Tommy lay in the hospital bed feeling sorry for himself. His mother sat beside him, endlessly crocheting. The smells of the hospital assaulted his nose and he just wanted out of there.
Clenching the sheets, he glared up at the ceiling and seethed.
Why did this have to happen to him? Why did he have to play with those matches and burn his legs? Why did he have to have so many surgeries?
These questions and more went round and round in his head. Life was unfair. It was unfair that the other kids taunted and teased him. It was unfair that he was in pain all the time.
He had been in and out of the hospital for several years now, for surgeries and infections. Now, the skin had grown to his shinbones and needed separation.
Mom seemed to be oblivious. Always crocheting and chatting with the nurses. She made him ride the tricycle to stretch his legs and keep the tendons from drawing up. It hurt to ride that thing. She made him ride it all the time. If he wanted to go somewhere, he had to get himself on the trike and pedal to it. So unfair. Didn’t she see how much it hurt?
Tommy jerked out of his thoughts when another patient’s bed wheeled into the room. Another burn victim.
Tommy turned his face away. So what?
Mom started talking to the woman that was with the boy. Tommy found he was listening in spite of his determination to ignore every body.
Tommy learned that the little boy’s name was Ricky. The lady with him was his Aunt May.
“Poor little thing,” Aunt May said in hushed tones. “The water heater in the house exploded. Burned Ricky, and his younger sister, Jenny. Killed his mother and father, my brother.”
Mom murmured her sympathies.
“I’ve been with him through all of his surgeries.” Aunt May continued. “You know, the doctors had to cut off his hands, they were burned so badly. They did some kind of surgery and made a ‘v’ shape so that he can eventually grip things.”
Tommy risked a peek and wondered what that looked like.
“Ricky’s face is completely gone.” Shifting in her seat, Aunt May could not seem to stop talking. Tommy wished she would be quiet. “They cut him slits for eyes and a mouth, but the rest is just gone. Poor thing.”
Mom again murmured sympathies and started her own litany.
“My boy, Tommy, was playing with matches at his father’s service station. They had a bucket of oil and diesel that they used to clean car parts with and Tommy dropped the match in the bucket. He tried to be like Smokey the Bear and stomp it out. Burned both legs pretty bad. Doctors said he wouldn’t be able to walk again, but I knew different!” Mom went on to tell Aunt May how she made him use the tricycle.
Tommy seethed some more. It was bad enough she made him endure that, but did she have to tell the whole world? He closed his eyes and pretended to sleep.
The next thing he knew, the room had darkened and Mom and Aunt May had left. The security guard usually came in the evening and escorted her to her apartment.
What had woken him up?
There it was again! A soft cry, barely heard above a whisper. Ricky was crying for his mother and father.
A hard lump formed in Tommy’s throat. He thought he had it so bad. Tommy still had his mother and father. He still had a face, his hands. At least he still had his legs, no matter how scarred!
The little boy’s cries became louder, this time calling for the nurse. Tommy waited and waited, and no one came to help him.
Tommy climbed out of bed and asked Ricky if he could do something to help.
“I’m thirsty.” Ricky whispered hoarsely. Tommy held the cup of water close to Ricky and put the straw in his mouth. Ricky sipped until he was satisfied. “Thank you.” He said softly.
Tommy returned to bed, filled with churning emotions. His outlook on life had taken a serious turn. It was no longer a game, and life was cheating him. Now, it was different somehow.
Note: Some names changed, otherwise, true story.
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