no match for time travel. Before I step from this garage, I give my legs and hips–both are screaming at me–a moment to acclimate. Good. Now you’re ready. Or as ready as you could ever be. Go do what you need to do, Colin. Staring at me as I exit, my appearance as unexpected for him as if his own deceased father just walked back into his life with no preamble whatsoever is my father. Still big and muscular. No gray in his hair yet. It is the color of a sunburned wheat field. He’s outside my childhood home gathering up fallen branches, casualties of a wind storm I don’t recall.
“Colin?” he says, his eyes full of wonder and… could that be worry?
“Dad.” I nod. As if to say, Yep. It’s me. You’re not seeing things. But I feel like I might be.
“Rick, what was that noise? Is everything alright out there?”
It’s my mother’s voice. Not that of the older woman I help take care of now, known family-wide as Grandma Sally, even though she technically has only one grandchild. She bakes cookies for Casey whenever my daughter gives her a day or two of warning that she’ll be stopping by the senior community where Mom resides, and where she has lived for a good five years now. Since it became too much of a chore for her to get around her house without the occasional–and begrudging–assistance of a walker.
“Did I make a noise?” I whisper to Dad.
“Yeah,” he whispers back. “It sounded like every single tool in there fell to the ground at the same time. Sally–your momprobably thinks I hurt myself.”
She is my mom. I can picture her without seeing her. Something about this ability makes me feel glad. We must be in the midst of a weekend, that’s why Dad’s doing around-the-house stuff, what he called his chores. I’m guessing I’ve gone back to a Sunday in… it feels like September or October. Football-watching is done for the day. So my tiny mother is wearing a comfortable sweater, the first time all year she’s gone into her sweater collection. “I like them because they’re comfortable,” she used to defend herself when I’d ask why she was always wearing sweaters. “I don’t always wear them, but I like them.” And she’s preparing the biggest meal of our week, maybe a pot-roast or a meat loaf.
I take in the full scope of this long-gone scene. I haven’t seen this house, or the property on which it sits, for five years, since I sold it, and when last I laid eyes on it, it was in disrepair. But I haven’t seen this house–freshly painted, the entire six-acre lawn mowed, and is that my favorite dog running after a goose out there in the distance?–since before I left for college. I couldn’t wait to leave then, to go off and meet new people, experience new things. Now I’d give anything to have those simpler days back.
“Is that Scooter out there?” I ask Dad, indicating the dog with a quick head movement in its direction.
He lifts his eyes to me. He’s in mid-stoop, picking up a monstrous branch (good firewood), but my words stop him mid-grab. He sets the branch back down. Then he ascends to his full height and comes to stand next to me. “Yeah. That’s Scooter. He’s been barking at those geese all day.”
As usual. I remember him doing that, the joy he took in goose-torment. “Can you call him for me, Dad?” I’d do it myself, but I don’t want my mom to hear my voice. Talking with Dad is one thing. I can keep the talk small. But if I see Mom… if she sees me… she’ll start in with her version of twenty questions, and who knows how that would end, or what history it might alter?
Dad calls the five-year-old canine. He’s five? How did I know that? That means I’m in the off at school, in the seventh grade. Middle school. Not the greatest experience ever, and if you think it was, you must be looking at your youth through glasses tinted rose. Scooter bounds toward his name. When he gets to me, he sniffs. He wants to bark–stranger, stranger!–but there’s something in my scent familiar to him, and instead he leaps up, which he doesn’t do often, it’s not in his personality, and licks me across the face.
“Boy, do you know who that is?” Dad says,
“I sure love you, Scoot,” I say quietly yet firmly. I let go a tear, just one, and watch it soak into his fur, as did so many of my childhood tears.
Dad brushes his hands on his jeans. He wants to ask me something, but I’m not sure he’s clear on how to put it. He gives it his best, though.
“When does Scooter… when does he… go?”
“Five years from now. He’s chasing a goose when his heart gives out.”
Dad looks down at the dog, his gaze now a knowing one. Pats the top of his head.
“And me? Am I still…. no, wait, I don’t want to know that,” he says, changing his mind mid-thought.
I don’t blame him. As I stand here, I think about how I wouldn’t want to know when I was going to go, either, neither the date nor the particulars, even if I could, assuming there was nothing I could do to change it. That’s just too much knowledge for a person to have at their disposal, and it’s knowledge that wouldn’t be all that beneficial. If someone told me when I was going to pass on to whatever’s next, I could imagine me taking in this information at the same time I inhaled a sharp breath… and then living the rest of my life frozen, unable to move. My body will fail in thirty years, and no matter how much exercise or healthy eating I do, that’s going to be that.
