by Todd Clay Stuart
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.
Todd Clay Stuart is an emerging Midwestern writer. He studied creative writing at the University of Iowa. His work appears or is forthcoming in Milk Candy Review, New World Writing, and Flash Fiction Magazine. He lives with his wife, daughter, and two loyal but increasingly untrustworthy pets. Find him on Twitter @toddclaystuart and at http://toddclaystuart.com.