Regarding Labels (or Hurray for Peter Dinklage)

Original Post Date: 1/19/2012  11:49:59 AM (BEFORE Yahoo blew up my blog)

Now, I do understand that society uses labels because they can help people to sort things in their minds.  Personally, I try never to think of myself as a dwarf, even though I was born with that particular genetic uniqueness.  However, this week I was reminded again that no matter how long I live, no matter what I do, certain folks will always and forevermore think of me as a dwarf.

How do I know this? Well, earlier in the week, I was informed several times that a particular gentleman named Peter Dinklage won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor in a TV drama for his role in “Game of Thrones”. Up until this week, I’d never heard of Peter Dinklage, and based on his name, I would have assumed he was a porn star.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m very happy for Peter Dinklage and his success as an actor.  What irked me was the surprised reaction I received when I told my entertainment reporters that I in fact did not know who Peter Dinklage was.  Their response was consistently “Really?  He’s a dwarf ya know!”

At one point, I could not bite my tongue any longer and I politely informed a particular friend that:

  • As far as I knew, dwarfs did not have a secret society.
  • Not all dwarfs keep track of the successes and failures of other dwarfs.
  • Dwarfs do not have a secret handshake.
  • Now, if we replaced the word “dwarf” with a different stereotype, race or religion in the above scenario, how would that change our thinking?

Would a similar “Golden Globe” newsflash still be considered appropriate? For example:

  • Did any Christians go into work after the Golden Globes award show, and inform their Jewish friends of any Judaic Golden Globe winners?
  • Did any Caucasian folks go into work and brightly chirp to their non-pale friends: “Well, guess which people of color won a golden globe last night?” (As if to say, “Good for you!”)

I pray that one day society will grow up, and drop the use of the labels that bind us all.  Until that day comes, I will always insist on being Frank (pun fully intended).

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The Tale of Rosy Bun-Bun

Original Post Date:2/27/2012  9:43:56 AM (BEFORE Yahoo blew up my blog)

(C) Frank Verpaelst, 2012

Long ago, a special rabbit was born
On a bright, and sunny spring morn.
Pure white fur, and bright pink eyes
Her heart as big as the wide open skies.

Life was not easy for Rosy Bun-Bun,
The other rabbits of her made fun.
For she was dressed all in white,
Rosy was such a different sight.

One day the other rabbits all said
“Could you not be brown or gray instead?
We can’t hide with your fur so white,
So you must leave into the night.”

And so Rosy left, with a tear in her eye,
But one tear only, for she refused to cry.
The other bunnies were just being mean,
Because a bunny all white they’d never seen.

And so Rosy lived alone, until one day
The snows came, stealing colors away.
Now the other bunnies couldn’t hide
When they hopped around outside.

Farmer Smith could see them all,
Stealing from the veggie stall.
He chased them back to their hole,
Swinging with a shovel, and a pole.

So they went to Rosy with a yelp
“Please come back, we need your help!
Farmer won’t see you hopping in the snow
You could sneak some food, he won’t know.”

So Rosy crept up, step by step in the snow,
To the root cellar, and vegetables, she did go.
When Farmer Smith saw her, it was too late,
She was past the rooster, and out the gate.

Rosy with her carrots, dashed to their den
The other bunnies said “Hurray!”, and then:
“Every bunny is special!” they realized,
“Especially white ones with bright pink eyes.

”From that day forward Rosy was never alone,
And each special bunny would have a home.
No matter the color of their fur or eyes
It was their hearts that were truly prized.

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Choir Boot Camp

Original Post Date: 12/22/2011  9:35:42 AM (BEFORE Yahoo blew up my blog)

Podcast version (sound affects included!) available here: http://www.dulcimerdude.com/Choir_Bootcamp_Final_3.mp3

Christmas Concert Recordings available here: http://dulcimerdude.com/dulcimer_dude/christmas_choral_music

Have you ever felt in over your head, and wanted to give up before you even really tried? Back in 1989 I found myself in that situation. I’m glad to say, I faced that challenge, and experienced some of the most incredible moments of my life.

A friend of mine, who I sang with in a medieval themed glee club, encouraged me to try out for a choir. Knowing that my friend was a music student in university, I took his suggestion as a compliment, and decided to give it a try. It turned out that joining this choir was not a simple matter and required that I audition for the available spot.

