moving forward

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic


the story is about a boy that comes to terms with being in a wheelchair

Submitted: June 02, 2018

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Submitted: June 02, 2018

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MOVING FORWARD

By Chris Clarkson

The van dropped Mitchell Hooks off at the

house where he lived with Tara Olson and her

boyfriend Robert McKissack. Thomas was

African-American. He was a track coach at Bishop

Watterson High School. Tara was an attractive

blond with a pageboy hairstyle, and bangs covered

her forehead. Tara’s fashion style still lingered in

the 1960s. Tara Olson was an Upper Arlington

High School graduate, and Robert McKissack was

a Saint Francis DeSales High School graduate.

Tara was once on her high school’s lacrosse team,

and Robert was once on the track team at Saint

Francis DeSales. Tara taught English at her

former high school. As Mitchell’s guardians, Tara

and Robert helped him with his homework. Tara

and Robert had library cards from Upper

Arlington, Bexley, Columbus, Westerville, and

Grandview Heights. They had Internet access as

well. Tara, Robert, and Mitchell often used the

Internet to assist with his schoolwork. Mitchell

was a tenth grade student at the Wellington

School. Mitchell loved being a student at the

Wellington School. For one thing, he didn’t have

to worry about gangs, drugs, or graffiti. Mitchell

had male and female friends from all religions and

from all different ethnic backgrounds, as well as

some from mixed nationalities. At the Wellington

School, Mitchell received a quality education.

Mitchell, Tara, and Robert lived in their house

in an upper middle-class neighborhood of Upper

Arlington. Mitchell rolled his wheelchair up the

now familiar driveway. Mitchell hadn’t always

lived with Tara and Robert. They had only

became his legal guardians, two years ago, when

Mitchell had just finished the eighth grade, and

he had just returned home from a trip out in

Wyoming. He traveled with his parents, uncle,

aunt, and several cousins to a dude ranch. They

had celebrated his twin cousins’ graduation by

taking this trip together. His parents were

planning to re-open their neighborhood store on

the corner of Cleveland and Windsor Avenue the

next morning. As Mitchell, his parents, and his

extended family were unloading luggage from

their sport utility vehicles, a black 1964 Chevrolet

lowrider convertible was driving along Windsor

Avenue where Mitchell, his parents, and his older

sister Khadijah lived in a two story house. Just

then, two young men riding in the lowrider

started shooting guns. Mitchell’s family members

were caught in a hail of bullets, and bullets hit

Mitchell’s back. Mitchell fell into the grass, crying

at the sudden pain. Richard McCutcheon, a

neighbor who lived across the street, had a cell

phone. He called 911, and told the police the

license plate number of the car from which the

guns were fired and said that people had been

shot. The license plate number was ABC 1234.

Mitchell was taken by squad to Children’s

Hospital. For a while, he was in critical condition.

His classmates from Indianola Middle School, the

principal, his teachers, the Columbus Schools

superintendent, the mayor, and the governor sent

cards to Mitchell at the hospital. The reporters

came to the hospital, but Mitchell was in no

condition to be interviewed. Richard McCutcheon

agreed to talk to the reporters. The next day, one

of the doctors gave Mitchell some bad news.

Mitchell was going to be confined to a wheelchair

because the gunshot to his back caused problems

with his legs, and his real family did not survive

the gunshots. Mitchell was devastated, despite the

many condolences he had received from friends

and strangers alike. The police arrested Kenneth

Hairston and David Blackwell, along with other

members of the gang for wounding Mitchell and

murdering his loving family. David Blackwell and

Kenneth Hairston, along with the rest of the gang

members were sentenced to serve time at the

Southern Ohio Correctional Facility down in

Lucasville. On the last day of Mitchell’s hospital

stay, he received a telephone call from Tara Olson.

Tara’s family was involved in political circles.

They had heard about the incident. Tara asked if

Mitchell could live with her and Tara’s African

American boyfriend Robert McKissack. Mitchell

accepted. So, after Mitchell left the hospital, he

and his caseworker, Teresa Hightower, went to

the Franklin County courthouse. The court

appointed Tara Olson to be his guardian. Mitchell

moved in with Tara Olson and her boyfriend

Robert McKissack in a house along Riverside

Drive, and the three of them got along well

together. As Mitchell entered the house, he could

smell the aroma of pizza cooking in the oven.

“Tara, I’m home,” Mitchell called out.

“How was school?” asked Tara.

“I worked hard at school today,” answered

Mitchell.

“You always work hard at school, Mitch,” said

Tara. “You must be one of their best students

around.” Mitchell rolled his wheelchair to the

living room. Robert was in the living room

watching the Big 10 Network. The 1968 Ohio

State versus Michigan football game was being

rebroadcast. Both Robert and Mitchell were

staunch Ohio State fans.

“I’m home,” Mitchell announced to Robert.

“How was school, Mitchell?” asked Robert.

“Another day in paradise,” answered Mitchell.

“Thank God, I don’t have any homework.”

“That’s a good thing, Mitchell,” said Robert.

“There comes a point in time that you need a

break from homework.”

“But if there’s homework, I’m willing to do it,

without question,” answered Mitchell.

“That’s great, Mitchell,” said Robert. “That’s

what Tara and I like about you. You’re not lazy.”

“And whenever you need help with your

homework, we’re there to help you as much as

possible,” said Tara as she came into the living

room.

“I’m so hungry,” answered Mitchell. “I feel

like a car in need of a fill-up!”

“Supper is almost ready,” said Robert. “Ah,

just smell that pizza!” Tara, Robert, and Mitchell

went to the kitchen. The fragrance of pepperoni,

bacon, sausage, hamburger, and mushrooms filled

the room. It was a DiGiorno pizza that Tara

bought from Giant Eagle.

“Who is ready to chow down?” questioned

Tara.

“I’m way past ready!” Mitchell answered her.

Mitchell went to the refrigerator and got some

Snapple pink lemonade. Robert went in the

cabinet and got a bag of Mike-Sells barbecue-

flavor potato chips. Tara got a pizza cutter. She

divided the pizza into sixths. There were three of

them, so they each got two slices of pizza.

“I love living with you and Robert,” answered

Mitchell.

“I’m glad because we love having you with us,”

Tara commented. “After the three of them ate

their meal, Mitchell took his paper plate to the

trash can, and put the bottle in the dishwasher.

