Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Boy Who Couldn't Walk

“I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them.” — Spinoza

Kelby was 11 years old and couldn't walk.

I used to pick him up at his house and take him to and from school.

The other drivers who took him to and from school in years past told me he had been born like this and had a twin brother (twin or fraternal no one knew) who was still-born. I guess he was pretty lucky to survive himself.

Kelby wore braces for his legs, which kept them permanently stiff. He couldn't bend them and used a walker.

I'd put him in the back seat and fold his walker and put it in trunk. He'd lean against the back door and put his legs on the seat.

A few years ago I looked up Kelby on Facebook - he now appears to be in his late 20s - and he had written, "I can't walk."

He did have a lot of Facebook friends, many of whom were black women.

I have no idea if he has a job or lives on welfare. His parents lived in a small working-class house and I wonder if Kelby still lives there and will inherit it when his parents die.

Kelby was the weakest kid I have ever met in my life. Once when he was coming out of the school and heading toward my cab I said, "Come on, get a move on, Speed Racer," and he gave me a big grin and punched me in the stomach.

It was like being hit by a feather.

I once told a rowdy three-year-boy to punch me in the jaw. I never let him do it again. I estimate at three he was ten times stronger than Kelby.

Kelby had no friends at all. Once I was in the school waiting for him and he was talking to two boys. Kelby was basically begging them to come to his house to play, and they were both poker-faced and didn't answer him. I have never before or since since a kid beg like that. It was pitiful.

Once I picked up Kelby at home and he had a large knot on his forehead. I asked him what happened and he said he had rolled out of bed and hit his forehead on the wooden floor.

Once day I noticed Kelby was wearing a pentagram around his neck on a chain, underneath his shirt. I asked him what it meant and he told me, "I'm a pagan. We don't believe in God."

When I got him home I noticed for the first time the bundle on sticks on the front door - which I thought was some kind of decoration - was a pentagram.

I never said anything about it, it being none of my business. But I remember thinking, "What kind of parents raise a kid like that?"

I do remember that judging from the house, both his parents were working-class and didn't make much money. Let's just say they weren't any kind of intellectuals.

Kelby was actually a pretty smart kid and if he has a job it's got to be behind a desk. Did he go college? Does he have a car? A driver's license? Any friends, finally? Does he get around in a motorized wheelchair?

I only knew Kelby for about two months. One day after I took him home and was heading toward mine the tie-rod broke on my Chevy Caprice. By the time I got it fixed Kelby's ride had gone to another cab company and my company never got it back (this happened all the time, rides switching back and forth between companies).

I have no intention of ever contacting Kelby again. I'm sure he'd remember me but what exactly would I say?


LordSomber said...

This reminds me of unsuccessful attempts to connect with the severely disadvantaged, as much as one may try.


TroperA said...

Kelby sounds like he had a tough road. That and it sounds like his parents were total nutters. At least if he had belonged to a "proper" church, he might have had a community of people who could have helped/visited him. You should write to him and tell him to go join one.