Bird Watching

John J. Audubon, Song Sparrows. Image Public Domain.

John J. Audubon, Song Sparrows. Image Public Domain.

You could blow him over with a whisper or a shrug. That's right. He walked on his toes as if they were unstable springs planning to catapult him to a fall in an instant.
     A 10 year-old scrawny little thing, freckled and pale. He was nasty though, that Dennis. He called us homos when he was mad. All squeaky voiced and shrill. We knew it was a bad word though we didn't know what it meant. I don't think he did either.
     “He must have heard it somewhere," my mother said.
     Dennis was the last one standing when we picked teams for kickball. His team didn't try to hide their collective groan. I get it. He couldn't throw, he couldn't kick, he couldn't catch and he ran all funny like his feet didn't know which way they were going. Sometimes we threw the ball to him, but off to the side a bit. He’d shimmy and falter and we would giggle like we couldn't control it.
     "Homos!," he said.
     We woke up one day and Dennis was in a wheelchair. Just like that. He looked like a mini Dennis in that wheelchair. Like he lost some of himself when he sat down.
     My mother said it was M.S.
     We agreed, "it is a mess."
     We never saw Dennis walk on his toes or run all crooked-like again. He became one with his chair. We didn't play with him. We didn't know how. We couldn't make fun of him anymore and he didn't get mad.
     My little brother though. My 7 year-old littlest brother. I think he was kinder than the rest of us. He pushed Dennis in his wheelchair even though he was barely tall enough to see over the back of the chair. He pushed Dennis down sidewalks, on paths in the woods. They went bird watching. They had guidebooks and binoculars and peanut butter sandwiches and they went to look for birds. The wheels on the chair acted as legs and my brother was the wind spinning them like pinwheels, fast and faster as they zoomed down the sidewalk; my little brother and Dennis going bird watching.