On the day of the audition, the conductor himself put me through my paces:  Singing basic scales, repeating a short passage he played on a piano, and, a solo performance of my choice.  It all happened so fast, I never had the chance to let my nervousness take over. The conductor thanked me for my efforts, and politely informed me they would call me if I was accepted into the choir.

Two weeks later, the choir’s secretary called, and I received the news I was accepted into the choir. I was also invited to attend a weekend country retreat on Labor Day weekend. Flash forward to Labor Day Friday, after a long day of work, we all arrived to the location of our retreat. I imagined we would start up a campfire, roast a few hot dogs and marshmallows, and maybe sing a few campfire songs. I could not have been more wrong.

Instead of starting a nice campfire, we were all marched into the main hall. I felt like I was in bootcamp, instead of a countryside retreat. Once we were all seated, the conductor began to pass out booklets. Up until that point in my life, the only music I had ever played was in high-school, and singing simple medieval tunes with my friends.  This sheet music I was now looking at was much more intricate and advanced than anything I’d ever seen before.

Immediately after everyone received their booklets, the conductor began to warm up the choir with various vocal excercises. Panic began to set in, and I was hoping we would get to hear the songs BEFORE we rehearsed them. I was wrong. Again. The conductor raised his baton and said, “Now, please open the first booklet, a piece composed by Dieterich Buxtehude.”

Before I could think “Oh, oh, what have you gotten yourself into”, rehearsal began. That evening, we rehearsed from 7:00pm until 10:00pm with a 15 minute break in the middle.  Three hours of singing is not that long when you think of it, but, most of us had day jobs. Friday had been a long day for most of us.

Then came Saturday:  After an early breakfast, we practiced from 9:00am until Noon.  We then ate lunch and went back to practice from 1:30pm until 4:30pm.  After supper, we rehearsed again from 6:00pm until 10:00pm. In all we sang for nine full hours that Saturday. Heading up to my sleeping quarters, I thought a nice hot shower would revive me. Then I would try to find that campfire I had been thinking about. Wrong. Again.

It turned out I would never have made it, even if the mythical campfire/wienie roast/singalong actually existed. Stepping into the shower, I realized how bone tired I was, and actually started feeling a little dizzy.  I knelt down to avoid actually falling over.  My eyelids felt like heavy stones, and started to close, as my body demanded I get some rest, NOW. With the nice warm water enveloping me, I lay down in the tub, and fell fast asleep.

When I woke up again the shower was still nice and warm. I must have been asleep at least thirty minutes, if my wrinkly and raisin-like fingertips were any indication. Walking out of the bathroom as I dried off, I barely made it to my bed. I literally fell face first on the pillow, and was fast asleep in no time.

That Sunday morning, after breakfast, we started rehearsing all over again. Thankfully, we finished at around 4:00pm, and we all headed home. After that retreat, we had weekly rehearsals. I still felt like a novice swimmer who just got kicked into the deep end of the pool AND told to race against experienced swimmers.  However, no matter how difficult it was, quitting never entered my mind.

Then, something wonderful began to happen.  Not only did I stop feeling like I was in over my head, I began to start feeling stronger in my singing abilities, and much much lighter in these new musical waters. By the time concert season arrived in December, there were times that singing in that choir was the closest thing I’ve ever felt to flying.  No longer burdened by my arthritic pain, it felt like gravity itself had lost its grip on me. I was now floating like pure sound, just above the choir. Surrounded and supported by all the other voices. There was also the high that comes AFTER a concert.

It’s not so much the applause, but what the applause indicates:  The audience enjoyed what you presented, and was moved enough to let you know. To this day, I remember how hard it was at the early rehearsals. But what I remember even more was how the effort, the will to keep on going, brought me such incredible experiences.

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Turning Points (Or, winning friends and embarrassing enemies)

Original Post Date: 11/20/2011  2:03:37 PM (BEFORE Yahoo blew up my blog)

Author”s Note:  Making fun of someone because they are different, sadly, is one of the most accepted forms of bullying. It is so accepted in fact, that many comedians and media people have made very successful careers out of mocking, deriding and otherwise poking fun at other people’s misfortunes.  When children and adolescents are mocked and teased, it can have devastating and long lasting effects.

74_Frank2One of the side effects of my dwarfism was a serious case of scoliosis, or, a curvature of the spine.  Eventually, my doctor decided I needed to wear a “Milwaukee brace”. The Milwaukee brace is a very large contraption made up of a hip-hugging plastic girdle that has three bars attached to it: One bar in the front, and two in the back, that go all the way up to the neck.  At the top, the bars have these plastic cups: One in the front, and two in the back, so your head and chin can rest on something gentler than a metal bar.

