A Bad Idea
Kelley McDaniel
After I had my right leg amputated from the knee down, my family decided it was time for a trip to Disneyworld. My mother tells us she was accepted into Harvard, but it is times like these I wonder.
I have been fitted with a plastic prosthetic, and took the liberty of livening it up with a Barbie-pink color of toenail polish. I'm still fairly inept at walking, so I have crutches and a wheelchair for the longer hauls. When I can walk like a human again, I will invest in the prosthetic leg fit for heels, and then I will take the world for my own—a plastic foot in stilettos that glitter and clack.
For now I am stuck with flat feet and what my physical therapist refers to as the "stumbly wumblies." As we stretch our way out of the white rental van and make our way from our handicap spot to the entrance, I jerk along without the use of crutches until my knee wobbles in its artificial joint and I dip forward. My mother hands me my crutches. There is a woman in a nurse's outfit to our right pushing an elderly lady with bunned-up hair and a shawl that is blindingly silver in the light. Mother notices the nurse noticing me and says, "She knows what's up."
I do not think I even know what's up, so it's a good thing my mother has this knowledge and also the knowledge of all others who are in on the knowledge.
It's warm outside, but my body squeezes out fluids from my pores in disproportion to the temperature.
"Remind me whose idea this was so I can beat them with my leg," I say.
"Don't worry, Sarah. This is going to be fun." My father grips my shoulder in a reassuring father-grasp. He says, "You're going to be fine," in the way that people say it who are worried that everything is not going to be fine.
I can think of many words besides "fine" to describe how I knew this trip was going to be. For months after my mother's initial declaration that this is where we should go, we battled. There was screaming and glass shattered against hard surfaces and words that can only be forgiven and never forgotten. But I got tired out, and adopted the attitude that I would go along if only to prove to them what a bad idea they had. I was grumpier still when my doctor agreed that a safe exposure and trip gone well this early in my recovery could keep me from a lifetime of fright and help me to enjoy the same things I always have. Exposure therapy. After all, Disneyworld isn't like your run-of-the-mill carnival. It's safe. I thought you've got to be kidding me and felt the burn of fright flood my eyes.
There is a woman waiting outside the gift shop with a wheelchair for me. It is cheap blue leather and makes me think of a pair of walking shoes after being worn every day for five years by a 300 pound person. It farts as I sink into it. My brother, older by a minute but none the wiser, is along for the trip and takes over the job of wheeling me along. We approach the gates and an air of uneasiness reaches us. There is whispering and looks of horror and women holding their hands to their mouths in gasps.
Sirens sound behind us and we turn around to witness an ambulance scream up to the entrance. The back doors are opened out, waiting. We turn back around to find the cause of the commotion. A girl barely younger than me, maybe 13 or 14, is being wheeled on a stretcher through the crowded gates towards the ambulance. Her legs are strapped down and her blood has saturated the cream blankets below her waist.
There is suddenly no sound. The world fades around me like trees in a snowstorm, and I plunge into an ice-bath of a reality already lived. I am leaning on the bar of the ferris-wheel cart. It gives. I am plummeting face down from far above the ground. It feels like the vertigo you sometimes get before you are asleep, when you fall for no reason back into a sharp awakeness with a jump forward and a thump of the heart, only there is no sleeping or waking up. I flail my arms out at my sides and in front of me. There is nothing I can do. I know that I am going to die. I crash into the inner network of red poles that blink in the night, feeling things crunch. My leg snags and I am left dangling, watching a crowd gather beneath me. I feel the blood begin pouring itself from my limbs to my head, where it pools and throbs and turns my face red and makes my eyes pop. Like a person freshly hanged, I swing slowly from my masticated limb.
Then I am back outside Disneyworld, feeling the hotness of the day and the clamminess of my skin on leather with the stench of wear. I shake my head, clearing away the fogginess left by my flashback, and roll myself over to the parents standing outside the ambulance. The woman heaves into the man's chest as the girl's stretcher is lifted into the back of the ambulance.
I remove my prosthetic leg. "Here," I say, griping the leg tightly and feeling the plastic frame beneath rubbery faux flesh. I hold it out to the couple. They stare down at me. "You might need it," I say. They say nothing with words, but their eyes question and accuse. "Don't worry," I go on. "I'm not too attached to it." I set it upright on the ground and roll off back towards the car.
I turn my head slightly. "Good call, Mom," I say.
Kelley McDaniel is an undergrad at Washington State University majoring in a mostly useless field and neglecting her assignments in order to focus on advancing her potential career as a writer. She has been published twice in the literary magazine LandEscapes.