Tara, Robert, and Mitchell were environmentally

conscious. They often saved glass bottles to reuse

over and over again.

“Would you like to go bowling?” asked Tara.

“Since you don’t have homework, maybe the three

of us could go bowling at Sawmill Lanes.”

“I’d love to go bowling,” answered Mitchell.

“Let’s head on out, then,” said Robert. Tara,

Robert, and Mitchell went to the closet, and got

their Ohio State jackets. Despite the fact that

Tara Olson was a graduate from Brigham Young

University out in Provo, Utah, she was a staunch

Ohio State fan. As the three of them headed to the

van, David and Jennifer Yardley, their next-door

neighbors, were raking leaves. David Yardley was

the football coach at Upper Arlington High School,

the school from which he had graduated. Jennifer

Yardley was a nurse at Children’s Hospital. She

visited Michael while he was at Children’s

Hospital undergoing surgery. David was wearing

a gold and black Upper Arlington High School

jacket. His black shirt bore the Upper Arlington

High School emblem. David’s khaki pants were in

a gold and black pattern. His thick-soled slip on

Vans sneakers were in a gold and black

checkerboard pattern. David Yardley was a

radical Upper Arlington High School fan. Jennifer

wore a shirt that was like the colors of the

American flag. The white stars were on a blue

background, and the red and white stripes were

on the bottom. Jennifer’s khaki pants were white

with blue and red stars. She had on Reebok

sneakers. Her left Reebok sneaker was red, and

her right Reebok sneaker was blue.

“David, what’s going on?” asked Tara.

“Nothing much,” said David. “How was school,

Mitchell?”

“I worked hard in school,” said Mitchell.

“That’s fantastic, Mitchell,” said David. “You

really know how to take studying seriously.”

 “You really do,” said Jennifer. “Where are all

of you headed?”

“The three of us are going to knock some pins

down,” Tara told Jennifer.

“That’s fantastic,” said Jennifer. “There’s

nothing like spending a Friday night at the

bowling alley.”

“Katherine and Mark McDougal and I went

bowling last week, and we both scored 150 points,”

said David.

 “David, do you like to bowl?” asked Tara.

“I used to be in a bowling club in high school,”

said David. “Not only did I play football at Upper

Arlington High School, but I used to be in the

bowling club as well.”

“Really?” Tara asked David.

“Yep,” said David. “I was so good at bowling

that I never had a gutter ball.”

“You’ve never had a gutter ball in your life?”

Mitchell asked David.

“Nope!” said David.

“I was in a bowling club when I was a student

at Bishop Hartley High School,” said Jennifer.

“You were?” asked Mitchell.

“I was, Mitchell,” said Jennifer. “My

classmates and I would hang out at East Main

Lanes and knock down pins. I was so good at

bowling that just about every time I bowled, I

always had pins knocked down.”

“That is fantastic,” said Mitchell.

“The East Main Lanes was torn down not too

long ago,” said Tara. “They’re building offices on

East Main Street.”

“Oh,” said Mitchell.

“Our daughters Karen and Ashley were

bowlers too,” said David. “They ran track at Upper

Arlington High School, and they were bowlers as

well.”

“Ashley is mentally challenged, and she runs

track and bowls in Special Olympics,” said

Jennifer. 

“My father worked with mentally challenged

adults in a program called On Your Own,” said

Robert. “On Your Own participants bowled in

Special Olympics.”

“Oh,” said Jennifer. “Karen and Ashley love to

bowl. Karen just graduated from Bowling Green

State University, where she majored in

elementary education. When Karen was a student

at the university, she worked at a bowling alley to

pay for her tuition.”

“Is that right?” asked Robert.

“That’s right,” said David.

“Tara was in a bowling club when she was a

student at Upper Arlington High School,” said

Robert.

“Is that right?” asked Tara.

“That’s right,” said Tara. “I played lacrosse,

and I was in the bowling club also.”

“That’s awesome,” answered David.

“I have never bowled a gutter ball,” said

Tara.

“Neither have I,” said Robert. “Not only did I

run track, but I was in the bowling club at Saint

Francis DeSales High School too. I would spend

lots of Friday nights at the bowling alley knocking

down pins.”

“Want to come with us, Jennifer and David?”

questioned Tara.

“I hate to turn you down, but I’ve got to get

a lot of leaves bagged up tonight,” said Jennifer.

“But thanks for the invitation.”

“See you,” said Robert. The three of them went

to the wheelchair accessible van in the driveway.

Tara opened the door. The wheelchair ramp came

out. Mitchell rolled his wheelchair onto the ramp.

Tara lifted the ramp, then got into the van. Robert

got in the driver’s side, and turned on the radio to

WMNI. WMNI was a station that played

standards from the 1950s to the present. The

music that was played on WMNI was safe for the

ears. Obviously no rap was played. Mitchell may

have not been around in the 1950s when Johnny

Mathis was popular, but Mitchell could identify

with that kind of music. Robert drove out of the

driveway, and headed toward Sawmill Lanes.

They rode along Riverside Drive, seeing some

boaters and a few people casting lures along the

Scioto River.

“I’m thinking about getting a boat,” said

Tara. “You’ve been on a boat, haven’t you,

Mitchell?”

“Yes, I have,” Mitchell told Tara. “My uncle

used to take us boating along the Scioto River. It

was so awesome!”

“I’ll bet it was, Mitchell,” said Tara. Ford

and Chevrolet hot rods from the 1950s and 1960s

were traveling along Riverside Drive. One of the

cars was decorated like the colors of the American

flag. The white and red stripes were on top, and

the white stars on a blue background were on the

sides. The driver must’ve been really patriotic.

Another hot rod had a red and gray checkerboard

pattern.

“I love that hot rod,” said Robert. “Whoever

is driving that car must be an Ohio State fan.”

“People will do anything to show they support

the Ohio State Buckeyes,” Tara observed. A

Frankie Valli song, “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off

Of You” was being played as Robert approached

the intersection of McCoy and Riverside Drive.

Mitchell looked at Tara’s face as the two of

them listened to Frankie Valli sing “I Can’t Take

My Eyes Off Of You,”  Tara’s eyes were open

wide. When she smiled at Mitchell, he couldn’t

resist telling her.  

“You have a beautiful face,” said Mitchell.

