Authors: Matt Christopher
To my great-grandson
Blake McKinley Howell
Copyright © 2000 by Catherine M. Christopher
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First eBook Edition: December 2009
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had the same dream last night,” said Seth Pender. He smiled, thinking about it.
Seated in an armchair a few feet away, Brian Murtaugh nodded. “Want to tell me how the dream went?”
Seth's smile went out as if he'd flicked a switch, and he scowled instead. “What for?”
“I don't know …, ” Brian replied. He was a tall man with reddish hair that he was always running his hands through. “How about
just as a favor to me? Humor me, okay?”
With a sigh, Seth said, “It doesn't do any good, and, anyway, it's the same as all the other times. But all right. In the
dream I'm playing basketball, and I'm really
. I mean, I'm playing tough D, driving for lay-ups, making twenty-foot jump shots, running
down the court leading a fast break … everything. It's like I can't do anything wrong.”
He smiled again but the smile faded quickly. “Then I wake up. End of dream.”
Brian prodded. “You wake up, and … ?”
“What do you
?” Seth mumbled. “I see my legs, just lying there, like sticks. I remember the car accident, and I know never play basketball
again, or run again, or walk again. I know I'm trapped in this wheelchair for the rest of my life. End of the dream. End of
all my dreams.” Seth angrily slapped a hand on the arm of the chair and turned his face away to hide the tears that filled
Seth was twelve years old. The accident that had cost him the use of his legs had happened several months earlier. Alarmed
by his depression, Seth's parents had brought him to a therapist, in hopes that the man might help him deal with what had
happened. Seth had been seeing Brian ever since.
But Seth's attitude hadn't changed yet. He was often sullen and angry, and he didn't like to talk to people much, even his
“So, you think your life is over?” Brian leaned forward in his chair, looking seriously at Seth.
Seth looked disgusted. “No, I ‘don't think my life is over,’” he sneered. “Only the
Brian sighed. “Seth, I know you find this hard to believe right now, but you have to have patience. Your mind needs time to
heal, and once it does, you'll see that your life can be full and happy. In lime —”
Seth's laugh had no humor in it. “Yeah, right. ‘In time’ I'll be just fine.” He looked up at the therapist, hands clenched
tight on the arms of his chair. “It's easy for
to talk. You don't get it. Nobody gets it. Why don't you just leave me alone? Why doesn't everyone
leave me alone
“How did it go with Brian, today?” asked Mrs. Pender as she drove her son home from the therapist's office.
Slumped in the passenger seat, Seth muttered, “Same as always. ‘I need to be patient. Someday everything will be wonderful
again.’ Blah, blah, blah.”
He refused to say anything more until they got home. Mrs. Pender unfolded Seth's chair and offered to help him out of the
car. Seth shook off her hand, hoisted himself into the chair, and wheeled
himself inside. Once in the house, he headed straight for his room, slamming the door behind him.
He sat there for a moment, breathing hard, feeling angry and sick and unhappy, trying not to cry. He looked around, noticing
the posters of his favorite basketball stars, which were scattered on the walls. Suddenly, they seemed to be a bad joke. It
was as if they were saying, “See us, Seth? You'll
be able to do what we're doing!”
In a rage, he started ripping them down. Once he'd pulled down all that he could reach, he pushed himself out of the chair
and onto his bed. He lay there, wishing that he could stay in bed forever and never have to face the world again. Nobody understood
what he was going through, not his parents, not his friends, and certainly not that guy Brian, who kept saying that he needed
patience, he had to give it time …
.… Well, he had lots of that.
The time when he used to play sports, especially basketball. He closed his eyes and tried not to think at all.
There was a light knock on the door. He didn't say anything.
“Seth?” His mother's voice sounded timid. “Honey? Are you all right?”
“Oh yeah, I'm just fine,” he said, not moving. “Leave me alone.”
“Honey, Lou is here. Can he come in?”
Lou Aaron had been Seth's closest friend for years. But that was
Mrs. Pender opened the door. “Honey? Why not talk to Lou? He's been coming over every day, but you won't see him.”
Seth stared at the ceiling. “Then he should take the hint and stay away.”
“Hey, Seth!” Lou came into the room. “Listen, can we just talk a little? Aren't I still your friend? I was hoping you could
come over tonight and we could watch some videos, maybe rent a movie —”
“Forget it.” Seth refused to look at Lou. “Don't slam the door on your way out.”
“Come on, Seth, the guys still want to be your friends. Give us a chance, huh?” Lou waited for an answer, but there was only
silence from the bed.
“Well…” Lou shrugged. “Listen, if you want to come over, just give me a call. All right?”
Lou glanced at Mrs. Pender, shook his head, and slowly walked out of the room.
“Seth,” she said, “I just wish you'd… “ She stopped. “Dinner will be ready in half an hour. Is there anything you need?”
“Just close the door, Mom.”
Sighing, Mrs. Pender dosed the door.
At the dinner table, Mr. and Mrs. Pender looked at Seth's plate, where the food lay almost untouched. They exchanged a troubled
“Aren't you going to eat, son?” asked Mr. Pender. “Fried chicken is your favorite.”
