– Nonfiction by Jonathan Saucedo –
Honourable Mention in the 2021 Dreamers Flash Fiction & Nonfiction Contest.
There once was a boy named Max. Not just an ordinary boy, but a boy who could fly. If you didn’t look carefully, you would miss him. He wasn’t invisibile. He was just silent. You and I may be able to speak, but Max had a magical computer with a large keyboard on his screen that would light up green, yellow, and red when it was turned on. Some called it mystical. When Max aimed the little sticker he wore on his forehead at the letters on the screen, they would light up like runway lights that you could follow or listen to in the British accent he used. But you must give him time to speak or risk missing the magic.
“What did you do this weekend?”
“fleeew a p l a n e”
“Really? You’re only 17. Tell me more.”
If you saw Max, you might think he lived in his motorized wheelchair which was bigger than the 90 lb boy sitting in it with a mop of brown hair, ghost white skin and long, thin fingers that he could not use. But his smile was brighter than all of the colors put together. He had friends, if you count friends on social media or students in the hallway that smile but never visit as real friends. They all said, “we’ll see you later, Max. Let’s hang out this weekend.” He would smile, knowing he would spend the weekend watching TV with his brother or playing video games with his forehead for hours. Green. Yellow. Red. Jonathan was Max’s assistant during the school day–driving his wheelchair from class to class until one day his parents asked Jonathan over for dinner with a very important question: would Jonathan be willing to be Max’s caregiver on Saturday’s? He said yes. Green. From that day forward, each Saturday Jonathan would wake up early in the morning and drive over to Max’s house where no one visited to take care of the boy in the wheelchair with a mop of brown hair and ghost white skin and bony fingers he would never use. The first time Jonathan saw the empty wheelchair, he thought it looked lonely without its inhabitant who lay in bed looking over at Jonathan, waiting…
“Hey buttface. Should we grab some Oreo pancakes at Blueberry Hill before hitting the mall?”
“ahhhh aaaahaa.” This means yes if you take the time to get to know his world. And Max would smile, letting the sun tip-toe into his bedroom as Jonathan opened his window. Bright Blue. It was not easy to take care of Max; there was a long routine that needed silent reciting every Saturday.
I pull aside his blanket and take a baby wipe for his skin. It’s so dry. I’ll ask if he’s allergic to moisturizer. I make small talk until we can get his voice up and running after personal care. Green, yellow, red, blue. I wipe his legs. They’re so thin, never having had muscle. Softly wipe them. He attempts to lift his foot to help me.
I wipe his feet. Just because he won’t be walking doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be tended to. Wipe them thoroughly. I take a towel to dry them. When I remove his underwear I make a point to keep talking and look him in the eye as I tend to more personal areas already having pulled clothes from his closet for his approval, trying to give him his dignity. Green, yellow, red, blue, orange. I put on his underwear swiftly, followed by socks and shorts and shirt. He’s so small in bed. I cradle his head with my left hand and raise his back with my right until he is sitting up. Removing my right hand from his back, I side sweep his legs off the bed, cupping under his kneecaps, bend my knees and lift his 90 lbs off the bed, pivot, set him in his chair.
“Did I do that right? Was that okay?”
He nods yes. Those eyes, so blue, catch me. For a moment, I wonder if he was thinking of flying.
And sometimes the helper gets sick, too. It was not easy to take care of Jonathan. There was a long routine his mom silently recited as Jonathan sat there. Blue returns to red flashing sirens and gray winding stretches as we go back to the beginning. His mom comes into the bathroom in the home where friends no longer visited for wine and cheese parties on Friday since he got sick. Now, he sits in his wheelchair waiting for sunshine and some Oreo pancakes. He sits on his bench seat in the shower stall recently outfitted with grab bars beside the toilet. His voice almost gone, his mom turns off the shower, placing a towel over him, giving him his dignity and helps lift his legs over the lip of the stall. Those muscular legs got thin so quickly. He holds onto her, transferring from shower to toilet to be dried and dressed. Red. She would begin with underwear and slide them up his legs while he tried to rock back and forth to help.
Followed by swiping on his deodorant and pulling a shirt over his head, she was meticulous about taming that mop of jet black hair not yet tinged by gray to be picture perfect when she took him to the mall where Max would be waiting for him that morning. Smiling. Jonathan saw yellow yellow yellow bursting from the sky on the drive.
“whaahat d id you do this Wee k jonnn”
My fingers fluttered over the keys of my phone that now speaks for me. Not all stories have an ending.
“I flew a plane.”
Green, red, yellow, red, blue, orange, purple…green…blue!
About the Author – Jonathan Saucedo
Jonathan M. Saucedo is an actor and teacher in the Chicagoland area. He holds a BA in Theatre with a Secondary Education teaching certification from Loyola University Chicago. Currently, Jonathan is pursuing his MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University while continuing to freelance act and write. His writing has appeared in The Medium’s “Indelible Ink,” and his forthcoming one-act plays, “Firefly” and “Speed of Sanity” have been workshopped and performed with Echo Theater Collective’s Reverb Ensemble in Oak Park, Illinois. He continues to work with children with special needs while battling his own neurological illness to show his students that with hope, life is beautiful.
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