Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Jump In With Both Feet (11/28/19)
- TITLE: The Walk
By John Hunt
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“Just jump in with both feet?!” he said to the woman beside him. “Really?! Could you be more callous?”
Although one could discern the man’s name from the embroidered letters above his pocket – from the block text still bold after all those years, everyone knew him simply as “Sarge.”
Realizing she should have chosen her words more carefully, the therapist shrugged, embarrassingly. Then, as she placed her hands on her hips, she waited, half-expectantly, half-knowing he would push her away. “Well, Sarge?” she asked.
With a cold, steel glare, the man looked up, strands of dark hair hanging over his eyes. “I didn’t ask you to help me,” he said.
The woman huffed, then walked away. “I don’t have time for this,” she said, her voice trailing. “There’s a line of people here wanting to get better.”
From the corner of the room, Dana looked over at the man, her scrubs spotted with sweat and perspiration dripping from her hair. She over to his wheelchair, knelt beside him, and gently touched his arm. “I know you can do it, Sarge,” she said.
Turning his head from her, he looked away, his face unshaven and his clothes unkempt. “What do you know?” he asked. “You’re just an aid.”
Dana looked toward the window, pensively. She had a kind face, an angelic face, with deep blue eyes that seemed to see good in everything, even the most unlikely of circumstances. It was an optimism borne of adversity, from life’s winnowing fork, a sieve that sifted the chaff and left behind a refined, sweet grain. Tenderly, she looked at the man’s grizzled face. “When I get discouraged,” she said softly, “I remember a verse my daddy would say to me:
They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength,
They shall mount up with wings as eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk, and not faint.”
Sarge turned his head and studied the young woman’s features. From anyone else, he’d consider the comment pretentious, even contrived, and would have likely cursed in return. But sincerity seemed to flow from Dana’s lips, a veritable fountain of truth, as if she could read his mind and impart just the words he needed to hear. Gradually, his frown softened, as a look of determination burned in his eyes. Then, placing his hands on the arms of the wheelchair, he pushed his body up and out of the seat.
As his gruff frame stood erect, he shook, nearly uncontrollably, his legs gripped in pain and weakness from years of disuse. With a guttural shout he lunged, his hands slapping the parallel bars as his fingers gripped the wood grain. Grunting, he stepped, left leg first, then the other. Clink, kerchunk…clink, kerchunk. Slowly, he worked his way down the parallel bars, across the rubber tread, until he reached the end some ten feet away. Then, with a twist, he turned around and nearly fell, his elbow holding him as it hung over the side.
Dana started toward him. “Hold on,” she said.
“No!” he shouted between labored breaths. “I have to do this myself.”
Dana stopped and waited, watching as the frail, gruff man struggle to right himself. Then, as he stood once again, he made his way toward her, foot by foot, step by step, his legs retracing the narrow path. Finally, as he reached the end, he collapsed in his chair, his body weak and his muscles spent.
“Bet you thought I couldn’t do it,” he said as he gasped for air.
Dana smiled as tears welled in her eyes. “No,” she said, half-laughing, half-crying. “I knew you could do it.”
Sarge looked at the prosthesis below his knee, then turned and pointed at Dana. “Now, when are you gonna go to nursing school like you said?”
With a deep sigh, Dana rolled her eyes. “I dunno. It’s been so long since I’ve gone to school. I’m not sure I got what it takes.”
“What?! You’re a natural, kid,” Sarge reassured. “I know you can do it.”
Dana shrugged sheepishly. “I don’t even know where to start.”
Leaning back in his chair, Sarge replied with a wink, “That’s the easy part. Just jump in with both feet.”
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