The idea is for the brace to hold the spine as straight as it can be, while two pads get strapped on the metal bars, with one pad on each side of the body.  The straps are adjusted tightly enough to put pressure on each curve, and hopefully, the curves get straightened over time. Not only is the thing so uncomfortable and hot you want to scream within the first five minutes you put it on, you have to keep it on roughly sixteen hours a day.  This I had to wear each day for about six years.

Now, imagine you are nine years old and already filled with the insecurities that most nine year olds share. Now imagine wearing this Milwaukee brace, and feeling hotter and more uncomfortable than you ever have before in your life. And lastly, imagine this is your first day back at school, and the first time your friends see you wearing this contraption. This is what it felt like for me back in 1973, back in the days before Terminator and Robocop made cyborgs cool.

Of course, some bright bully decides to tease me, because there’s no hiding the fact I’m wearing a Milwaukee brace.  “Ha ha, you look funny!  What’s that around your neck?” At this point, I could have remained silent, and not stood up for myself in the face of this taunting. Instead, knowing that the lower part of my abdomen was reinforced by steel and plastic, I looked into the would-be bully’s eyes and said, “Oh yeah?  I dare you to punch me in the stomach!”

By now a crowd of kids had gathered, as Mr. Bully winds up for a big punch.  The result was oh so satisfying!  I barely felt a thing as Mr. Bully’s fist crashed into the metal bar. He started yelling “Ouch, ouch, oooouuch!”, and wandered off holding his fist like it was broken.

The other kids who were watching all said “Oooooh, COOL!!”  The next thing I heard was, “Can I try to punch you too?”  And a line soon formed, each person trying their best to punch through my new armor.

All of a sudden, I went from being a strange looking kid, to some sort of super strong metal-man.  I never forgot the lesson:  Be proud of who you are. No matter what other people think of you, what matters most is what you think of yourself.

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A Very Embarrassing Moment

Original Post Date:11/6/2011  3:11:34 PM (BEFORE Yahoo blew up my blog)

Have you ever been embarrassed?  Not some mild “Whoops, you have a bit of food stuck on the corner of your mouth” sort of moment, but rather, a truly emotionally charged event? I was about seven or eight years old when just such an embarrassing moment happened to me.

I was in the hospital at the time and the center of attention on most days. Each morning, my orthopedic doctor would show me off to yet another gaggle of his interns.  He would then detail all of the primary features that my particular type of dwarfism came with.  Believe it or not, this was not the embarrassing moment I’m referring to, as I was getting used to these daily “show and tell” sessions.  No, my embarrassing moment was much worse, and I never saw it coming.

One day, an orderly arrived with a gurney, stating he was taking me to an “examination”.  Being bored to tears by the monotony of the daily hospital routine, I was actually happy for the change of scenery, and jumped at the chance to get out of my room.  After a short journey through a part of the hospital I’d never been to before, the orderly wheeled me into my “examination” room. It was very plain, with three solid walls, and one large curtain for the fourth wall. The orderly left and time passed, the way it usually does in a hospital: Slowly and boringly.

My doctor finally entered the room, and asked me to take off my hospital gown. Only wearing my underwear now, the curtain opened and I realize I was on a small stage, standing nearly naked in front of a class full of medical students. The good doctor, blithely ignorant of the emotional impact his actions would have on me, droned on to the class, pointing out my scoliosis, my pigeon toes, my short stubby hands, and on, and on.  Not once did anyone speak to me directly, or ask me anything personal.

It was just a mechanical and mechanistic overview of all things dwarfish. Throughout the whole session, I was simply referred to as “the patient”. Nobody at the hospital ever explained beforehand that I would be used in this massive show and tell session.  No on ever asked me for permission. And, no one certainly ever thought of the emotional impact this would have on this seven year old boy, who was already dealing with enough problems of his own.

At that moment, I felt like I was nothing, not a person at all but a thing.  I was too young to fully understand what else I felt. But the after affects dragged on for many years. Feeling ashamed of my body was one side affect that lasted longer than I would have liked. I remember hiding my hands in my coat pockets whenever possible, right up until college. Debilitating stage fright was another affect.By my mid-thirties, I had worked out all feelings of shame towards my body. My stage fright demons were also thoroughly beaten back.  I came to realize that my doctor had been so very wrong to have used me as a teaching mannequin.

