Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Personal Best

The blast took his right leg just below the knee.  He was eighteen yards from the finish line. 
Now, months later, he wheeled himself to the spot where he had fallen.  There was still a token police presence in the area, and advertisements for the federal tip hotline took up space on nearby bus kiosks.  The teddy bears and photos on the makeshift shrine were faded and dirty.  His prosthesis was brand new, plastic and nylon accented by stainless steel and glossy neoprene. 
They said he could run again, in time.  After the surgeries he was weak, and the prosthesis would need to be refitted as his atrophied quadriceps bulked back up.  He was in for at least a year of physical therapy.  He glanced at his watch and did the math. 
He kicked back the footrests on the chair.  Shakily, he pushed himself upright, settling his weight onto his right knee, feeling the pressure points where the doctors hadn't bothered to tune his leg.  Eighteen yards.
He took a step forward with his left foot.  Easy enough;  he'd done it a hundred times in the hospital.  And then with the right.  There was a scraping sound as the artificial foot touched the ground, coming a fraction of an instant before he felt it in his knee.  This was what he would need to get used to, they said.  For now he had to look where he was walking.  But he was standing.
He took another step.  And another.  There was definitely a pinch point on the right side of his knee.  Another step.  And another.
It was the prosthesis that crossed the finish line first.  He took one more step and was fully across.  He looked back at the chair, where she stood wiping away tears.  He looked down at his wrist, the stopwatch still running.  "Not my best time," he said.  He went to turn it off, and then hesitated.  He let it run.
And took another step.

 --Steve Kilian

The Ring of Fire



No comments:

Post a Comment