My nine-year-old thinks his new wheelchair is a race car. I strap him in and he goes zoom zoom zoom, brrrap brrrap brrrap. Robbie can’t read—he’ll never read—but he’s plastered racing decals all over his safety helmet: STP, Pennzoil, Goodyear. It’s Saturday and we’re in the family room watching auto racing on the big screen. He loves the pre-race pomp and pageantry, loves the parade of drivers looking like superheroes in their flashy striped fire suits. From the corner of my eye, I see him point at the TV, see him clap with pure joy. When I smile, he smiles. When I lean in, he leans in. My son has not spoken an intelligible word his entire life, but on this particular cloudless, wintry day, when I say fire suit, he says farsuit! farsuit! And in this singular, opulent moment, I swear I won’t let him see me cry, but I feel the tears coming on and my shoulders start to shake, so I turn away to compose myself. At times like this, I find nodding helps. I nod and nod until I can force a smile, then I turn to him, and now I’m the one that can’t speak, but what I want to say is yes, yes, Robbie, we’ll get you a fire suit, a red one with a bold white stripe like lightning down each side, and you’ll wear it wherever you go like a superhero, a fire suit to protect you when you’re racing at Charlotte, at Daytona, at Indianapolis, where you’ll drink your milk in the winner’s circle like a good boy, a fire suit to protect you and keep fire and other raging things from engulfing you, now and forever and whatever comes after that.
First Appeared in Emerge Literary Journal