“Thank you for telling me this, Mitch,” said

Tara. “You and I are such awesome buddies.”

“We are, Tara,” said Mitchell. Tara got out of

her seat and put her arms around Mitchell. The

two of them hugged each other.

“I can’t take my eyes off of you,” sang Mitchell.

“Like Frankie Valli says, ‘you’re just too good to be

true.’”

“I wish that I could see your pretty face, but I

have to keep my eyes on the road,” laughed

Robert.

“Mitchell and I are best buddies, Bob,” said

Danille. The Frankie Valli song, “I Can’t Take

My Eyes Off Of You” was over. The three of them

approached Bethel Road. At Bethel Road, Robert

made a right turn. He drove up a hill, then turned

left on Sawmill Road and into the bowling alley

parking lot.

“We’re here,” Robert announced. “Ready to

knock down some pins?”

“Definitely!” Mitchell said, as Robert

unhitched his chair. She got out of the van.

Mitchell rolled his wheelchair to the ramp. The

ramp went down, and Mitchell rolled off the ramp.

After closing the van, Robert, Tara, and Mitchell

headed into the building, noisy with the sound of

rolling balls and falling pins, hooted calls of

“STEER-IKE!” and disappointed yells of missed

spares. It was often like that on Friday nights. At

the desk, Tara and Robert got their bowling shoes,

while Mitchell got a ramp to use to roll his ball

down the alley they were assigned.

“I’ve got dibs on first place!” Robert said,

tying his shoelaces.

“I’ll follow the leader,” said Mitchell.

“Okay---I’ll be the donkey’s tail!” laughed

Tara. The three of them took turns rolling their

balls down the alley. The fences were up on their

lane, so the three of them were guaranteed not to

get any gutter balls. Tara knocked down seven

pins on her first try, but on the second try, she

missed. Mitchell knocked eight pins down, but

missed the other two. Robert had six pins knocked

down, but missed the other four. It was like that

from the first to the tenth frame. Tara had 70

points, Mitchell had 80 points, and Robert had 60

points altogether.

“Let’s try to bowl another game,” Mitchell

suggested.

“Good idea,” said Tara. “This time the three

of us should get some strikes and spares.”

“I agree!” said Robert. “What fun is bowling

if you don’t get strikes or spares?” As the three of

them took turns rolling the balls down the alley,

Tara, Mitchell, and Robert got some strikes and

spares. By the tenth frame, Tara had 120 points,

Mitchell had 90 points, and Robert had 108

points. The second game was much better than

the first.

“Congratulations to all of us!” Mitchell said to

Tara and Robert.

“We did a whole lot better on the second game

than we did on the first game!” Tara cheered.

“Let’s try one more game, Mitchell,” said

Robert.

“All right, Robert,” said Mitchell.

“Let’s see if we can get our scores higher than

the second game,” said Tara.

“Okay, Tara,” said Robert. He went to the

counter and paid for another game. Robert came

back to the lane.

“Are you two ready to bowl a third game?”

asked Robert.

“You bet we are,” said Mitchell and Tara. She

bowled first, then Mitchell, then Robert. The three

of them rolled pins down the alley, getting spares

and strikes. Tara had 140 on the tenth frame,

Mitchell had 180 on the tenth frame, and Robert

had 225 on the tenth frame.

“We did so much better,” said Tara. “The

third game was a lot better than the first and

second games.”

“How about a high five?” asked Mitchell. The

three of them gave each other high fives.

“You bowled such a fantastic game,” said

Tara.

“Thank you,” said Mitchell, smiling. They left

the bowling alley and got into their van on the

parking lot.

“Let’s head for home,” Tara said. Robert

pulled out of the Sawmill Lanes parking lot. By

the time the three of them reached their driveway

at home, David and Jennifer Yardley had leaves

piled up like mountains.

“How was the game?” asked David.

“The first game was dull, but the second game

was better,” said Tara.

“We didn’t get a single gutter ball,” Robert

laughed.

“Really!” marveled Jennifer.

“I love to bowl,” Mitchell said.

“How were your scores?” asked Jennifer.

“I didn’t break a hundred on the first game,

but I scored 180 on the last game!” said Mitchell.

“I remember you watching the Professional

Bowlers Tour on television when you were at

Children’s Hospital,” said Jennifer.

“Bowling is in my blood, Jenny,” said Mitchell.

“My uncle used to take me on bowling

tournaments.”

“Is that right, Mitchell?” asked David.

“I’ve been on bowling tournaments in Illinois,

Michigan, New York, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and

all around Ohio,” said Mitchell.

“Did your uncle get gutter balls?” asked

David.

“Nope,” said Mitchell. “My uncle was so good

at bowling that he never got a gutter ball.”

“I hate gutter balls,” said David. “No points

---no fun. That’s my motto for bowling.”

“Hey, I like that motto!” said Tara.

“You’ve got that right, Michael,” said Robert.

“What are your plans for tomorrow?” asked

Jennifer.

“We’re going to go down to the Circleville

Pumpkin Show,” said Tara.

“I bet you’ll be eating everything in sight,”

said Jennifer.

“We might,” said Mitchell. “Except pumpkin

pie.”

“Katherine and Ashley love to eat pumpkin

pies,” said David. “We’re going to watch the Ohio

State versus the University of Minnesota football

Game at Ohio State.”

“That sounds like fun,” said Mitchell.

 “I didn’t go to Ohio State, but I love to watch

Ohio State football,” said David.

“I love to watch Ohio State football too,” said

Tara. “I might’ve gone to Brigham Young

University, but I’m an Ohio State football fan.”

“You’ve got to be a Buckeye in the Buckeye

State,” announced Robert.

 “I don’t mean to cut the conversation short,

but I have to fix some dinner,” answered David.

“Jennifer and I will catch you later.”

“What are you fixing?” asked Tara.

“I’m going to fix some hot dogs, and some

french fries,” said David.

“You make me want to lick my tongue,” said

Mitchell. “You like hot dogs?”

“I love hot dogs, Mitchell,” said Jennifer.

“David is going to fix some smoked sausage.”

“Now you’re REALLY making my mouth

water,” laughed Tara. “Maybe one day, when Ohio

State plays Michigan, we’ll grill some smoked

sausage. How would that be?”

“I’d love some smoked sausage cooked on the

grill,” answered Mitchell.

