This kid Whatshisface hangs on the outside of our gathering group, angling his way in because him and JP were on the same baseball team last summer. JP doesn’t acknowledge Whatshisface so I don’t either. This kid sends out ping after ping to JP’s radar. Like, What gives, JP? We were teammates—we talked about girls and shared a laugh. Why are you ignoring me now? Just want to tell him, Sorry, man. If JP says you’re not in, you’re not in.
“You’re finally the shortest one,” JP says.
“Yeah.” For the first time, I don’t have to stoop over and hunch down to hear what they’re saying.
“What’s up, man? How do you feel?” Bryce asks.
“Beats rotting in the hospital. Can’t believe I was there for a whole frigging week.” I peer up at my friends and blink.
“How long are you in the chair?” Bryce asks.
“For the next few weeks, until I can get the side pins out,” I say, looking him in the eye as I answer his question. This is so bizarre. “Then I move on to crutches.” Truth be told, I don’t want to get rid of the chair anytime soon. So many times, people just throw words up at me. I wonder if since I’m smaller, maybe they’ll actually listen to what I have to say.
“You guys, Dylan is a total badass,” JP says, thumping my shoulder. Everyone in a twelve-block radius nods in agreement with him, and I eat it up. Can’t help it. I’m filled with toasty warm kittens right now.
“Yeah, well, it was me against the roof, and the roof won.”
“Liking the dome,” JP says, cupping his hand over my shorn skull. I hate this stupid buzz cut, but it feels like he’s anointing me in front of the whole school, and it feels good. Here is my first mate, my best man. Here is the one I choose to stand beside me. Or in this case, sit.
The bell rings and I wheel off to my locker.
JP walks with me. With me in the chair, I can’t bump his heels like I used to and he can’t back-kick me in the ass. But we’ll figure something out. “Don’t forget to use that thing for all it’s worth. It’s a pity magnet,” he says.
A scenario and device that spark sympathy from the female population? Golly, what desperate loser would stoop that low? Answer: Me. And how. “I’ll see what I can do.”
“Lucky bastard. Your house good after school?”
Ordinarily, yes. We play video games almost every day at my house until our eyes bleed, but today I can’t. Stupid therapy awaits. “Can’t,” I say. “Doctor’s appointment.”
His shoulders slump. “Cold shit on toast, Beast, because I just got this new controller. Maybe you heard about it? Like, only the most amazing one ever?”
“No way, nuh-uh, the Wormhole? You got a Wormhole?”
“Oh yes. Oh so very yes.”
“Are you serious?” That thing costs four hundred dollars and has a five-month wait because it has to get shipped over from Korea on a bed of angel-driven clouds. It is insane. It’s pulse sensitive and auto-responds in time with your heartbeat, so if you get all amped up and your heart beats fast, it will adjust precision time. I would fall off another roof to have one.
“And…I might’ve gotten you one too.”
“You’re shitting me.”
“It’s yours. But hey, you know Adam Michaels?”
“The senior? Yeah.”
“Next time you see him, remind him he owes me that thing, will you? He’ll know what you’re talking about.”
And I know exactly what JP is talking about. I bob my head, delirious with Wormhole dreams. “Yeah, yeah, sure. You got it.”
“Anyway, later.” JP claps me on the back and runs off toward his homeroom, bobbing away into the scrum.
Holy crap, the Wormhole. If I didn’t want to go to therapy before, I absolutely do not want to go now.
Mom, Mom, do it for Mom. One and done. Deal with epic bullshit today, play with new Wormhole until my corneas dissolve tomorrow.
I open my locker, only to have it clang into my cast. “Ow, ow, ow, ow…,” I mutter. That freaking hurts. I swivel the chair in another direction so I can actually spread the door wide; but then once it’s ajar, I can’t reach my books. They’re too high.
There is something humbling about being unable to do things for yourself because your body simply can’t. I briefly consider asking someone for help but immediately squash it down.
So I hitch myself up on my good leg and ignore the rush of pain as I stretch my arm high to get my books and cram them into my backpack. Hey, look at me coping and using skills to go on! I don’t need therapy this afternoon. Pretty pointless: I can do this by myself, but whatever. I’m only going for one day to make Mom happy, and that’s it.
I have all the time in the world to get wherever the hell I want. While everyone else races to beat the clock, I get an extra ten minutes to wheel my furry ass down the halls.