Milk of magnolia

March 19, 2010

The day was proof that rain is not a constant presence in the Pacific Northwest. The sun not only shone, it warmed Evan’s back and cast spinning shadows through the spokes of Danni’s wheelchair. They cruised down a street of older, well-kept homes and established gardens.

Photo by Pam Wells ©2010

“I know what you’ve been dying to ask,” Danni said.

Fear pulsed through Evan. “What?”

“Why I’m in this wheelie.”

Oh. The simple question. “I figured you’d tell me sooner or later,” he said.

She flashed a smile. “You are so casual. Anyway, I had an SCI.”

“What’s that?”

“Spinal cord injury. From a car wreck. I was the magical age of six.”

“Oh, that’s, well, I hope nobody else was hurt.”

“My mom died.”

Evan stopped. He had no words.

“Yeah. But, you know, I didn’t. I still have a pretty great dad, and my sister is also somewhat great for being thirteen.”

Evan realized they weren’t moving. He restarted his feet and pushed Danni forward. They were nearing a small tree with huge purple blossoms.

“You’re pretty great,” he mumbled.

“Louder,” she said.

“You’ve got a pretty great attitude,” he said, overcompensating.

Danni laughed and yelled back at him, “So do you. Anyway—” She paused; a grandmotherly woman and a young girl, eight or nine years old, were looking at them. “Anyway,” Danni said in a normal voice, “one of these days I expect to be neuroregenerated.”

“That sounds cool. So you can walk again?”

“And hop again. I used to do a lot of hopping. I can still do this—” and she demonstrated her hula arms. They were now close to the woman and her young charge, who was studying a purple bloom.

“What kind of tree is this?” the child asked.

“A tulip tree,” the woman said. “See, the flowers look like big tulips.”

Danni grabbed her wheels to stop. “It’s not a tulip tree, it’s a magnolia. Magnolia soulangiana. The tulip tree is Liriodendron tulipifera.”

“Is that right?” The woman was unimpressed. “Come on, Nadine. Don’t touch the tulips.” The girl scampered off with her grandmother.

“Nadine, they both belong to the Magnoliacae family,” Danni called after them. She sighed. “A doctor told me once that I should take milk of magnolia if I had a stomachache.”

“That’s pathetic,” Evan said.

“Yeah,” Danni said, and looked again at the figure of the little girl. “I hope she heard me.”

©2010 Pam Wells

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