The other thing I realized was that the performer in me was born on that embarrassing day. In a room with three walls and one curtain in front of me, I came to feel most comfortable on stage, a place that has no walls, and the curtain is now behind me. Now, each time I step up on that stage, I get to choose what I present: The music that is inside me, and not the physical form it emanates from.

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Never leave home without it

Original Post Date: 9/17/2011 12:51 (BEFORE Yahoo blew up my blog)

Trapped in an elevator  with a young couple and their screaming baby, during a power outage on a hut and muggy Montreal summer day. Yes, that was me back in 1997. I had just stepped into an elevator on the basement floor of the apartment high-rise I lived in.

Next to me were a young couple and their baby.  Their baby was about a year old. Just as the doors closed and the elevator began to move, we had a power outage. The elevator was almost pitch dark, and the stifling heat made the darkness feel like it was pressing on you all the more. The mother started yelling at her husband, “This is all your fault!” and the baby started to cry.

As uncomfortable as the situation was for me, my only real concern was for the crying baby.  That infant had done nothing to deserve being stuck in what felt like a hot oven, with a ranting mother: Something had to be done. After a few minutes my eyes started to adjust to the darkness. Instinctively I grabbed my Leatherman pocket tool that was in it’s belt holster. The single elevator door closed flush against the side of the elevator, and the crack was not big enough for my fingers to get a hold of.

After fishing around for a few moments, I found the appropriate tool on my Leatherman to pry the elevator door open: A very thick metal file, about three or four inches long. The couple’s arguing grew louder, as did the baby’s crying. My brain felt the pressure, from the heat, the darkness, the screaming, and the baby crying.  I jammed the metal file into the crack near the edge of the elevator door, and slowly levered it as hard as I could. The metal file began to bend more and more, to the point where I thought it would snap. But then, I heard a loud clunk, and the inner door slid open enough for me to reach in and slide it all the way open.

We were not quite yet out of the elevator, because there was still an outer door to contend with. But at least we could see little bit better, as emergency lighting spilled in around the cracks. We were about one foot below the first floor, and I saw a latch mechanism we needed to trigger somehow on the outer door.  Using my four foot tall hiking staff that that was the partner to my cane, I reached up, and started pushing upwards on the outer door latch. After a moment or two of pushing, again, I heard another metallic clunk.  The outer door swung open, and the couple finally stopped arguing.  We stepped out in to the relatively cooler air on the first floor, and we were free

The couple never thanked me as they hustled away, still arguing, but I did not care. I was just happy to have rescued a crying baby, a browbeaten husband and myself, from being stuck in a hot dark elevator with a ranting woman.  Ever since then, I always make sure I’m carrying either my Leatherman tool, or my Swiss Army Knife.  After all, you never know when you’ll be called upon to save the day!

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My Father Was a Very Good Man

Original Post Date: 9/17/2011  12:46:35 PM (BEFORE Yahoo blew up my blog)

Julien Verpaelst Julien Haying With InlawsWhen my father passed away, my mother asked me to say a few words during mass.  I was a bit stunned, as I was the youngest of the five remaining siblings. Why was she asking me to say something?  Isn’t that sort of thing supposed to be up to the oldest child?Putting aside any fears of goofing up, or crying my eyes out, what I wanted to say about my dear dad popped into my head almost instantly, and as crystal clear as his character had been throughout his entire life.

Without any preparation, I walked up to the altar and spoke to the very large assembly of family and friends gathered to pay their last respects.

My father Julien was a very special man.  All his life, he was a very hardworking man, often working sixty hours a week or more.  You would think that during his vacation, someone who works that hard would want to just sit on a sunny beach, drinking a few beers, swimming, sleeping under an umbrella, and just relaxing in general.  Not my father.

 

No, instead of relaxing, he would most often be helping someone, and not just on small projects. Working in the hay fields for twelve hours straight for a brother in law, or ten hours construction on his sister’s house, those were the kinds of things he did, during his vacations, on weekends, whenever he was not at his day job, or, when he did not have anything urgent to work on for his own family’s house.

 

It’s not that my father did not know how to have fun, but rather, whenever there was important work to be done, he was always there to do the work first.  And you could tell, he had fun working, and helped others enjoy their work as well. Once the work was done, you can sure bet he knew how to have fun.

 

We are here today to remember my father, and as you all leave and go back to your lives, I would like you all to remember my fathers’ attitude. On your days off, and your vacations, remember to look around you, and ask yourself:  Is there anyone close to me who needs my help?”

