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Eight in the morning always comes way too early, way too fast. The old GE alarm clock radio is screaming at me and I almost end up on the floor because of it. It takes me about thirty seconds to get my bearings together and think coherently enough to shut off the alarm. It’s amazing how disoriented and bitchy I am in the mornings before my first cup of coffee and a cigarette. And because I’m not a Weasley, coffee unfortunately isn’t going to make itself.

I crawl over to the edge of the bed and locate a pair of shorts and a hoodie from the pile on the floor. I don’t have any plans today, so no one’s going to judge me for wearing the same thing a couple mornings in a row. I shrug on the hoodie and go about putting on the shorts before attempting to climb into the wheelchair. It turns out a wooden slide board on bare ass cheeks isn’t a very pleasant feeling.

Once in my chair, I head for the bathroom. Thankfully, my bathroom is good size and I can hop from my chair, to the sink, grab the window sill above the toilet, and pivot onto the can. The only shitty part (haha, pun intended) is sometimes the tile is cold and slippery, so I’ve always got to make sure I’ve got on a shoe of some kind. In this instance, I always leave an old Adidas sneaker behind the bathroom door. My bathroom Cinderella slipper awaits. Jamming it on, I start my hopping game and eventually make it to the toilet. I do my business, hop back to the chair, and wash my hands. I’m already at the sink, so I grab a hair tie, pulling back the lion’s mane so that I can wash my face. When all of that is finally taken care of, I head for the kitchen and begin making a pot of coffee.

Making coffee is honestly my favorite part about the day. I don’t like any of the fancy vanilla creamer or sugars or any of that shit. Plain black coffee speaks to my soul on levels I don’t think anybody else comprehends. The coffee mug I use the most often is a black mug that says “Fuck this shit.” It’s got brass knuckles instead of a traditional handle. Sipping from it makes me feel like a certified badass.

I scoop a heaping spoonful of Folgers coffee grounds into the filter of the Mr. Coffee. Pressing the start button, I wheel over and grab my fuck mug down from the worn cherry cupboard after popping up on my right leg and balancing on my tip toes. The bottom of the mug comes in contact with the granite countertop and makes a pleasant clinking sound. Plopping back into my chair, I patiently wait for the black ambrosia to finish brewing and take a look around the kitchen and living room.

Built to be an open concept, the cabin is roomy, but cozy. When I roll through the door, the kitchen is off to my left, basking in sunlight most of the day. Faded floral wallpaper plasters the walls. It’s starting to peel around the edges. The countertops are a bit banged up from years of use, and coffee stains cover the surface. A couple old photographs of my parents and I are taped to the rough cupboards. In most of them, all of us are smiling. Pa helping me hold my first fish, posing in front of the Chevelle with Ma before heading to church, my brother Kyle in a dress while I wear a pair of Pa’s muck boots. The photographs are beginning to curl around the edges.

In the living room off to my right, there’s a little bit of everything. The sad, sagging brown leather couch has been torn to hell from Stewie’s claws, but it’s the most comfortable piece of furniture I own. Hanging over the back of the sofa is a crocheted granny square afghan passed down from my late Great-Grandma Baker. A glass lamp sits to the right side of the couch on a crappy green end table. There’s a moth flying in and out of the chincy tan shade, pinging off the sides. In front of the couch sit a few of my bookshelves. They sag with the weight of all the tattered mass market paperbacks. Books lie on the floor from when Stewie knocked them over last night, all twisted together. I see Fahrenheit 451 and Slaughterhouse Five among the pile. A dilapidated candle substitutes for a book end. Big Mouth Billy Bass hangs above the tallest bookshelf, although I’m pretty sure he hasn’t worked for at least ten years.

To the left of the crappy couch is my working desk. Pencils still litter the ground from when Stewie the Dickhead decided to roleplay as Godzilla and destroy everything in his path. Usually it’s never this messy, but today is apparently an exception. Papers are scattered in every direction. There’s dried, muddy paw prints tracked through the carpet of the living room that suddenly disappear at the edge of the desk. They reappear as neat little prints on the stark white of the printer paper. The cherry on top of the entire shebang is the half of dead mouse on top of my laptop keyboard. I swear to God, one day I’m going to kill that cat. It’s not going to be today, but someday. Probably soon.

Sighing, I turn and pour myself a steaming cup of coffee and place the pot back on the burner. I can already feel the twinges of a slight headache forming just behind my left eye. Coffee can fix that. Taking a gulp, I instantly regret it as the scalding liquid pours down my throat. It’s strong and delicious, but holy shit.