Dad rephrases his query. Something’s eating at him. That’s my fault.
Maybe coming here wasn’t such a good idea, after all, though it is wonderful to run Scooter’s fur through my fingers again. (The two of us were buddies. Towards the end, his end, right before I left for college, Scooter would sleep in my room every night. Sometimes, the two of us would share a nacho plate. I ate the nachos and most of the cheese. He licked up the leftovers gleefully with a look that said, I knew there was a reason I liked you.) To think about Mom making her pot-roast again. I wouldn’t be coming to dinner tonight. That would be tempting fate to an extent with which I wasn’t comfortable, because I’d have to eat dinner… with myself. History was sure to change then. I was trying to change it but to do so clandestinely. A gust of wind, a remnant of the former windstorm, rushes the air and tousles my hair.
“Colin… do you come from a time… that I’m not in?”
“Y-yes,” I say.
“Did you come here for a specific reason? To tell me something, maybe?”
Good. Dad gets it. He knows that, if an older version of his son has appeared, has time-traveled back to talk to him, regardless of how such travel was accomplished, this is something to which he should give his attention, undivided. He holds Scooter by the collar while he awaits my response, looking tense.
I have to remember exactly what I need to tell him, and I must be precise, yet intentionally a little vague on some details. I’m only gonna get one shot at this. Once what I’m doing is discovered–and it will be discovered, as all flights receive a post-flight report and de-briefing upon the passenger’s return–I will not be able to travel in time to anywhen ever again.
Out of my right pant pocket I produce a single sheet of typewritten paper. White. On it: All I wanted to say, so I wouldn’t forget a syllable. The words double-spaced and sized so that my bad eyes and I can read them easily, hopefully get through the recitation without stopping, without emotion hindering me.
“Dad, I’m not sure in what year we’ll meet–this technology is still an inexact work in progress, and you can never be sure when it will put you, although they insist its safe, and they always aim for a certain time period, but if I’m reading this, that means I’m in front of you right now.”
I wasn’t supposed to stop. I get that. But something inside me makes me lift my eyes from the page and wink at him. He touches my hand and squeezes a silent three-pump I… Love… You. Now keep going, Colin, his body language says.
“I need to tell you a couple of things. I am happy, and my health is good. I can still walk pretty well. I had been afraid my palsy would take my steps away eventually. It hasn’t yet.
“I am forty-five.” A tiny shiver runs up my spine. I’ve always been young. Always looked it, always felt it, except in my eyes and my legs, my two time machines into the future, activated well before the time machine was ever invented. In use in every waking hour. The idea of being middle-aged is not something I’m ready for, in the least. “I’m married now. Her name is Ellie. You’d like her. Mom does.”
“Ah, so your mom is still-”
I glance up at him. “Let me get through this, okay?”
“Right.”
“We have a daughter. You have a grand-daughter. Her name is Casey. She’s a chip off the old block, Dad. She loves sports. She and I watch them together like you and I used to. When she gets exasperated with a bad call, or when she jumps up and screams when someone makes a diving catch, I see you in her eyes. We’re a great family. We do everything together, yet we like our alone time. I think that’s key. You gotta let people be who they are, and sometimes that means letting them do things without you. That way, when you do things together, it’s even more special.
“But what I really came here to say… I don’t know that it will do any good, but I have to try.” I wouldn’t want to know when I was going to go, assuming there was nothing I could do to change it. “Dad. The day after your forty-eighth birthday, right after I return to college after the celebration, you’re watering the Christmas tree when something goes wrong and a fire starts. They never found the exact cause, but it was probably electrical. You don’t make it. I don’t know how else to say it, or how much more plain I should make it. I know it’s our tradition to get our Christmas tree on the weekend closest to your birthday. I’m asking you if, that one year, we might forgo the tradition?”
Dad looks into my eyes. Hard. He’s taking some unknown measure. For a second my spine tingles again as I think he might doubt me, might think I’m some inexplicable hallucination. But then he wipes away a tear of his own.
“Done,” he says. “Give me that letter. I want to hold onto it, put it in a safe place.”
That was easier than I thought it would be. I hold out the note, expecting that he’ll take it and then, as much as I want to stay for whatever’s cooking inside, as much as I want to spend the next week telling Scooter I love him, I’ll go back home. To my current home, my current family. But that’s not how things work out.
