A meat-and-three restaurant. I am sitting in a booth, eating fried catfish. George Strait is on the radio overhead, singing about Amarillo.
There is a man pushing a wheelchair into the restaurant. There is a boy in the chair. Thirteen, maybe fourteen.
The kid does not quit moving his body. He rocks back and forth.
The man parks the boy’s chair at a table. He opens a menu for the boy. The child grins so big he almost cracks a tooth.
“I WANT SALAD, DAD!” the boy says.
“Salad?” his father answers. “Don’t you want chicken, or steak?”
“SALAD, SALAD, SALAD!”
“You’ll get it all over yourself.”
The waitress arrives and the man tells her he will have one fried catfish platter, and one Cobb salad.
“SALAD!” the boy says again.
Father and son have a conversation. The father speaks with an indoor voice, but the boy speaks loud enough to blow out the windows.
“I’M GETTING SALAD, DAD!”
His father shushes
him, then asks, “How was therapy today?”
“IT WAS GREAT, DAD! I’M GETTING SALAD!”
“What kinda things did you work on today?”
“WE WORKED ON MUSCULAR FLEXIBILITY!”
“That’s great, how did you do?”
“I GOT THE GOLD STAR, DAD!”
“Another gold star? Let me see it.”
The boy works very hard to show the star to his father, but he has a difficult time moving his hands. Finally, the boy manages to touch his collar and display the bright sticker.
“SEE?” says the boy. “PRETTY GREAT, HUH?”
“It sure is,” says his father.
Their food arrives, and all of a sudden I realize I have been too busy watching to even eat my catfish. And I love catfish.
The boy is barely able to eat, it is exhausting to watch him struggle. But this…