A Cripple’s Guide to Living

Longlisted for the Fish Publishing Flash Fiction Prize 2021. There were 1,468 entries in total.

No child should ever grow up before their time. You are not most children.

Elmwood Ward will become your second home. The scariest part of being at the hospital will be when they pinprick your skin with a cannula. Your black blood will swirl into the syringe. It will be over before you count to twelve. Reaching twelve will take forever.

You will come to understand your body, its language. White is the colour of fresh snow, milk, bone. It is also the colour of pain. It turns your face so and lives behind your eyes.

They will tell you that your reading age is advanced for a cripple. They mean well. They always mean well. This will not stop you from hating them. You will learn how to spell ignorance at such a young age. You will stab the i with your pen. When your teacher asks you to explain what the word means you will say, I see it in the way that people stare at me.

Welcome your sadness. It can feel like a breeze coming in gusts off the sea, hitting hard, passing fast. Other times it will linger, unmoor you, make you stir and tremble. Find your ground again. Breathe. You deserve to be here. You have a right to exist.

There are no vernaculars for your lived experience, or the way that you move around. You do not walk. ‘To wheel’ is sickening. There are no dolls like you in the toy shop. No heroines in books with crescent-shaped spines or scarred legs.

You will write your own stories instead.

You may wonder why you are not normal.

Normal is the greatest lie that has ever been told to you.

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