|The Sunshine Boy
Richard L. Provencher
2003 by Richard L. Provencher
Most little boys are able to play baseball. Not Bradley, whose blond hair keeps blowing in the wind.
Some little boys can play hockey. Not Bradley. He's happy just to get out of the house.
Other boys get to play tennis at Victoria Park, in Truro. Not Bradley. But, his smile is wide as the sky.
He watches from his wheelchair. And mom stands proudly by his side.
Right now, both are excited. Walker's Hardware, are playing their first Mosquito League baseball game.
"Hey ump," his mom shouts. "That was a strike!" She needs a loud voice. Mom has to yell for both of them.
Bradley is not able to yell. Nor even talk. It happened last year after that car accident. If he tries hard, he can roll his eyes. Sometimes, if he tries even harder, he can make a sound.
But he can always smile. In fact, he has the largest smile around.
He's unable to walk, either. Thank goodness for his neat wheelchair. Mom had it painted red two weeks ago. Now she wants everyone to see his new wheels.
At first, his friends pushed him around. "Hey, it's my turn. No, mine," they used to shout. Now, they hardly come to visit anymore.
"They must be busy," mom says.
First thing this morning, Bradley put on his sunshine smile. "Just in case mom is sad today," he thought. After she dressed Bradley, he opened his mouth wider than the ocean.
He was able to show all his front teeth.
The doctors said he would never walk again. That was okay, the little boy thought. He could still smile.
He could not raise his arms either. That was okay, too. It didn't matter if his hair got messed up in the wind. He knew he would need special help for a long time.
Some people said all Bradley could do was smile. That was a neat compliment.
But Bradley was also very smart. They did not realize he understood everything that was said.
After the baseball game Bradley and mom had a picnic. The aroma of newly cut grass was pleasant. Mom pushed her son through the park. They headed past the park monument.
Then they crossed the wooden bridge and rested in the shade.
He loved being beside the tall Norway maple tree. Watching crows skip across the sky was fun. Sometimes a bushy-tailed red squirrel visited. Sometimes it was one or two noisy Blue Jays.
If only I could grow wings, the boy wished. Then I would flap...flap all the way over those trees.
His mom pushed him into a sunny spot. The wind tickled his face.
She could tell he was happy. He turned his face towards the children's playground. Bradley's eyes rolled from side to side like ball bearings.
He didn't want to miss anything.
Children yelled and screamed in their games. One day Bradley knew he too would climb those exercise bars.
And mom won't have to push me anymore, he thought. My arms are going to be strong enough to wrestle alligators.
Bradley sat back, smiling at the blue sky. Once a monarch butterfly landed on his nose. He remembered mom's smile when she watched him.
Now it was time to go. In his head, words formed. "Bye trees. Bye, Park and birds. You too flowers and grass."
It wasn't very far to the car.
Then home to supper. And not long after, into pajamas. He watched for any falling stars. Last night he saw two.
At bedtime, Bradley listened to mom's voice. She was a great story- teller. Her words were soothing. Words rippled like the stream at Victoria Park.
Mom's voice rose like thunder. Then dipped and crackled like lightning. She played all the parts just right. Tonight, it's a story about a boy in a canoe. He's afraid of the storm on the lake.
It reminds the boy about being in his wheelchair.
Bradley's heart hammers with excitement. He squeezes his eyes tightly. He can almost feel the storm in the story. It has such black clouds.
They're not white and fluffy like those in the park.
Will the boy tip into the water? Bradley wonders. Will he drown? He doesn't want to think about that. And the story comes to an end.
Mom's story-raindrops fall on his chin. He knows they are her tears.
"The boy gets safely to shore," mom says. She leans toward her son. Bradley feels her breath on his face. She whispers, "I love you."
He closes his eyes. And smiles.
"Do you love me too?" she asks.
Now it's his turn to do something. He wants to try something special. Just for mom. He struggles to stretch from within.
Air rises like a bubble from Bradley's stomach. It moves through his throat. Then prepares to leap from his lips.
He opens his mouth. And slowly lets the sound out.
"ARRRG!" means, "Yes."
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