“What about brats?” asked Tara. “You love

brats, don’t you?”

“I love brats,” said Mitchell.

“I love them too, Mitchell,” said Tara.

“That can be done,” Jennifer answered the

three of them. “See you later.”

“See you, David and Jennifer,” said Tara.

“I’d like to play a game of volleyball,” said

Mitchell.

“Sounds like a plan, Mitchell,” said Tara.

“We’ll change into our sneakers,” said Robert.

Tara opened the door for Mitchell. The three of

them went inside the house. While Tara and

Robert changed their shoes, Mitchell got the

remote from the table next to the couch, and

turned on the television. Mitchell was watching

Johnny Mathis singing on the Centric channel.

Mitchell loved how Johnny Mathis sang in his

falsetto voice, as if he was a choirboy. Johnny

Mathis’ music was uplifting. Tara and Robert

came into the living room. Tara had her volleyball

with her.

“Are you ready to play?” asked Tara.

“I’m ready,” said Mitchell.

“Let’s go out in the back yard then,” said

Robert.

“All right,” said Mitchell. The three of them

went out the back door. Tara and Robert were

facing the back door, and Mitchell was facing the

fence. Robert lifted the ball up in the air and hit

it. The ball flew across the net as if it was an

airplane. Robert raised his hands up in the sky

and smacked the ball over to Mitchell. He raised

his hands up in the air and sent the ball flying

towards Robert. Tara and Robert ran here and

there on top of the leaves as the ball traveled

back and forth between the two of them. Mitchell

moved his wheelchair so that he could catch the

ball. The three of them were so good at playing

volleyball that every time that they played, the

ball never landed on the leaves.

“How are you doing?” asked Mitchell.

“We’re doing fantastic, Mitchell,” said Tara.

Tara, Robert, and Mitchell took turns catching the

volleyball. Despite the fact that Mitchell was

confined to a wheelchair, he was good at playing

volleyball. And as Mitchell played, he didn’t think

about being physically disabled. The three of them

spent an hour throwing the ball up in the air over

the net. After they got tired of playing volleyball,

Tara, Robert, and Thomas went inside the house

to the recreation room, where there was a pool

table and a ping pong table.

 “How are we doing?” asked Mitchell.

“We’re doing fantastic, Mitchell,” said Tara.

 “Would you like to play ping pong, Robert?”

Mitchell asked him.

“I’d love to, but I’ll pass,” said Robert.

“I’ll play with you,” said Tara. Mitchell and

Tara each picked up a paddle. Mitchell picked

up the ball. The two of them paddled the ball to

and from the paddle without having it land on the

table. Mitchell raised his arm up in the air like a

rocket to paddle the ball. Mitchell swung the

paddle like an ax.

“Keep it up, Mitchell!” said Robert. “You and

Tara are excellent ping pong players.” Tara and  

Mitchell continued their game. Just then, the ball

landed on the table. Mitchell threw the paddle

down on the table.

“RATS!” cried Mitchell.

“Keep playing,” said Tara. “You’re doing well.”

“If you say so,” said Mitchell, as he picked up

the ball and paddled it to Tara. The ball never

landed on the table again. After Tara and Mitchell

finished playing ping pong, the two of them left

their paddles and ball on the ping-pong table, and

went to the pool table. Mitchell got the cue stick

and put chalk on the end. Mitchell had the striped

balls, and Danille had the solid balls. Being

confined to a wheelchair was going to make it

tougher to shoot with the cuestick, but Mitchell

loved challenges.

“Are you ready?” asked Tara.

“Raring to go,” Mitchell responded. He hit the

white ball into the balls set up in a triangle shape.

“Have you ever played pool at the Arlington

Billiards & Café?” Mitchell asked Tara.

“Yes I have, Mitchell,” she answered him. “I

celebrated my sweet 16 party there.” The 15, 13,

and the 11 ball found pockets, but Mitchell missed

the nine ball. Tara was next. Tara had the 14, the

12, and the 10 ball pocketed, but she missed the

six ball. On Mitchell’s turn, he had the nine ball,

and the seven ball pocketed, but he missed the

five ball. Mitchell threw the cue stick down on

the pool table.

“RATS!” said Mitchell.

“Don’t worry, Mitchell,” said Tara. “Keep

trying. You’ll get the other balls pocketed.”

“I’m trying,” Mitchell told Tara.

“You’ll get the balls pocketed,” said Robert.

“We know that being in a wheelchair makes it

so that you can’t pocket the balls as well. But keep

trying. You’ve already got a few of them pocketed.

Don’t give up now.”

“All right,” said Mitchell. Tara was next. She

had the six ball pocketed, but she couldn’t get the

other balls pocketed.

“Keep it up, Tara and Mitchell,” encouraged

Robert. “You’re both doing fine!”

“I’m trying as hard as I can,” said Mitchell. He

had the three ball pocketed, but he missed the one

ball. Tara had the four ball pocketed, but she

missed the two ball. Mitchell had the three and

the one ball pocketed. Mitchell hit the eight ball

last. He won the game.

“Congratulations!” said Tara. “You played a

good game!”

“Thank you, my best friend!” Mitchell said as

the two of them raised their hands up in the air,

giving a high-five salute. 

“It’s time to hit the sack,” said Tara, seeing

Mitchell yawning. “Tomorrow is going to be a  

great day. I bet you’re looking forward to it.”

“I am,” said Mitchell. “I can’t wait to graze my

way through the festival.”

“I bet you can’t,” said Robert. Mitchell rolled

his wheelchair to his room. Robert’s strong arms

lifted Mitchell up from his wheelchair and gently

lowered him into his bed. Tara went in the

bathroom and got a tranquilizer and a paper cup

with water.

“Here’s a tranquilizer to help you sleep,” said

Tara.

“Thanks, Tara,” answered Mitchell. He  

washed the tranquilizer down with the cup of

water, and threw the cup in the trash can. Tara

and Robert went to their bedroom. Their

television was tuned to the Music Choice Easy

Listening format. Mitchell had digital cable too.

Mitchell got the remote and turned on the

television to the Time Warner Music Choice Easy

Listening format. The three of them all fell asleep

listening to the soothing music.