PS. Bless you dad, and may you finally be relaxing in heaven.

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My Dad was a Crazy Man: Injuries Part 2

Original Post Date: 7/4/2011  1:31:53 PM  (BEFORE Yahoo blew up my blog)

My uncle Gilles taught construction in a trade school. Outside of work, uncle Gilles’ only hobby was building homes. He would build a new home, move into it, and then sell it once the landscaping grew in, and start the whole process all over again. When my father retired, he was prone to getting bored out of his mind, so he liked to help my uncle any chance he could get.

One early morning, my father and my uncle Gilles headed out to work on one of these new homes. On the way there, they got into a car accident, t-boned at an intersection on the passenger side, right where my dad was sitting.  My father cracked his head on the windshield.  My uncle was also pretty shook up, so they both went to emergency to get checked out.

It turned out that their injuries were not all that bad. Since my uncle’s car was trashed, they then went to father’s house to pick up his car, and head out again to the construction site. (Most people would call it a day after getting into a car accident, but not my dad, and not my uncle for that matter). At the end of their hard-working day, my dad goes home, eats supper, and goes off to take his shower.

He was in a rush, because the Montreal Canadians were playing hockey that night, and my father did not want to miss a single minute of the televised game.  As he is hurrying to dry off in the shower, he leans on the shower door, just a bit too hard. The door pops open, dad falls, and BOOM; he smacks his head on the ceramic floor.

Feeling woozy now, (yes, it takes two head injuries in one day for my dad to admit he’s feeling woozy), he lets my mother drive him to emergency. The same nurse who saw my father in the morning and is now finishing a double-shift, sees him and says “Mr. Verpaelst, why are here again?”

My dad briefly explains what happened, and the nurse is totally flabbergasted to find out dad worked all day on a construction site AFTER she checked him out for his car accident earlier in the day. Patching up my dad for the second time in less than ten hours, (and double-checking to make sure my dad is not seriously concussed), the nurse says, “This time, Mr. Verpaelst, I want you to go home and REST!! No work or anything for you for the next few days”.

I can’t remember exactly what dad did after his second visit to the emergency ward that day, but I’m willing to bet he watched his hockey game when he got home, and I bet he helped uncle Gilles with his house the next day.

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My Dad was a Crazy Man: Injuries Part 1

Original Post Date: 6/21/2011  2:58:56 PM (BEFORE Yahoo blew up my blog)

My dad (may he rest in peace) was a CRAZY man, in the best sense of the word.  (Like father, like son, hmmmm, I wonder).

On one of those bright and sunny late summer days, my father was sawing and splitting firewood in our back yard.  Suddenly, the chainsaw bucked in his hands, and he had to block it before it hit his face.  He nearly lost a finger in the process.  Hand bloodied, finger hanging on by some skin and a few tendons, he went into the house to bandage it up.

I was in a panic, but he was as calm as can be. My dad was about to head out the door with his bandaged hand hanging by his side, but as he checked himself in the bathroom mirror, he decided that he looked like a mess.  He went back to his bedroom, and changed out of his dirty jeans and t-shirt, and into dress slacks, a nice shirt, and dress shoes.  He lamented mildly that he could not put on a tie with one hand out of commission.

Then, unbelievably, he took some more time to shave as well, even though his bandage was now completely soaked in blood. All spiffed up, my dad then drove himself, one handed, to the emergency ward. When it came time to tell the nurse what happened, he explained that he had been sawing wood in his back yard at the time of the accident.  The nurse looked at him and said “Mr. Verpaelst, you were sawing wood dressed in your SUNDAY BEST CLOTHES?”

My father answered, “Of course not, I washed up and changed before coming here!”  I never found out what the nurse’s reply was, but I’m sure it included some head shaking. It turned out that my father had not damaged the bone, and his finger would end up OK after a bit of stitching up.

Some people have suggested that he might have been in shock at the time, but I doubt it.  Watching him that day brought back other memories of how my father had an unbelievable level of pain tolerance, and how he was always the coolest cucumber when the need arose. Now, whenever I have some emergency situation, I always try to be as calm as my father was that day, minus the getting changed into my Sunday clothes part of course!