The moment he takes possession of the note, the ground begins to rumble. It starts into a violent fit of shaking.
An earthquake? I guess.
I look at Dad. No. Whatever this is, it’s not an earthquake, because he isn’t feeling it. He isn’t experiencing it like I am. His piece of ground remains still. But he does appear concerned. My expression must be communicating that something’s wrong. He reaches out a hand in vain, and I find my eyes glancing down at his feet, where five-year-old Scooter lays, content and curled.
With a shudder, I’m thrown to the ground. Dad and my favorite dog are gone. I’m back in the present-day version of the machine. My cheeks are hot. Alright, Colin, prepare yourself. They might want your head for what you’ve just done.
I think I banged my hip pretty hard. I must have. Ah, well. I’ll be okay, I decide, and walk gingerly to the door. As I swing it open, Ellie is looking at me, her face brimming with fright.
“Are you alright?” she asks.
“I’m fine,” I say. A few bumps and bruises are announcing themselves, but they aren’t visible. Not worth alarming my wife.
“What happened? Tell me everything.”
I’ve learned a man doesn’t get anywhere by arguing with his wife, except maybe a one-way ticket to The Dog House. So I tell her everything.
“Wow, you saw your dad and Scooter. That’s so special.”
Ellie seems to be talking a bit too loud for the kind of two-person confab I thought we were having. I quickly catch on that we aren’t the only ones participating in our reunion.
“How long have I been gone?” I ask.
“Three days.”
Three days. Three days lost in the present in exchange for twenty minutes in my past. I wonder if this equation stands for all trips, or if its unique to mine. I would bet on the former.
“Honey.” Ellie is holding her cell phone out to me. “There’s a call for you. It’s Casey.”
I took the phone, eager to hear my daughter’s voice. “Case. What’s up, kiddo?”
“Oh, not much,” she says, in a way that tips me off to the fact that there’s something she’s intentionally holding back from me. Whatever it is, she’s saving it for a surprise, and she’ll tell me soon. Maybe… right now. “I just thought you might like to know I’m sitting here with Grandpa.”
“You’re… you’re what?”
“Yeah. He’s here making me dinner. Chicken strips, corn and macaroni and cheese. He says that used to be one of your favorites, and that he’d make it for you on the nights when Grandma had had a long day and was too tired to cook. Says you asked him to come over and check in on me while you and Mom were out of town.” She lowers her voice to a whisper. “Dad, he just finished telling me the story of my birth.”
“What?”
“He was there the night I was born. He drove you and Mom to the hospital.”
“No, he didn’t. We took a ca-”
But just now a torrent of memories I’ve never had–but which I’ve always had–run like an angry river into my Bank Of Long-term Memory, whose vaults are open to accept an inordinate amount of recollections not to replace their predecessors but to stand alongside them. There’s the memory of that one Christmas season when we deviated from our tradition, and Mom never knew why, because Dad didn’t want to tell her. Kid me was against it, too. But Dad said he had his reasons. Then, years later, there was Casey’s birth, Dad driving us to the hospital. Dad and I together teaching Casey how to ride her bike. The three of us at Casey’s first baseball game. So many 45h Of Julys and New Year’s Eve’s our family spent with my parents that hadn’t been there before. Christmases. Birthdays. The last memory that comes, flashing, to me: The two of us, and a sobbing Ellie, moving Mom into her assisted living facility when it became clear she needed it, that Dad could no longer take care of her on his own, as hard as he tried. I guess you can’t change everything.
Life… revised.
“Thanks for letting me know, Case,” I say into the phone, my voice shaking a little. “Mom and I will be home soon, okay?”
“Okay. Love you, Dad.”
“You, too, sweetheart. Tell Grandpa I love him, too.”
“He loves you, too,” she says, and sounds farther away. She comes back to me. “He says he knows.”
“Bye, Casey.”
“Bye, Dad.”
I press END, and Ellie takes the phone. We fold into each other, a thankful hug soaked in disbelief.
“Shall we go home now?” she suggests.
I can’t get home fast enough. And that trouble I’d feared I’d be in, for changing history, never comes to pass. In the de-briefing, I am asked, “What was it like reliving a day in your childhood? Did you enjoy yourself?” I’m not sure if they realize how little time I actually spent back in time, and I don’t feel like correcting them.
“Yes,” I reply. “I enjoyed it very much.”
Then Ellie and I climb into our car. I wave a nostalgic good-bye to the building in which the time machine resides–a blank redbrick building. If you didn’t know what was in there, you couldn’t possibly guess.
They have a good marketing team. I never thought I’d thank God for a super bowl ad, but that was where Casey and I–and so many others–first heard time travel was, at last, possible.