Saturday afternoon, Mitchell, Tara, and

Robert returned home from a morning of grocery

shopping. Robert and Tara helped each other put

foods in the cabinet, the refrigerator, and the

freezer. Mitchell waited patiently as Tara and

Robert put the foods away.

“I can’t wait to taste the festival food,” said

Mitchell as Robert put meats in the freezer.

“There’ll be a lot of food to eat,” laughed

Tara.

“Believe me, you’ll have your stomach

filled in no time flat,” said Robert as he put the

snacks, the seasonings, and the sauces in the

cabinet. After that, Mitchell, Tara, and Robert

were ready to hit the road. The three of them

grabbed their jackets and headed outside. The

weather was cool and crisp. Robert opened the

van. The ramp extended out. Mitchell rolled his

wheelchair onto the ramp. The ramp lifted his

wheelchair up. Tara got inside and hitched

Mitchell’s chair so it wouldn’t roll. Robert got

behind the wheel, and the three of them were on

their way. The leaves of many trees were orange

and brown, and loose leaves were swirling

through the air.

“Let’s head on down,” said Tara. Robert  

turned the van radio to WJZA-FM, a smooth jazz

station. There was an Ohio State football game

being broadcast on WMNI-AM, so they changed

the channel to WJZA-FM. The music on WJZA

was uplifting, and it was soothing close up. As the

three of them headed towards the Circleville

Pumpkin Show, they saw hot rods. There was a

1955 Chevrolet BelAir hot rod. The car had red-

and-white stars on a blue background on its top.

Now that was some patriotic hot rod! A 1948 Ford

pickup truck with gold and black stripes drove by.

The license plate bore the letters UA FAN. That

driver went through great lengths to show 

support of the Upper Arlington Golden Bears. A

silver 1939 Ford coupe passed the three of them.

Mitchell, Danille, and Thomas rode past the

Scioto Country Club, and two female golfers were

riding a cart down a hill.

‘I’ve played there before,” said Robert.

“You have?” Mitchell asked him.

“I love to play golf,” said Robert.

“What about you, Tara?”

“I like to play putt-putt golf,” said Tara.

“That’s fun to do, Tara,” said Mitchell as the

three of them rode past the post office.

“My uncle was a mail carrier,” answered

Mitchell. “He used to deliver mail in Clintonville.

One of his customers used to be the mayor of

Columbus.”

“Is that right?” asked Tara. “Did your uncle

like being a mail carrier?”

“My uncle loved delivering the mail,” said

Mitchell. “My aunt was a mail carrier too. She

delivered mail in the University District.”

“I bet your aunt and uncle both loved

delivering the mail,” said Tara.

“They didn’t mind being outdoors in all kinds

of weather,” said Mitchell. “I miss my family.”

“I know you do, Mitchell,” said Tara.

“Looks like an accident up ahead,” said

Robert, slowing down. The three of them could

see two vehicles: a tractor trailer, and an upside

down Hyundai. An emergency squad, a police car,

a state highway patrol car, and a county sheriff’s

car were on the scene. Traffic was backed up.

“Do you suppose one of the drivers was driving

under the influence of alcohol, Tara?” Mitchell

asked her.

“Could be,” said Tara. “It could be that, or just

someone in too much of a hurry to get

somewhere.” More hot rods were traveling the

road. One green 1957 Ford Thunderbird hot rod

had huge rear tires. There was a gold 1964 Ford

Mustang convertible hot rod, and a 1968

Plymouth Roadrunner that was yellow with two

red lines in the middle.

“Check out those cars!” said Tara.

“They’re really something, aren’t they?” asked

Robert.

“I love those classic cars,” answered Mitchell.

“They don’t make classic cars like they used to.”

“That’s true,” said Tara.

“Eew!” Mitchell said. “Yuck!” The three of

them were driving past the rendering plant and

the sewage plant. Tara and Mitchell pinched their

nostrils tightly.

“I hate that smell, Tara!” Mitchell said.

“You are not alone there,” Tara said.

“That is truly a foul odor, but I’m afraid that

distance is all that will help us escape it,” laughed

Robert. Mitchell and Tara rode past the Saint

Joseph’s Cemetery, where his family was buried.

The three of them rode past farm markets, and

traveled past one of those small towns that you’ll

miss seeing if you blink. The name of the town

was South Bloomfield. The traffic started to slow

down until Robert made a left turn, and found a

place to park on a side street by the railroad

tracks. They were now in Circleville.

“We made it,” said Tara. Robert got up from

his seat. He unhitched Mitchell. Tara opened the

door. Mitchell rolled his wheelchair to the door.

The ramp extended and lowered Mitchell’s

wheelchair down. Mitchell, Tara, and Robert were

at the festival. Aromas of foods enticed the three

of them from all directions as they walked down

one street. There were so many places to eat, it

was hard to decide which to choose.

“Let’s look at the pumpkin pie,” Tara  

suggested.

“All right, Tara,” said Mitchell. The three of

them went to a window of a bakery where there

was a huge pumpkin pie. It was humongous!

“No one could eat a pie that big in a single

day,” said Robert.

“But I’d consider it an honorable death to die

trying to accomplish it,” said Mitchell. The three

of them left the window where the huge pie was,

and went to an exhibit where there were a lot of

pumpkins of all sizes. Some were huge, some were

small, and some were in between sizes. There was

a pyramid of pumpkins towering sky-high.

“I’m going to take a picture of the pumpkins,”

said Tara. She took a few pictures of the

different sizes and colors of pumpkins. Some were

orange, a few were white, and a few were green.

True to its name, the Circleville Pumpkin Festival

was the kind of place where everyone went wild

over pumpkins. After Tara took the pictures of the

pumpkins, the three of them went to the Arts &

Crafts building and looked at all the drawings

there. All the drawings at the Arts & Crafts

building had a Halloween theme.

“Check out this photograph,” said Tara.

“It’s a picture of the world’s largest pumpkin pie.

That picture makes my mouth water.”

“That picture makes me hungry, too,” laughed

Robert.

“You can look at the picture all you want,

Robert and Tara,” said Mitchell. “I don’t eat

pumpkin pie.”

“We know you don’t,” said Tara. “You might

not like pumpkin pie, but I love to eat pumpkin

pie.”

“I love pumpkin pie too,” said Robert.

“Then why didn’t you eat the world’s largest

pumpkin pie?” asked Mitchell.