“And there's strawberry shortcake for dessert,” Seth's mother added. When Seth neither spoke nor ate, she went on.
“You need to eat, honey. You'll make yourself sick if you don't —”
Seth laughed, but not happily. “Yeah, right, I don't want to ruin my health. Got to keep myself in tip-top shape.”
Seth's sister, Phyllis, sixteen, slapped her fork down hard. “We know how rough this is for you, bro, but we're all on your
side. We're trying to help.
Don't you get it? Why are you taking it out on us? It isn't our fault that you …”
She stopped, looking awkward.
Seth glared at her. “You ‘know how rough this is'?” he mimicked. “
you do!” He laughed harshly. “Were you born dumb or did you get that way later?”
Mrs. Pender gasped. “
He ignored her. “And if I ask for your help, then okay. But I haven't asked, and I'm not asking. But still, you get in my
face when I want to be left alone!”
Phyllis's face grew red. She got up quickly and almost ran from the room.
” Mrs. Pender was furious. “Shame on you! We're your family, and you have no right to behave like this!”
“Is that right?” Seth wheeled himself away from the table. “I tell . you what, why don't you ground me? That'll serve me right.”
He turned away, but stopped and looked back at his parents. “I'll skip the strawberry shortcake, too.”
He rolled out of the room.
fter he had been really mean to his family, Seth always felt awful the next day. The following day was one of those days.
That morning, he had wanted to apologize to everyone, but Phyllis and Mr. Pender had left very early, so he had only been
able to speak to his mother.
“Sorry about last night, Mom,” he had said. “I wish I could keep myself from doing that, but … I don't know … it just comes
out and I can't stop it.”
Mrs. Pender looked very tired, but she smiled and ran her hand through Seth's hair.
“I know,” she said. “You're going through a very hard time right now. But we're sure that things won't stay this way, that
you'll work it all out. Honey, we have to give it
. That's what Brian and your physical therapist say, and that's what we believe.”
Seth shook his head. “I wish I could believe it. I mean, I guess I know that I won't always be as angry as I am, but … I just
can't believe I'm ever going to be happy again.”
Mrs. Pender kneeled in front of her son and put her hands over his on the chair arms. She looked into his eyes. “You
, dear. Dad and Phyllis and I — we all know it. You will.”
“Mom, can we please not talk about it?”
His mother nodded and turned away. Seth knew she was crying, which made him feel even worse.
Later at school, Seth saw Lou in the hall and in a couple of classes. He thought about going over to speak to him, but he
couldn't bring himself to do it — he didn't know what to say.
After classes, he headed toward the school library, where he figured he'd spend an hour doing homework. Mrs. Pender had arranged
to pick him up afterward.
He was going down the corridor past the gym when he heard a familiar sound that made him stop. Someone was in there, dribbling
and shooting a basketball. At first, Seth wasn't going to look, fearing that it would only depress him still more to see people
he no longer could. Then he decided that he couldn't feel worse than he did already, pushed open the doors, and stopped, amazed
by what he saw.
In the middle of the basketball court, a guy dribbled a ball, stopped short, and took a fifteen-foot shot that went in off
the glass. It was a good-looking shot.
And the shooter was in a wheelchair!
Seth stared in silence. The boy looked to be a few years older and had an awesome upper body, with a barrel chest and powerful
arms. He picked up the ball and dribbled with one hand, using the other to wheel the chair incredibly fast toward the other
end of the court. He stopped abruptly, pivoted the chair so he faced the basket, and took an even longer shot. This one dropped,
too, barely moving the net.
Seth was astonished. How could the guy shoot like that sitting down? There was something weird about the chair, too. It looked
like the wheels were loose, because they tilted in toward the top.
Seth noticed that the ball was rolling right at him. He reached for it but couldn't pick it up. Instead he used his fingertips
to roll it back toward the other guy, who easily scooped it up one-handed.
“Thanks,” the boy said, smiling.
“I watched you shoot. You're good!”
The older boy shrugged. “Thanks, I was in a groove there, I guess. My name's Danny Detweiler.”
“Seth Pender.” Seth started to wheel his chair onto the polished hardwood of the court.
” Danny held up a hand. “Don't bring that chair out here!”
Baffled, Seth stopped. “What's the problem?”
“You'll mark the floor up.”
Seth pointed to Danny's chair. “Well,
on the court, and I don't see any marks.”
Danny nodded. “My chair is designed for sports, and it has special tires that won't leave skid marks on the wood. Your chair
“Well, it looks like your special wheels are about to fall off. They're loose.”
Danny grinned and shook his head. “They're meant to be like that. It's called ‘camber,’ and most sports chairs work that way,
especially basketball chairs. The wheels are slanted on purpose.”
“How come?” asked Seth. “For balance?”
“When you're playing a game, sometimes two chairs come together. Without the cambering, your hands could get mashed between
Seth nodded, only half listening to the explanation. Something else Danny had said was just sinking in. “Did you say your
chair is specially made for basketball?”
“Sure, wheelchair basketball. I've been playing a few years, and this year I'm starting league play. That's why I'm getting
in as much gym time as I can. I need to work to be ready.”
“Oh,” said Seth. “
basketball. I get you.”