Baseball With My Best Friend!

Everyone needs a best friend. Think back on your own childhood a moment. Who was the one person you could turn to, outside of your parents, when you needed advice, and if they said you were right, you knew you were right? (By the same token, if they said you were wrong, you knew you’d been somehow mistaken.)
I met my best friend when we were both eight years old. Unlike the other kids, he didn’t bully me. He didn’t find joy in ridicule. He was interested in what cerebral palsy was, what it meant for me, how it made me different (not in the “He’s different!” sense, but what talents it might have unknowingly conferred upon me.) In fact, when need be, he stood up for me against the other kids, the bullies, because if he said I was cool, they weren’t going to argue the point. They would leave me alone… at least for a little while, until some time when he wasn’t looking and they could get away with tripping me in a hallway at school, or saying very slowly, “Are. You. Retarded. Or. Something?” Each word was a sentence, and they knew this got to me. They liked to watch my face redden.
“They don’t know how to deal with anyone who isn’t exactly like then,” Dad said. I kind of ignored this thought. Until the next day at school, when my best friend, Luke, said essentially the same thing.
“Well, how is that my fault?”
“It’s not. If it makes you feel any better, my parents really like you.”
It did. As a kid (believe it or not, and Luke has confirmed this) I was opinionated, outspoken, laughed loud, sometimes too loud (still do), I loved to write, and, as I’ve always been, I was then quite loyal. Luke’s parents didn’t mind any of these characteristics. They went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to making me comfortable around them and in their home. For example, Luke’s mom would cut my food when we were eating together, be it in their kitchen or at a fine-dining place. I suppose I could have done this myself, but it would have taken seventeen hours and an answered appeal for clemency from my palsy.
Something else Luke did for me, with which his parents both assisted greatly, was to show a guy with cerebral palsy, who would never play a minute of competitive sports, how to absolutely love sports. How to live and die with a team. How to put your whole heart into a franchise, or a season, or a single down, or a single pitch.
We were especially fond of baseball. It took me what felt like forever to learn the game. I would ask stupid question with answers so simple they should never have left my mouth, but each time I had a question Luke or his mom would patiently reply, and over time my knowledge of the game steadily increased (Sure, we’ve always been fans of the Seattle Mariners, and that’s tough, because there isn’t a strong tradition of winning that follows the club around. There is, however, a strong tradition of: “How will we blow it this year?” It must be like watching the Mets, but at least with the Mets their fans can say, “Remember those world series we won?”).
Today is something of a special day. Hence the subject of this post. I’m headed to a baseball game with Luke (our second this year, as we attended opening day; oh, to be 1 and 0 again instead of the Mariners’ current abysmal record, which is something like Not Many Wins–A Whole Lot More Losses.). Also attending the game, Luke’s girlfriend; I am meeting her for the first time ever, and I’m excited, because if Luke approves of her, she must be a pretty cool person. And my girlfriend, who learned at our last baseball game how to “score” a game and is definitely a cool person! I’ll report back and let you guys know if anything really awesome happens at the game today. As they say on TV news promos, “More at 11.”
For now, I hope you guys have a great weekend, and I’ll see you here again very soon.

