Before I tell you about Ben, he asked for me to tell you the story about a two-legged frog first. Ben is a young man who rides a wheelchair. He likes chocolate, football, girls, and frogs.
So the frog story:
I found a two-legged frog in the creek, as a boy. That was a good day. No. It was a great day. It’s not every day you find a frog with only one set of legs.
I saw the frog leaping on a bank of clay. I chased him. He didn’t run. He wasn’t afraid. I named him Otis.
I put Otis in a shoebox lined with grass and brought him to my father.
Daddy held the frog up to the light. Otis didn’t try to leap out of his hands. He placed Otis on his workbench. Otis sat, blinking.
“You can’t keep Otis in a shoebox,” Daddy said. “It’d be a crime against nature.”
“Because, Otis is what you call a genuine miracle.”
Otis didn’t look like a genuine miracle to me. He couldn’t jump very high. Instead, he’d slide forward, using his back legs to push himself.
Because of this, I reasoned that we should definitely let Otis sleepover, to further reflect on how he could be my pet forever.
“No,” said Daddy. “Better let him go, so more people can see a genuine miracle. That’s why he was made.”
I wasn’t crazy about this idea, but we let him go anyway. Otis jumped through the grass toward parts unknown. I thought that would be the last anyone ever saw of Miraculous Otis. But it wasn’t.
My friend Billy found Otis in the same creek once. So did my friend Jessie, Tony, Ricky, and Allen. Otis became genuinely famous among the fourth grade.
Anyway, now I’ll tell you a little about Ben.
When I first met him, he was riding an electric wheelchair toward me, his father followed close behind.
The boy had a feeding tube running from his nose. He wore thick glasses, and a Spongebob Squarepants hat to cover the scars on his head. I met him backstage at a small theater where I told a few stories.
“I liked your frog story,” were Ben’s first words to me. “I think I’m kinda like that frog, you know? I’m weird, but sorta cool.”
Ben is not weird. He is all cool.
He wasn’t supposed to survive his first week of life. But he did. Then, doctors prepared his parents for the possibility that he might not survive his first year.
Medical professionals told Ben’s father he would probably die before age three from complications. They said it would happen suddenly, like a “domino effect” of organ failures. It never happened.
Ben’s father said, “One day, we just kinda quit being afraid.”
Ben is almost fifteen. He’s seen it all. Grand Canyon, Disney, the Everglades, Acadia, Yellowstone, Austin, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the Rockies, the Keys, the Appalachians.
His father has carted his son to every mark on the American map.
Ben’s father went on, “You know how average people might have one or two days per month worth remembering? Well, not us. Ben makes EVERY day worth remembering.”
Ben wheels close to me. We shake hands like grown men. He’s old for his age.
“I like your frog story,” said Ben. “I’m gonna tell that story to my friends tomorrow.”
The frog story is a mediocre story at best. But if you want to hear a really good story, you ought to hear the one about the angel in the wheelchair I just met.
That kid is a genuine miracle.