“It’s a display, Mitchell,” laughed Robert.

“Plus, eating all that pie will make you sick.

There’s no way that anyone would be able to eat

all that pie in one day. No way.” After the

three of them looked at the drawings and the

photographs that had a Halloween theme, the

three of them looked at cakes, pastries, and pies

that were displayed. Now those cakes, pastries,

and pies made their mouths water. Too bad the

three of them couldn’t eat them, especially the

award-winners! The people had done a fantastic

job of making the cakes and the pies. After

Mitchell, Tara, and Robert left the Arts & Crafts

building, the three of them went to a concession

stand where they sold Bob Evans sausages. The

three of them were hungry, and they loved Bob

Evans sausages. They were so flavorful! Mitchell,

 Tara, and Robert ordered two Bob Evans smoked

sausage sandwiches, and three bottles of Sprite to

drink. After Tara paid for the sandwiches and the

soda, Mitchell followed Tara and Robert down the

street to the steps of the Pickaway County

Courthouse. Tara and Robert sat down on the

steps, while Mitchell ate his food. Mitchell was so

hungry that he polished off the sandwiches and

soda in no time.

“Having fun, kiddo?” asked Tara.

“I’m having a ball,” Mitchell answered

Tara. “What about you, Robert?”

“I’m having fun too,” said Robert. After

Mitchell ate, the three of them visited the vendors

stationed along Court Street. Mitchell played a

game of chance. There were Ohio State jogging

suits, shirts, a BUCKOPOLY board game, an Ohio

State Harley-Davidson motorcycle, an Ohio State

Dodge Challenger car, and an Ohio State officially

licensed Lionel train. There was so much Ohio

State merchandise that Mitchell couldn’t decide

what to win. Mitchell gave the young attractive

Asian woman attendant a $5 bill. He had five

chances to win a prize.

“I want that Ohio State train set,” said

Mitchell.

“Go for it,” said Tara. The woman gave

Mitchell a basketball. Being confined to a

wheelchair was going to make it tough to get the

ball through the hoop. Mitchell tried to throw the

ball through the hoop, and he failed on the first

try. Mitchell tried again, but he had no luck.  

Being in a wheelchair made it difficult to shoot

the hoops. But he tried anyway. Mitchell tried a

third time, but he failed. He wasn’t sure about

winning it, but he knew that he wanted to win

that train set desperately.

“Don’t give up,” said Tara. “You can do it

if you try!”

“I’m trying!” said Mitchell. “I’m really trying!”

On Mitchell’s fourth attempt, the ball went

through the hoop. He won the Ohio State Lionel

train. The train had a gondola car, a boxcar, and a

caboose. The train was red and gray, just like the

colors of the Ohio State University. Now every

time Ohio State played football, Mitchell would be

running his Ohio State train.

“Now that you won the Ohio State train, you

can invite Jennifer and David over and both of

them can see it for themselves,” said Tara.

“They’d better be wearing Ohio State colors,”

Mitchell told Tara.  

“If Jennifer and David wore Michigan colors,

they’d probably cause a train wreck,” teased Tara.

“There’s no way that we would let Jennifer and

David visit us wearing Michigan colors.”

“David and Jennifer are not Michigan fans,

Mitchell,” said Robert. “They’re Ohio State fans.

They live, breathe, and sleep Ohio State.”

“I see,” said Mitchell. The three of them came

across a concession stand where they sold

everything that was pumpkin. There were  

pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin jelly beans,

pumpkin bars, pumpkin cookies, and of course,

pumpkin pie. After they paid for the pumpkin

pies, Mitchell, Tara, and Robert went to the

ferris wheel. The three of them waited for the food

to settle down so that they wouldn’t throw up.

“Would you like to ride the ferris wheel?”

asked Tara.

“I’d love to, Tara,” said Mitchell.

“As soon as the food settles, we’ll go to the

ticket booth and get some tickets,” said Tara.

Mitchell was looking forward to riding the ferris

wheel. The three of them were behind an Asian

woman and an African-American man. Mitchell,

Danille, and Thomas were next. The three of them

waited patiently as the others were riding. An

elderly bald African American man was operating

the ferris wheel. When it was time for the three of

them to get on the ferris wheel, Robert lifted

Mitchell off his wheelchair seat, and onto the

ferris wheel’s seat.

“Would you mind guarding my Ohio State

train and my wheelchair?” Mitchell asked the ride

operator.

“No problem,” said the man. Mitchell gave the

Lionel train to the man as the three of them rode

the ferris wheel. The ferris wheel went up in the

air in a clockwise pattern. The three of them saw

people moving like ants here and there as they

rode the ferris wheel. Mitchell put his arms

around Tara and Robert as they rode up and

down.

“I love riding ferris wheels, Tara,” said

Mitchell.

“Me too,” said Tara. “I love going up in the air

on a ferris wheel.”

“I love it when it stops at the top, and I can

see everywhere,” said Robert. The three of them

spent 10 minutes riding the ferris wheel. After the

three of them got off, Tara, Robert, and Mitchell

did some more roaming. Tara carried Mitchell’s

prize Lionel Ohio State train. The three of them

went to a platform where some girls dressed like

witches were singing jazz standards. Tara

snapped her fingers as she listened to the jazz

vocalists singing “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,”

and “Our Love is Here to Stay.”  When the singers

finished, Mitchell, Tara, and Robert went up a

different street that had amusement rides. There

was a ride called the Zephyr. The ride moved so

fast the riders became a blur at its top speed. It

was scary; just watching the ride excited his

already consumed sausage sandwiches.

“Tara and I are going to ride the Zephyr,”

said Robert. He gave Mitchell the Ohio State

Lionel train so that he could keep an eye on it.

“Can you wait for us while we’re on the ride?”

asked Tara.

“Sure,” said Mitchell. “I’ll wait for you and

Robert.”

“Great!” said Tara.

“We’ll be on it for only a few minutes,” said

Tara. Both Tara and Robert got on the Zephyr. As

Mitchell was watching the Zephyr riders become

blurs, he heard a song called “Let This Be A

Lesson To You” on WNRE radio. A mobile unit of

the radio station was broadcasting behind the

Zephyr. The lyrics were about a young man who

drove drunk, only to realize that he killed his

mother. As Mitchell heard that song, he started to

have flashbacks of being wounded by John

Blackwell, the suspect that robbed his mobility

and took the lives of his loving family. The bad

memories overwhelmed Mitchell.