Walking Through A Mall Was An Experience For Me

First of all, remember malls?

If you don’t, let me give you a quick tutorial, since this blog takes place in a mall. Not any specific mall, mind you, but a composite of many malls I’ve visited over many years that, in my mind, have all morphed and merged together into my memory of the place we all call “MALL”.

They were big in the ’80s, ’90s and, to a lesser extent also pretty ubiquitous in the early 2000s. An indoor complex (there are outdoor malls, I know, but that’s not how my memory chooses to see them) filled with stores like The Gap, Borders Books & Music (Oh, how the times change, Borders. I miss you so much. Barnes And Noble will never compare for book selection, and you can’t get lost on a website the way you could get lost in your expanse of awesome, but your music prices were crazy! Don’t charge me twenty bucks for a CD and call it a sale when I could get the same exact album for twelve bucks at Fred Meyer. While we’re on the subject, CDs, you were cool, unless you skipped on the one good song on an album, in which case you sucked and were pretty much useless, and made us wish for something called Itunes we didn’t even know was coming. I still buy you, CDs, but then I’m realizing how not hip I can be sometimes. Back to my list of stores.), Orange Julius, the food court, Sharper Image, Macy’s, Sears; my grandma, who loved movies, couldn’t go to the mall without a trip to Suncoast Video, and on and on I could go. Good times!

A trip with my mom and my siblings to the mall was a treat. If we cleaned our rooms, we might get to go to the mall today!” Mom said!” This was not an uncommon shout from my brother. That meant: everyone needs to pitch in and do their part. I see a new book in my future(!), maybe lunch at the in-mall Pizza Hut with the kids, while mom tries on running shoes or lets some guy squirt different perfume samples at her and calls it his job.

It also meant a long day for me, but I was always willing to suffer the consequences that too much walking brought upon my palsied body (that’s cerebral palsy, to be exact) if we got to get out of the house, away from my no-one-else-can-have-any-fun-today-or-ever-because-I-say-so-and-that’s-that step-dad. And I was even willing to let people I’d never met, and would never see again, toss me looks. You know the kind. They ran the gambit from confused to curious to repulsed. Or there was the quick head-swivel that happens when two people are together, walking the mall, or eating somewhere, and one of them gives that swivel, the one that says: I’m going to look over there, but I’m not gonna let him see that I’m looking because that would be… To this swivel, I can’t help but glare. It’s ingrained in me. Oh, crap, he saw me looking! Pretend we were talking about something else this whole time!

The fact is there’s nothing more embarrassing or personally hurtful to me in a quick second than getting the I-feel-sorry-for-him look. I’d much rather someone come up to me and ask, “Why do you walk like that?” or: “What does legally blind mean? What can you see?” than have them look and wonder to themselves. Trust me, I can tell by your tone (or the opening few lines in a comment) if yours is a serious inquiry or a chance to guffaw at my expense.

And trust me again when I say I love telling stories, so I don’t mind talking about my own with you. I have a feeling, after much personal research on this exact topic, that when we’re afraid of something or someone different from us, it’s often because we don’t know their life, their struggles, their triumphs. We can’t relate as yet. We can’t put a face, or a pen, to what someone else is going through and say, “That reminds me of…” We can’t relate.

In showing you how it used to feel for me to walk through a mall (sometimes it still feels that way, though the malls have gotten fewer and farther between; you just never know what the day will bring), I hope I’ve demonstrated to you, with a splash of humor thrown in, that we are more alike than different, that it is my pleasure to have you visit me here, and that, no matter who we are, we are all alike in two very important facets.

We are all human. We all know what it’s like to feel.

And to think I sat down to write this note to you guys, and I was gonna write a short story for you, and this whole thing just came tumbling out. (I really like the free-form nature of blogging.)
Come back and see me again soon!

“Let me do that for you. It’ll be easier.”

We have one goal today. Let us analyze the above emboldened title, and maybe through this analysis we can discover why getting published means so much to me.

I woke up out of a sound sleep to write this piece. It was calling to me, and if I hadn’t answered the call it would have kept badgering me until I did. So here I am… doing what I was born to do. Writing.

And now to delve deeper into the meaning of: “Let me do that for you. It’ll be easier.”

