A thin crescent moon, Venus and Mercury formed a triangle on the horizon. They had been to camp since childhood and spent many summers watching Mars grow in redness until it would reach its command performance in August.
Valerie asked, “Did you hear Dougie squeal last night? "
They both snickered at Dougie’s shock of brushing the top of Val’s foot with his and exclaiming how soft it was. It had been her deal and Val called out Hearts for this game. Sometime during the conversation Carol tittered on about her upcoming dances then Val had wondered out loud how she would be able to dance if she was asked. Her face had drawn for a moment then she laughed with the rest.
Dom said, "That’s precisely why we are here at the butt crack of dawn. You and I are going into the water and we’re going to boogie across to Moose Island."
"Sure." said Val with some hesitation and she took off the braces then crawled across the sand then plowing through the waves with strong arms. Dominic caught up with her wrapped his arms around her waist then sang in his worst Elvis Presley voice as they danced through the gentle roll of the waves, There's a laaady who's suure all that gliiitters is gooold, And she's buy- yi-ying a stairway to heaaaa-UHH-vuuuun
Val sang along in a strong mezzo-soprano. As the off key harmony rose in the air, red winged blackbirds took cover from the bear in the blackberry brushes their tender shoots strained skyward destined to be eaten by the local bull moose. As they approached the island neither saw him standing alert in the alder branches overlooking a seaside trail worn deep by his enemy's regular patrols.
It would be a rich summer, one with life changing events that altered Val from a young girl who anxious if anyone would ever love her, into a woman confident in the love of another who looked past the burdens of her legs and saw her for who she really was. At least these were her thoughts.
For a few weeks they worked together until Val could drop the crutches by pressing her knees together and balancing her weight on his arms while they shuffled around the porch in step with the tunes they played on his Aunt Betty’s ancient Victrola. How could she have known that by the end of summer she would also be stronger and wiser in ways neither one had yet to imagine.
They were all shocked and amazed when the coach called. A scout had video taped Dominc playing short stop last season and the Red Sox wanted him at Fenway Park for some early tryouts. His record-breaking sprints made him one of the best base runners Raymond, Maine had ever seen. The gang at the Stone Dog Cafe up at Windam had congratulated him. Val was so keyed up as she drove him to Twitchell's Airport to see him off. He hugged her hard and gave her the glove he used all through Little League. She took it home and hung it on the wall where she could see it every day.
Squadrons of horned and tufted sea parrots darted back out to sea, beyond breaking surf where baby brown otters wrapped themselves up in beds of kelp as Val rolled up the road to the summer camp where she worked as a counselor. Dad had worked in the Peace Corps for two years as an advisor on soil management. He had never been to Africa, but when Africa called to him he went with his whole heart. He came home, married Mom and by the time they all went back Ghana was called Zimbabwe. When Val contracted polio there he called in every favor he could to get her on the Mercy Ship Anastasis.
Everyone’s lives had taken a 180. Now Dad was teaching at the local community college while her mom did elder care. While she waited for Jason to arrive she realized that this was the first time she had the opportunity to help out. She missed her friends back home. The water waltzes at dawn reminded her of a proverb she had heard from her best friend’s mom when she was five, "If you can walk you can dance, if you can talk you can sing!"
As Jason entered the cafeteria, she thought, now here is a real piece of work in progress. He liked to write trivia about the sea calling his column Lobster Tales, some of the stuff he wrote about was fascinating. They were getting together to work on an article for this week’s newsletter. A short note had arrived from Dominic three days after he left. He talked about meeting Dewie, Yaz and El Tiante and gave her his phone number and address. He said his parents would be back in Boston by the end of the week and he would be in town for the 4th. Val was lost in thought about how much she would miss the evening card games with the Lambiettos.
She put the letter away when one of the doors swung open and saw Jason swaying like a willow tree on a windy day, his motorized wheelchair was spinning in crazy directions scaring the campers and counselors. His garbled speech stuttered out, "Hi, my name’s Jason. What’s your name?"
It was his typical icebreaker. More often than not his attempts of friendly chitchat were met with dumb founded shellshock or brittle silence. Pronouncing the words slowly enough to be immediately understood was physically and emotionally draining. Most of the time the campers were too self-absorbed to even make eye contact.
He joined a group at the next table and Val watched in heart sinking knowledge as everyone at the table Jason joined stopped talking, inhaled their food then took off like he had a small pox instead of cerebral palsy.
"It was nice to meet you." Jason whined, " Have a lovely afternoon!"
His right hand abruptly flew off his joystick. Arms and legs flailing wildly, his left shoe suddenly hit the wooden floorboards with a thud as tears of 100% pure frustration blinded him.
"HEY," he yelled at no one and everyone, “YOU NEVER SAW A BOY DANCE IN A WHEELCHAIR! WANNA JOIN ME IN A JIG, HUH?"
Predictably nobody appeared to hear him. After a couple of minutes he overcame his involuntary movements. Then Val watched in amazement as he finally took off and tried to mow down the campers pretending he was a ghost by walking by him.
"YO! OUT OF MY WAY!" Jason shouted as he huffed and puffed.
Campers started jumping left and right without apologizing for being so rude.
When Jason’s aging parents could no longer control him they turned him over to the state and he was institutionalized for two years. The people in charge were more interested in keeping beds filled so that they could keep their jobs rather than mainstreaming kids into the public life. An aunt with a lot of money was trying to give Jason a second chance and he was showing promise.
He had seized on the idea of becoming a psychologist for the disabled, but first Jason had to develop some writing skills and that’s where Val was focusing. As his tutor she would proof read the articles he painstakingly tapped out on the keyboard with a head pointer. The irony that the camp’s head counselor Hank Hawkins had teamed them up because they were both physically handicapped was not lost on either one of them.