Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Volunteer (11/23/06)
TITLE: The Idealistic Radicals
By Marlene Bonney
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One student was crippled, with short, folded-up legs, riding.
The other was of average height, in silent penny-loafers, pushing.
Up the ramps to the third level they proceeded in awkward silence, one disabled and dark-skinned and one healthy and fair-skinned, thrown together five minutes a day five days a week.
And the only sound was the rubbing of the wheels along the floor tiles of the school hallways . . .
One was very pretty, but unrecognized by her classmates, having double strikes against her—a Negro in a mostly all-white junior high school and physically handicapped, as well. The other, with less than average looks, was invisible to most of the student body—a plump, studious, goodie-two-shoes who wore thick glasses and was not of the “in crowd”.
The two misfits, therefore, shared the common bond of intolerance. Both too shy and embarrassed to speak of much beyond the mundane, they were, nonetheless, acutely aware of each other and sensitive to the pain each was dealt by the other pupils around them when they were not together.
And the only sound was the rubbing of the wheels along the floor tiles . . .
Wanda, the maimed youth, often wondered why her escort had volunteered to transport her, imagining that she must receive more than her share of taunting and sneering without being saddled with an outcast. Marilyn, the able-bodied youth, pondered the cruelty dealt to her “friend” by the popular crowd, just because of her race and handicaps. They never spoke of these things, but poignantly felt them, nonetheless, and became quiet comrades, enjoying the empty halls because of their safety without peer pressures and scornful sneers.
And the only sound was the rubbing of the wheels . . .
Once in the classroom, Marilyn tried not to look at Wendy’s lap-less body as books and assignments were arranged from weak arms to the table especially accessible for the wheelchair while Wendy avoided staring at Marilyn’s thick lenses as she crouched down to set the wheelchair brakes, both perceptively aware of the other’s deficiencies.
In truth, Marilyn wanted to, in some small way, object to unfair treatment of “the underdog” and thus provide an example to others of unconditional acceptance of all, regardless of appearance or race. She wanted to show Wanda that she did not share the opinions of the majority and she was hoping that by volunteering to help Wanda to class was a step in that direction. Wanda, in turn, even though dependent on others for her existence, desired to uplift and encourage Marilyn in spite of her unattractiveness and hoped to achieve this goal by grateful smiles, praising her to others and by helping her get to class early without harassment.
But the only sound was . . .
And, both daydreamed about a future world where differences would be adopted instead of rejected and where fear and prejudice would be erased.
And the only sound was the rubbing of the wheels along the floor tiles of the school hallways five minutes a day five days a week . . .
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