Julie was generous to a fault. She was forever helping out others, usually working with her church’s Friend-In-Need Committee. Her confinement in a wheelchair didn’t stop her; after all, the church had a wheelchair ramp which Julie herself had paid for.
Julie had only one leg and one arm. “It makes me appreciate how useful a hand is,” said Julie. “I used to take things like that for granted. Not so any more.”
Ironically the loss of her two limbs had resulted from the very generosity for which she was renowned. Someone had said in a church committee meeting that Julie would give an arm and a leg to help out, and she did. Generous to a fault indeed!
And now a new emergency had cropped up. Julie was there to help instantly. “Did they want a hand?”
The advertisement in the paper said “Traditional log cabin in the mountains”. I had visions of a log cabin with a productive vegetable garden and a cow. All I need do was ride on a horse to town every six months to get spices for pickle-making. It wasn’t quite like that.
The house, well most of it, was logs. It was on the corner of a not very busy road in a hilly area. It had a terrific-sized veranda and spacious grounds. It was next to a creek, and apart from a couple of houses within view it was set in forest and farmland.
So much was new to me coming from little New Zealand! Snakes and turtles and groundhogs and salamanders and skunks and racoons and squirrels and woodpeckers and bats and hummingbirds and… New Zealand didn’t have any of that. We had sheep and cows with a few native birds nearing extinction. I revelled in it! At least I did until the family of groundhogs I had encouraged decimated my vegetable garden overnight. I was busy purchasing anti-groundhog things from the garden centre when an old man told me he’d dealt with groundhogs in his garden for seventy years, and this is what you do. I did it, and the groundhogs moved house!
Eric made a nesting box for the bluebirds, and I fed the hummingbirds.
We had apple trees that produced apples by the thousands. I made apple sauce and apple pies and quite frankly anything with apples. A bale of turtles set up their living quarters under the apple trees for the duration of the season. A large snake (I don’t know what sort but it was fat and long) would bask in the sun on the ledge of the garden shed. A woodpecker that we called Charlie was profoundly attracted to our tin chimney and would wake us early each morning. Rata-tat-tat-tat. Rata-tat-tat-tat. The only drawback was a family of Harley-Davidsons living nearby. I don’t know why Harley-Davidson has never heard of mufflers. The creek next to the house had whistling frogs and you knew when they began their evening whistling that it was time perhaps for a pre-dinner glass of wine.
Just up the road a family from Florida was building a two-story log house. Janice and Ted had three children, and young Jed was wheel-chair bound and had been so all his fourteen years. He had a wish: to mow a lawn (what fourteen-year old doesn’t?) A lawn-mower manufacturing company donated a specially designed mower that he could pull behind his wheel-chair. It arrived! Dad Ted set it up. Down Jed came to mow our lawn! We were the first clients for “Jed’s Earth-Friendly Lawn Care”. We gave him a cap with his logo embroidered on the front. And we gave him an envelope with his first pay. I don’t want to shock you as we were shocked, but there’s no way around it; the next day Jed died. It was profoundly sad.
Janice and Ted remained our good friends for a few years, but over time distance can cause people to drift away.
I had never liked dogs much. Growing up on a farm with sheep dogs we were encouraged not to view them as pets. I had never had a pet dog and regarded those who had them as a bit silly. At the log cabin we had a visitor; a large long-haired dark brown-black dog that looked like a cross between a collie and a chow-chow. It learnt to take the lids off our trash cans at night and would scatter rubbish over our lawn in search of food. The mailman told me where the dog lived. He said the owners tied it up and would beat it. Nonetheless, I took the dog back to its owners. I didn’t see the dog for three weeks.
Then one day it was pouring with rain. I was on the veranda. Coming up the road was the dog. He was drenched. He saw me and began to run. He dashed up the veranda steps and all seventy pounds of saturated canine leapt into my arms. He was covered in welts and flea nests and gorged blood-sucking ticks. He never left again, and since we did not know his name we called him Doggie. I started to love my first pet dog! He was the most intelligent dog in the world! And the best looking!
Once again we had the opportunity to own our own home. Our log cabin adventure was to end. It was a time filled with happy and sad memories. But our new place was to be not far away. You know you haven’t moved far away when you still buy groceries from the same store!
Beryl was excited. She had won a scholarship to a prestigious university. “All my hard work paid off,” said Beryl. “This is unbelievably exciting! Thank you!” “Oh no,” said the university. “You got the scholarship because you are Black.”
Earle was excited. He had won a scholarship to a prestigious university. “All my hard work paid off,” said Earl. “This is unbelievably exciting! Thank you!” “Oh no,” said the university. “You got the scholarship because you are in a wheelchair.”
Fay was excited. Fay had won a scholarship to a prestigious university. “All my hard work paid off,” said Fay. “This is unbelievably exciting! Thank you!” “Oh no,” said the university. “You got the scholarship because you are transgender.”
Craig was excited. He had won a scholarship to a prestigious university. “All my hard work paid off,” said Craig. “This is unbelievably exciting! Thank you!” “Oh no,” said the university. “You got the scholarship because you are White. We had to show we weren’t biased.”
(Footnote: Unlike the scholarship recipients in the story above I have had the thrill of having won first place in Chel Owens’ A Mused Poetry Contest. It’s well worth a look at this contest if you don’t already follow it. And it’s fun, free, and easy to enter! You should think about giving it a go!)
The murder had been a long time in coming, but it was well worth the wait. Dale’s third wife, Damaris, had tragically drowned. One minute she was sitting in a wheelchair in the sunshine reading Margaret Mitchell’s novel Gone with the Wind and the next minute she herself was gone – floating dead in the garden goldfish pond, wheelchair and all.
Husband Dale was distraught. “I never knew wheelchairs could float,” he gasped at the policeman. People in morning sometimes say the silliest things. Later he added something about “fortunately she didn’t get the book wet.”
It must be stated clearly from the beginning that Damaris didn’t need to sit in the wheelchair. She was perfectly well in all respects. Her visiting sister, Brierley, was using the chair because she had sprained an ankle while messing around with Dale in the garden. Brierley had gone inside the house “to have a rest and put her foot up” and Damaris was sitting in the wheelchair because it was convenient and she liked to watch the fish. Suddenly the unbraked wheelchair went whizzing into the goldfish pond, and although Damaris was a reasonable swimmer she couldn’t untangle herself from the chair.
The deed was done! It was a tragic accident. As soon as they can dry the wheelchair Brierley will be making a fast entrance down the aisle of the nearest church. Let’s hope Dale doesn’t try any funny business with his latest wife. After all, Brierley has secret, perhaps handy, photographs of Dale holding Damaris under water.
It was almost impossible to imagine. Stella was in shock. She never dreamt it could or would happen to her, but it had. She didn’t believe it. Would she ever get used to it?
For fourteen years Stella had got around in a wheelchair. Fourteen years ago they had amputated her left leg below the knee. She had asked again and again for an artificial leg. Too expensive. No insurance. And so the wheelchair became her sole means of travel. Once in a while, with the aid of a crutch she would stand on one leg. But taking a walk was out of the question as Stella found it too tiring. Her upper body was too weak.
And then the impossible happened. Who could ever have guessed? This is happening to me, muttered Stella. Happening to me?
Yes, it was true. This was no rich benefactor making a generous appearance. This was no sudden successful raffle drawn for a prosthetic leg. It was less spectacular than that, but shocking nonetheless. The doctor told Stella they were going to amputate the other leg.