“NO!”  Mitchell cried. “NO!”  Mitchell rolled

his wheelchair down the street full of rides---

anxious to escape the memories of being wounded

and his family being killed. Wheeling himself

through the crowd, Mitchell made a right turn

down another street, crashing through another

crowd of people. As Mitchell rolled down the

street, he heard a radio that was carried by an

Asian couple. The radio was playing rap music

that had Ice Cube performing rap music with a

lot of cursing in it. Mitchell wanted to curse.

“WHY DID JOHN BLACKWELL HAVE TO RUIN

MY LIFE?”  Mitchell wondered. Ever since

Mitchell was confined to a wheelchair, his whole

life had gone down the tubes. He wasn’t as active

as he used to be. He would never ride horses at a

dude ranch. Not only would Mitchell no longer

ride horses, but he would never go tubing in the

river, he would never swim at the beach, and he

would never go whitewater rafting. Never. And he

would never be a football player. And to make

matters worse, Mitchell would never see his

loving family anymore. What good was having a

social life if one is physically disabled? It looked as

if Mitchell was a nobody. He didn’t deserve to

have his life changed by a gun. Mitchell didn’t

believe in violence. Mitchell wanted to escape. He

didn’t even want to tell his caregivers Tara and

Robert that he was running away. Mitchell

headed toward the railroad tracks. To Mitchell

Hooks, being confined to a wheelchair was a

lifetime sentence that he had to deal with for the

rest of his life. Being confined to a wheelchair

made it difficult for Mitchell to be totally athletic.

And that made Mitchell want to end his life.

Mitchell rolled his wheelchair onto the railroad

tracks, and somehow his wheels became stuck.

Mitchell pushed the power button on his chair,

but the extra power didn’t budge the wheels.

Tears rolled down Mitchell’s cheeks as he started

to sob. Mitchell wanted off the tracks. Tara and

Thomas had no way of knowing where Mitchell

was. He didn’t want them to think that he was

trying to kill himself. Mitchell kept trying to get

the wheels off the tracks, but he couldn’t get them

off.

“HELP!”  Mitchell screamed. He could feel the

vibrations of the train rolling down the tracks as

he stared at the oncoming light. Suddenly, a

police car’s flashing lights pulled his attention

away from the train. When two police officers got

out of the car, they saw Mitchell on the railroad

tracks.  

“What on earth is going on here?” Officer

Curtis Jefferson yelled to him.

“Get off the tracks!” said Officer Walter 

Mansfield. “Now!”

“I can’t, Officers!” cried Mitchell. “My wheels

are stuck in the track rails!” The wheels of the

chair spun. It was no use. Mitchell rolled his

wheelchair forcefully, but he was unable to free

the wheels. The train was coming closer and

closer, when suddenly, Officers Jefferson and

Mansfield, grabbed Mitchell, and the prize train

that he was clutching, and carried him to their

cruiser.

“You’re okay, sir!” Officer Jefferson’s voice

eventually broke through Mitchell’s screams. He

heard the train whistle blowing as the train ran

over his wheelchair.

“Thank you, Officer Jefferson,” Mitchell kept

repeating. “Thank you!”

“What’s your first name, sir?” Officer Jefferson

asked.

“Mitchell Hooks,” I said. “What’s yours?”

“Curtis,” he responded. “Now tell me, Mitchell.

Why were you out on the tracks?” Before Mitchell

had a chance to answer Officer Jefferson, Tara

and Robert came to the police car. They didn’t

have their happy faces on.

“Mitchell, why are you in this police car?”

Tara asked sternly. Suddenly it felt like a dam

broke inside Mitchell, and all of his emotions

poured out.

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE

BEING IN A WHEELCHAIR!”  Mitchell cried. “I

HATE THAT WHEELCHAIR!” Mitchell pointed

to the metal scraps in pieces by the tracks.

“What brought all this on?” asked Tara.

Mitchell had memories of riding horses,

whitewater rafting, playing volleyball with his

family, and camping, and now he couldn’t even

take a step of his own! Mitchell had to settle for

life in a wheelchair while John Blackwell is doing

time in prison for crippling his legs, along with

ending the lives of his loving family. Mitchell

hated that he had dreams that couldn’t come true!

The song that Mitchell heard, “Let This Be a

Lesson To You” gave him flashbacks. He thought

of how he was once a free-spirited person who

enjoyed life to the fullest. Mitchell thought about

what he used to be and what he wasn’t anymore.

“I understand how you feel,” said Officer

Jefferson. “Being a victim of a violent crime

makes you feel confused and upset. It’s not easy

being a survivor of a violent crime, especially if it

changes the way you live.”

“And I miss my family too,”  sobbed Mitchell.

“It’s hard when you lose loved ones,” said

Officer Mansfield. “You feel as if you’re the only

one on the planet. I know. It hurts.”

“Sounds like you’ve had everything terrible 

handed to you,” said Officer Jefferson.

“You think your life is over,” said Officer

Mansfield. “It’s not your fault that you’ve been the

victim of a violent crime, but you have to live with

the consequences that follow. And you’re not to

blame for the death of your family.”

“Putting the past behind you isn’t easy,” said

Tara. “Take it from me. My mother had to deal

with being a survivor.”

“What happened?” Mitchell asked her, his

eyes still wet with tears.

“My mother was raped,” said Tara. “When

I was a student at Upper Arlington High School,

my mother watched me play lacrosse. After the

game was over, a tall African-American man

sexually assaulted her at the parking lot.”

“Was he arrested?” asked Mitchell. “What was

his name?”

“His name was Andrew Washington,” said

Tara.”

“Oh,” said Mitchell.

“Andrew Washington was arrested for rape,”

said Robert. “I read about it in the Upper

Arlington News.”

“My mother still has nightmares from time to

time,” said Tara.

“Getting used to your limitations takes time,”

said Robert. “And it takes time getting used to

adjusting to life without a family.”

“I’m not going to be out on the streets, am I?”

asked Mitchell.

“Absolutely not,” said Officer Mansfield.

“Like Tara said, adjusting to life without a

family takes time,” said Robert.

“And getting over being the victim of a violent

crime takes time,” said Tara. “It won’t go away,

but eventually you’ll learn how to deal with it

differently.”