My close kinship with cerebral palsy means nothing is easy for me. Not walking up stairs at a football game. (Who doesn’t love the sensation that, with one wrong step, you could fall a long way?). Not tying my shoes (This was such a frustrating enterprise that I didn’t wear a shoe that needed to be tied after age six; that’ll show ’em. I thought). Or frying an egg, or cutting my food. Nothing is easy for me, but to complain is sort of pointless. I am who I am, with the specific set of obstacles granted to me. The same is true for you. We all have our obstacles, and I’ve just determined that, in my case, complaint gets me nowhere.

When I was a kid and wanted to learn how to do something. say tying my shoe or cutting my food, for example, I would go to an adult and ask to be shown the secret that would unlock these abilities.

The response was always the same. The adult would say, “Oh, let me do that for you. It’ll be easier.”

Kid me thought, Sounds good to me. Less work on my part.

Current me thinks, Easier? Easier for whom?

There’s so many things I want to learn how to do. Slowly, I am learning and becoming acclimated to them. They are all simple, routine things everyone knows how to do by the time they are where I am.

But one of the things I want to learn how to do goes deeper than a simple chore. The laundry. Giving my part of the house a proper vacuuming. This is deeper than that.

I want to learn how to stop hearing: “Let me do that for you. It’ll be easier.”

Because what that phrase really means is no.

“Hey, can you show me how to….?” I’d ask an adult.

“Let me do that for you. It’ll be easier.” Essentially, what I’ve always heard when someone says that is equivalent to: No, I don’t have the time to show you all the tricks. But if I do it for you, it’ll get done, and then you’ll stop bugging me.

And it would be easier…. for them. Leaving future me to deal with the reality that there are many things, to this day, that I don’t know how to do.

One of the things that does not fall into that category is writing. I know how to write. And yet, whenever I receive a rejection note from an agent or a publisher, I don’t see the form rejection into which almost no care or thought was placed. In my head, I get that the job of an agent is to find work they can sell. But my heart wins out in times like those, and I see a vision–as clear as if it were happening right in front of me. It’s a vision of someone saying, “You don’t know what you’re doing, and I don’t have the time, the patience, or the resources to help you learn.” The we’ve-all-grown-up version of: “Let me do that for you. It’ll be easier” has transformed into: “Here’s a quick, sharp, awful rejection of the thing you love most in the world. Now get out of my face, and let me get back to doing real work.”

You might say, “Maybe he should look at the business differently. It isn’t like that.”

To that, my dear friend, I would say, “It may not be like that for you. That may not be how you see agenting or publishing. But I have always lived my life with a bit of a chip on my shoulder. If someone tells me no, I want to prove them wrong. If someone shuts me out, I want to prove that I belong… and I will.

Eventually.”

Being Different

Being different has always been a calling card of mine, whether I want it to be or not. Sometimes I do, and I’m happy to take on all comers who want to know what cerebral palsy is. (There’s a difference between what it is and what it’s like for me. There are five kinds of palsy, believe it or not, but that’s getting a bit too technical.) Sometimes I don’t, and I dream of a normal life, where the only thing special about me is what I’m doing now (hopefully). In the year 1982, it was pronounced, in one wordless action, by a doctor with both too much medical experience and too many years on a planet that had outgrown him–a dangerous cocktail–that I should be “different” for a lifetime.

No one gave me a heads-up on this. I found out years later that I had fought for my life that first night.

Fought and won.

Congratulations! You’ve won the grand prize, Being Different Forever! Over-the-shoulder glances as you pass people in malls! Looks of doubt when you tell people, “I can do this job.” You will never play a sport in any meaningful, competitive way.

As we get to know each other, readers, you will find that, while the palsy has hindered me at times, I believe it has also given me a perspective from which few ever have the chance to articulate. Sure, I’m different (to some), and sure, it makes me mad at times (the handicapped guy who goes through life without complaint is a nice little myth, but it’s not true to me, and if I’m going to write my truth on this blog that means telling you it’s not true), but as mad as it makes me… it could be worse.

I could have fought and lost.

To the hospital nurses who saved my life, to the people who fought alongside me, and still do (you know who you are), to the kids at school who didn’t mind my being different, and who are still my friends to this day, to my best friend, who let me pitch and who pitched so I could hit, and told me I was good, and who read my stories and would tell me when they were bad, to the little sister who will stare a dirty look dead in the face with a look that’s even dirtier, until the offending glancer turns away, thank you all. You make being different worth all the work and the tears.