Jun. 24th, 2011

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Author Note: I ask the reader to remember the time that this is taking place. This was way before the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed. People in wheelchairs weren't accommodated. They were expected to suck it up and deal with it.

Charles was starting to think this was not a good idea. Coming into town was now feeling like a really bad idea. A spectacularly bad idea. He really hadn’t thought it through.

First they had trouble finding parking that would allow Charles enough room to get into the wheelchair. Then there was the problem of getting into a restaurant itself. He hadn’t realized how many places he liked had steep steps either up or down. They finally settled on an Italian place that Charles had been going to for years. Charles remembered that there was really only a stoop to get over rather than stairs.

“Charles, what the hell happened?” asked Leon one of the owners and the bartender when they needed one as Alex wheeled him in.

Charles gave several thoughts a quick pass. And he settled on a version of the truth.

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and …” he said.

He stopped short as Lulu, Leon’s wife, came out of the kitchen with a tray of food, saw Charles in the chair and nearly dropped the tray. She composed herself quickly and said, “I’ll be right back. Don’t move.” She went into the dining room and passed the food off to the family waiting for it quickly. She checked on them and then came back into the bar area.

“What happened?” she asked pointing accusingly at the wheelchair. “No wait a minute. Let’s get you settled in and then you can tell us what you have been up to Mr. Professor.”

She pointed at Sean “You there. Give me a hand.”

Sean helped her pulled a table forward a bit from the window next to the bar area allowing Charles to move around to the back of it and then they slid the table back in. Except for his seat back, he looked like he was sitting in a chair. Alex and Sean sat on either side of Charles at the table.

“She likes to take charge” Sean said under his breath.

“Always has” said Charles with a bit of a laugh.

They shortly found themselves with a pitcher of beer for Alex and Charles and a pitcher of soda for Sean along with some killer garlic bread.

Charles took a deep sip of the ale and sighed. He almost felt normal. Except the looks people kept giving him. They were just glances but to a telepath they felt like stares. People wondering what happened to him and then there was that pity again. He stuffed his rage and frustration into the back of his head.

Lulu sat down with them and said “OK Charles what happened? And you know I know if you are lying.”

Charles knew that Lulu wasn’t a telepath but he did suspect that she was a bit of an empath so he knew his decision to keep it close to the truth was a good one.

“I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and got shot in the back” he said succinctly.

“So this isn’t temporary?” she asked waving vaguely at the chair.

“No. It seems rather permanent” said Charles. “I just got back from a rehab hospital today.”

“And let me guess, the food was horrible so you came here to have a good meal again” said Lulu with a laugh “Ok we’ll feed you well.”

Charles relaxed just a bit and finished up his pint of beer. Alex poured him another one and the three of them and Leon with Lulu occasionally chiming in had some good conversation and some great food. He felt almost normal again until he realized that he needed to relieve his bladder.

They pulled the table out and he wheeled himself to the small restroom towards the back of the bar area. First problem was that the door pulled out. Then once he was in there, there was no way for him to get from the chair to the toilet. The urinal wasn’t going to be of much use either. Mortified beyond belief but needing to piss like a race horse, he put his two left fingers to his temple, ‘Alex, I need you.’

‘?’ was the response but in a short time Alex managed to squeeze himself behind Charles’ chair. He quickly saw the problem. “What if I held you up so you could use the urinal or do you want me to see if I can get around to help you to the toliet? Man this space is really small.”

“I don’t think they have many wheelchairs in here” said Charles pushing down the rage that was building within him. It just wasn’t bloody fair. He couldn’t even go to out to eat without it becoming a series of problems he had to overcome. He was tired of having to overcome everything. “Let’s try it your way.”

Alex put his arms under Charles’ armpits and clasped his hands in front. He pulled Charles to his “feet” allowing Charles to do his business. They were almost done when someone else tried to come into the restroom but saw that there was no room and they backed out. Charles didn’t like the thoughts coming from their head and he found himself contemplating the idea of making them wet themselves. Alex pulled Charles’ wheelchair back out of the restroom and back to the table.

They resituated themselves and finished up the meal. Alex and Sean were arguing baseball. Charles just sat back and drank and seethed at the unfairness of it all. The food which had tasted so good now felt like ash in his mouth. All he could see was the people looking at the cripple. And the pity, the fucking pity which just rolled his direction just made him more angry.

But he put his game face on and was his usual witty and polite self. A number of the patrons were people he knew from the various businesses in town. He found himself repeating ‘shot in the back’ and ‘not much hope’ so many times. And if one more person said there is always hope, he was going to lose it.

Finally he had enough “Alex, Sean, I think it is time to get back home. Don’t you?”

Sean opened his mouth in protest but got a kick from Alex. Charles paid up their tab and they went back to the mansion. Alex wheeled Charles back to the study where Charles switched back to the chair that Hank made.

“Good night Alex” he said with a little mental push to get the boy out of the study.

He went to the sideboard and poured himself a scotch. ‘Probably not at good idea on top of the beer but I don’t care at this point.’ He found himself pouring another one in pretty short order. ‘Stop. This isn’t going to get you anywhere’ he thought to himself.

He wheeled himself out onto the patio and looked at the grounds bathed in moonlight. He loved walking out on nights like this. He took a deep breath and let it out again. He found himself standing next to himself in the chair. He looked at himself just sitting there. The scotch glass had fallen from his hand when he had projected himself. He imagined himself barefoot and ran across the lawn and wondered why he should ever go back to that useless husk of a body.

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