“The man’s right,” said Officer Jefferson.

“People can do mean things to others. It’s sad, but

it’s true. But just because you’ve been the victim

of a violent crime is no reason to give up on life.

And just because you don’t have a real family

anymore doesn’t mean that you’re an odd person

out. You have guardians that’ll give you food,

shelter, and clothing. And you’ll have medical

assistance when you need it.”

“It’ll take time, but many things you want to

do are still doable,” said Officer Mansfield.

“Adjusting to a wheelchair takes time,” said

Tara. “We know you have limitations. You may

think that you can’t do certain things, but you’ll

find different ways to do them.”

“Horseback riding, riding rides at the fair, and

boating are doable,” said Robert.

“We know you can’t go whitewater rafting,

swimming at the beach, swim laps in races, and

walking anymore, but there are other things that

you CAN do,” said Tara. “You can shoot pool, play

ping pong, play volleyball, and even basketball.”

“What about water?” asked Mitchell.

“I can use a hose and spray water at you when

the weather’s hot outside,” said Tara. “I can do

that next summer. How’s that?”

“If you say so,” whispered Mitchell.

“You’ll find different ways to do things while

you’re confined to a wheelchair,” said Officer

Jefferson.

“And you’ll have people that’ll take good care

of you,” said Robert. “We won’t let you down.”

“What about college?” asked Mitchell.

“Robert and I will see to it that you go to

college,” said Tara. “Like Robert said, we won’t

turn our backs on you.”

“You’re going to have to replace your

wheelchair, Mitchell,” said Officer Jefferson. “But

Officer Mansfield and I can give you folks a ride to

where you’re parked and help get Mitchell inside

the van.”

“Thanks, officers,” said Tara.

“We really appreciate all you’ve done,” said

Robert.

“It’s all part of the job, ma’am,” replied Officer

Mansfield.

“In fact, it was a better part of the job since

everyone’s okay,” said Officer Jefferson as he

picked up Mitchell’s Ohio State Lionel train.

“Remember what Officer Mansfield and I told

you,” said Officer Jefferson. “You’ll get used to

living life in a wheelchair, and you’ll adjust to

living life without a real family. You’ll never get

over the loss of your family, but your guardians

will see to it that your needs and wants are met.”

“I’ll remember that,” Mitchell told him.

“It’s doable, Mitchell,” said Officer Jefferson.

“It won’t be easy, but it’s doable.”

“I get the picture,” Mitchell told him. Before

too long, Mitchell, Tara, and Robert were in the

van.

“Bye,” Mitchell told Officers Mansfield and

Jefferson. “And thank you again!”

“You’re welcome,” said Officer Jefferson. 

“Let’s go home,” said Tara. “I’ve had enough

of the pumpkin show already.”

“I’ve had enough of the pumpkin show too,”

said Robert, as he started the engine. Robert

drove home the same way they came. The three of

them rode past farm markets. In the distance, 

Mitchell saw a small ferris wheel. When the three

of them arrived at their house, Robert carried

Mitchell out of his van. Jennifer and David

Yardley were home. Michael was opening the

mailbox.

“How was the Circleville Pumpkin Show?”

asked Jennifer.

“We had fun,” said Tara. “But Mitchell

destroyed his wheelchair.”

“He did?” asked David. “Why? How?”

“I don’t want to go into details,” said Mitchell.

“That’s all right, Mitch,” said Jennifer.

“Mitch has something to show you,” said Tara.

“What’s that?” asked Jennifer.

“It’s Mitchell’s prize from shooting hoops at

the Circleville Pumpkin Show,” said Tara.

“That’s SOME train set,” said David.

“We’re going to run the train set every time

Ohio State plays football,” Tara told Jennifer and

David.

“That’s cool,” said Jennifer. “I’d love to see it

in action after you put the train set together.”

“All right,” said Mitchell. “We’re going to

display my train set on a table.”

“That’s fantastic!” said David.

“David and I can’t wait to see it up and

running,” said Jennifer.

“We’ll catch you later,” said Tara.

“See you,” said David. Tara went to the

front door, and opened it for both Robert and

Mitchell.

“Tara,” said Mitchell.

“What is it?” asked Tara.

“I wish that I had never been shot in the

back,” said Mitchell.

“It was an unfortunate event,” said Tara. “I’m

sorry that you had to go through all this pain. And

Robert and I are sorry that you had such a bad

reaction when you heard the song “Let This Be A

Lesson To You.”  I’ve never heard that song

before, but I can tell that it’s a very sensitive

song.”

“I didn’t want to kill myself,” said Mitchell.

“It was a cry for help,” said Robert. “We

know that you didn’t intend to attempt suicide.”

“You won’t tell Jennifer and David about why

I was on the railroad tracks, will you?” asked

Mitchell.

“No,” said Robert. “We’ll just say that you

had some bad experiences, and eventually you’ll

adapt. It won’t be easy being in a wheelchair, but

you’ll manage. Pretty soon, you won’t care that

you’re confined to a wheelchair.”

“And you’re already doing a fantastic job

adapting,” said Tara. Robert carried him into the

house, gently lowering him on the couch.

“Wonder what’s on the news,” said Robert as

he turned on the television. A reporter was

talking about John Blackwell, who was

responsible for murdering Mitchell’s family and

permanently paralyzing his legs. A photograph of

John Blackwell was shown. He had been

pronounced dead at Doctors Hospital West, where

he had been treated for cancer, pneumonia, and a

brain hemorrhage. The cause of death was

congestive heart failure.

“You can move forward with your life now,”

said Tara.

“John Blackwell is in God’s hands,” said

Robert. “Now you can stop thinking about him.

Move forward and look toward the future.”

“I agree with you both,” said Mitchell. “And

speaking of moving forward, would you hand me

the phone?”  

“Absoultely, Mitchell,” said Robert as he

offered the phone to him. “I’ve got to make some

calls to see about replacing my wheelchair. After

all, you can’t carry me around forever.”

“That’s true, Mitchell,” said Robert.

“You’ve got to get a new set of wheels to keep

moving forward!” said Tara.

 

This story is dedicated to the Upper Arlington High School alumnus who finds wheelchairs bad news. ©2013 by Chris Clarkson 


© Copyright 2018 c.c. rider. All rights reserved.

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