I grab my pack of Camels off the counter and stuff them in my hoodie pouch before heading for the porch, balancing my cup of coffee in one hand and steering myself with the other. I use my good leg to drag myself forward and kick open the door. Once I make it outside, I set the mug down on the railing of the porch and light my cigarette. Taking a deep drag, I exhale before blowing on the coffee and trying another swig. This time, it still burns my throat. You’d think I’d fucking learn.

By the time the mug’s half empty, I get around to noticing the weather. Rain splatters against the grass and is starting to form a small lake in front of my truck. Shit. Today is definitely not starting out the way I want it to. Finishing my cigarette, I flick it into the ashtray before heading back inside. I’ve got a long day ahead of me, no thanks to Stewie.



When I eventually head into Woodpine, the rain has let up a tiny bit. It’s already almost noon and only sixty five degrees out, making it a tad chilly out. Thunder rumbles overhead and lightning flashes, illuminating the “Welcome to Woodpine” sign in front of the post office.

Woodpine is about twenty five miles south of Lake Superior, got a population of about three thousand, and might have more cows than people. It has yet to be confirmed.

Speaking of people, everyone here gets mistaken for being a Yooper or Canadian, despite the town being in northern Wisconsin. The tourists think we have “funny accents” and always ask the locals to pronounce shit like “boat” or “bag.” They treat us like backwoods hillbillies, always making comments about the amount of flannels or rickety trucks driving around. But mostly, the romanticize it.

“It must be so nice to live in such a quiet area!” or “Everyone is super friendly here!”

No one ever talks about the downsides of living in a small town. For example, if you work in the healthcare field, you’ve probably taken care of your best friend’s grandparents. Folks come up to you and ask you how so and so is doing in Super One, even though they know damn well HIPPA prevents you from saying anything or even acknowledging that Mr. What’s His Nuts is in the hospital for pneumonia.

There’s almost nothing to do in town if you’re under 21. Is there a bowling alley? No. What about a shopping mall? Fuck no. Wanna go get Perkins or Denny’s at two in the morning? Too bad. The nearest one is an hour and a half away.

If you’re under 21 and want entertainment, you can drive around and listen to the radio or try getting into one of the eight bars underage. The easiest one to get into is Shooter’s. Dickie doesn’t card.

The crappiest thing about living in a small town though is how fast word gets around. I couldn’t sneak into Shooter’s at eighteen without my best friend’s cousin’s boyfriend’s aunt knowing about it. By the time I managed to have a drink or two, the whole town knew I was at the bar. It makes being sneaky difficult. Everyone knows your business and probably already told your parents.

So it isn’t all that surprising that when I first came back from the coast six years ago, everyone knew what had happened. Ma had so many casseroles and dessert pans stocked in the freezer that we didn’t buy groceries for two months. Which was fine with me. I hate being pitied, and being out and about in town would only intensify the stares I received from sympathetic locals. Staying hidden away in my parent’s house for the better part of a year seemed like the only logical thing to do.

Parking the truck in the handicap space at the Woodpine Memorial Library, I begin to mentally prepare myself for the onslaught of unasked questions from the tourists and gossip from the locals. I slip quietly past the brightly lit computer lab area and make my way towards the row of secluded tables in the far back, away from the noise of the children’s center. Twisting in my chair, I grab the backpack off the handles of my wheelchair and set it quietly on the table. I fish out my cell phone, headphones, charcoal and colored pencils, and a beaten Strathmore sketch pad. Silently flipping to my latest sketch, I begin to put down the main colors and set Spotify on Post Malone. Joe’s expecting me to get him this latest drawing no later than Friday, and I can’t have Stewie fucking it up.

“I think you dropped this.”

Startled, I just about send my charcoal pencil flying. When I look up, I meet the eyes of a complete stranger. A very handsome stranger.

The man in front of me is attractive in a rugged, lumberjack sort of way. He’s got a jet black head of hair that curls slightly at the edges, a neatly trimmed black beard, and gorgeous, kind honey colored eyes with flecks of green around the pupils. Standing about 6’3” and wearing a green flannel and blue jeans, he’s holding onto a couple of my charcoal pencils.

“Thank you.”

I can feel my cheeks beginning to redden as I reach out to take the pencils from his hands. Unfortunately for me, in that moment, I accidentally knock over all the pencils from the table onto the floor with my arm.

At this point, my face is on fire, and I’m pretty sure I’m going to burst into flames as I twist over to pick up the pencils. To my growing mortification, he also squats down and starts to help me.

“Got a case of the butter fingers?”