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How I Deal With Bullies

Original Post Date: 8/8/2011  10:16:04 AM (BEFORE Yahoo blew up my blog)

The thing I hate most in life are bullies.  I grew up in a family with a few bullies, and learnt from a young age how to stand up to them: Don’t back down, or things will only get worse. One good example of this occurred to me at the age of about six or seven years old. At that age, I was barely three feet tall, maybe even smaller. My older brother by comparison was about five and a half feet tall, and also eight years older than me.

One day he kept picking me up and turning me upside down. This I did not like at all. Finally fed up, I warned him, “Pick me up one more time, and I’ll bite you”. Not believing I would carry through with my threat, my brother scooped me up one more time, and before he could me flip me over, I did the deed and bit him pretty hard on the upper chest.  At which point, he let go of me, and went bawling to my dad, spilling the beans on my dastardly deed.

Dad of course, being used to the fact that a few of my older brothers liked to make their youngest brother (me) cry, looked at my brother and said, “Oh? He bit you?  So, why did he bite you? What were you doing to him before he bit you?” My brother did not elaborate any further, and went away, to sulk and pout that he did not get his way. The judge had spoken, case closed. All’s fair in such a lopsided fight, and the little guy won the day.

Flash forward another three or four years. I’m recuperating from hip surgery in the hospital. I had already had a few run-ins with a fellow “inmate” who was a few older years than me. We’ll call him Tim. Tim was about 16 years old, and much bigger than me.  Our first encounter happened when I was still bedridden, and he stole my hot-wheel collection.  To add insult to injury, none of the nurses believed me, even after my mother told them all the cars looked like the ones she gave me as a birthday present.

Our second encounter was the same night of his hot-wheels thievery.  I was in a cast at the time, and had to be tied down, because I had the nasty habit of trying to scratch my dry skin underneath the cast, using an ingenious system of straws inserted into one another to make a nice “leg scratcher”.So, that is the scenario: I’m in a cast from hip to toe, and, my upper body is tied down, so I won’t scratch myself, and up walks Tim.

He’s none too happy that I ratted on him, and not shy about telling me what will happen if I try to rat him out again.  To punctuate his warning, he starts to give me repeated charlie-horses on my shoulder, daring me to rat him out again, and trying his best to make me cry.

Having suffered the charlie-horses from my older brothers before, I told Tim, “You’ll have to hit harder if you’re trying to make me cry”. Tim kept going, until he accidentally smacked his fist on the metal side-bars on the bed.  I snickered to myself as Tim went back to his bed.

From that point on, with Timmy, I kept a low profile, vowing that someday he would get his just deserts. Jump forward a few weeks, and I’ve been released from my plaster prison, and am finally up and about, walking with my aluminum crutches, the kind that go up just below the elbow, with a handle and a clamp for the forearm.

Tim is now picking on another victim, a little boy in a wheelchair.  Even though Tim can walk, he is speeding around the corridors in a “borrowed” wheelchair, terrorizing the little boy by ramming their wheelchairs together.  Tim rams him, and backs up a good distance to gain some momentum for another attack. I’m sitting by the wayside watching all of this go down, and getting angrier by the moment when I make my decision.

As Tim starts his charge, I grab my aluminum crutch like it is a javelin. Tim speeds past me, as the little boy starts to cry. My heart is beating hard and fast from my anger, and I throw the crutch. My makeshift javelin sails through the air, and goes through the spokes of the wheel on Tim’s wheelchair.The end result was better than I could have hoped for.

Tim’s wheelchair instantly stops with a loud clatter of metal on metal, as my crutch locks up the left wheel of Tim’s wheelchair. Tim is instantly ejected, and flops to the ground with a loud thud. The now Tim-less wheelchair continues with its own momentum, and does a complete 360 degree turn.  Tim then gathers himself up next to his now defunct “terror mobile”, crutch jutting out from the wheel.  He sees me with my other crutch, and knows I was the cause of his embarrassing crash.

Tim starts to walk up to me, with his fist raised, and I lift my other crutch in response, as I deliver this warning: “Touch me, and I smash this crutch into your face”.  Tim is much larger than me, but still, he hesitates, and finally backs down, now looking a little smaller and less intimidating.

From then on, Tim never bothered another soul while he was in our ward, perhaps knowing that I was on guard, armed with my two aluminum “bully busters” and my feisty attitude. Now, I don’t believe in violence of any kind as a first option.  I always prefer to use humor or logic to defuse potentially violent situations. But, from a young age, I obviously believed that if someone helpless is under attack, and you can do something, anything, to help them, you should stand up and defend them.  It is the only right thing to do.

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