His voice is a deep, smooth rumble that vibrates across the quiet room. He’s got the kind of voice that reminds me of whiskey being poured into a lowball glass in a smoky bar. It’s a husky cross between Johnny Cash and Josh Turner, a hint of a southern accent peeking through.

“A case of the what?” I groan inwardly. Real nice, CJ. A handsome guy appears and I can’t even form a smart ass retort. I’m slipping a little bit.

“The butter fingers. You know, when someone can’t keep a hold on something.” He stands up, finished with picking up the pencils, and starts to set them gently on the table before thinking of something and walking away.

Did a guy really just steal my shit? I need those to finish what I’m doing. It’s not like I can run after him. Well, I could. It might just take me awhile to hop.

Now that he’s walked away, I can feel my face slowly return to its normal color. I’m such a fucking idiot. He caught me off guard, my face was redder than a stop sign, and now he disappeared with my shit. Fucking great. I’ve got half a mind to track him down and ram into him with my wheelchair.

Just when I consider actually hunting him down, he reappears and strides towards me, setting down two coffee mugs on the table. One containing all of the pencils tip up, and another holding actual coffee. All of my anger magically melts away. Bless this beautiful man.

“I figured because everything seems to roll away from you, I’d make it more stationary. No pun intended.” Looming over me, I realize this man is a damn giant. The flannel makes him look like the Green Giant.

I pick up the Campbell’s Chicken Noodle mug and take a sip of the coffee. It tastes absolutely wonderful.

“Ahhh. Handicap puns. That might qualify you a place in Hell, but I’ve always appreciated a dark sense of humor.”

His lips pull into a wry smile before settling back down to the corners of his mouth.

“What do you call a nun in a wheelchair?”

“Too easy. Virgin mobile.”

This time he grins, his smile lighting up the dark corner of the room. I can feel my cheeks turn up as I smile myself. I hadn’t exactly expected to be having a conversation like this today (or any other day really), or be cracking lousy black humor jokes in a public library, especially disabled jokes.

He leans against the table and glances at my sketch pad for the first time. I follow his eyes as the scan over the design and come to rest on my face.

“Where’d you learn to draw like that?” I can see the curiosity in his eyes as they flicker over to the sketch again.

“Self taught. I don’t know if using YouTube channels is cheating, but no one physically instructed me.”

“Not a lot of people have that kind of talent. Are you famous yet, or still undiscovered?”

“I don’t usually do work like this. I’m helping out my friend with a tattoo idea. Sometimes when he’s challenged by a client, he likes to see my interpretation of a piece and work from there. He’s never copied any of my work. He just draws inspiration from it, I guess. I’m actually an accountant.”

The green giant smiles and slowly picks up the sketch. He looks from the paper back to me quietly. “I think you’re in the wrong field.”

“What field should I be in?”

“One that involves artwork and not numbers, obviously. By the way, I’m Tucker. Tucker Boone.”

“Nice to meet you. My name’s CJ Rivers.” I end up giving him a fake last name. I really don’t know why. I’ve never seen Tucker hanging out in town, but I guess that doesn’t mean I want him knowing all about me. People have an unfortunate tendency of talking and remembering what they hear.

“Really? CJ? That’s a cool name. I don’t think I’ve ever met a woman go by the name CJ. It’s kinda unique.” Tucker sets the paper down beside the coffee mugs and crosses his arms, muscles straining underneath the flannel. If I had to guess, I’d assume he was a farm boy.

“Yeah, I get that a lot. Everyone thinks I’m a guy. They don’t quite expect a 5’2” redhead woman with one leg. ” I glance down at my phone and see that it’s already almost three o’clock.

“Shit. I’m sorry Tucker. I hate to run out on you like this, but I’ve gotta go. I’m supposed to meet my mother for coffee at 3:30, and if I don’t leave right now, I’m unfortunately gonna be late.” After hurriedly jamming everything into my backpack, I take the hair tie out of my hair before looping it around the charcoal pencils and stuffing them in a front pocket.

Tucker wears a small smile and steps back from the table, giving me enough room to maneuver around him. Which is appreciated, because I almost run over his toes as it is. There’s never a whole lot of room in between the aisles.

“That’s alright. Have a good time. Maybe I’ll see you around.” We’re almost at the front door, and he reaches out to hold it open for me.

“Thank you. You might. I come into town every once in a while. I can’t stand being at home all the time.” I turn my head just in time to see him grin at my horrible pun before I continue out the door and into the parking lot, where it’s pouring rain again.

Submitted: June 27, 2018

© Copyright 2023 A. R. Currson. All rights reserved.


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