Thursday, October 12, 2017

Holbrook's Cripple Nicknames

Holbrook was a guy who lived in my dorm when I was in college. He came from one of those teeny towns where there are no cripples, so I doubt that he ever got a good look at a cripple until he got to college. But he made up lots of funny nicknames for many of the crippled students he saw puttering around campus. The nicknames were sort of like smart ass secret service code names. To me that was a sure sign that he felt really comfortable around cripples or really uncomfortable. I’m not sure which.

There was one cripple that propelled his wheelchair by pushing it backwards with his feet. Holbrook called him Crawdaddy. There was another cripple Holbrook often saw eating in the dorm mess hall. This cripple tilted his head far back and his feeder dropped food into his open mouth. Holbrook called this cripple Baby Bird.

There was another cripple who always walked really fast and on the tips of her toes like she was walking on hot coals. Holbrook called her Hot Foot. And there was another cripple who also walked weird. He swayed from side to side and waved his arms around and did lots of involuntary fancy footwork. Holbrook called him Fred Astaire.

More than once I told Holbrook I wanted to know what his cripple nickname was for me. But he always insisted that he didn’t have one. “Come on!” I said. “You can tell me! I can take it!” But he just held up his hands, all innocent and shit.

When I asked other guys around the dorm what Holbrook’s nickname for me was, they all said he didn’t have one. I was convinced that they all entered into a secret pact to never divulge to a cripple his/her Holbrook nickname. It’s much funnier that way. But eventually I started to believe that maybe Holbrook really hadn’t come up with anything for me. I felt kind of insulted.

But as I look back, I can see where I might have been a stumper for Holbrook. As cripples go, I’m pretty one-dimensional. I ride around in a motorized wheelchair and that’s about it.

You can’t really call me Spazzo. And I don’t drool, at least not when I’m sober. I don’t walk weird. I don’t walk at all. And there’s nothing weird about the way I don’t walk.

I have kind of a big head. But that doesn’t have anything to do with me being crippled. If I was cured, I’d still have a big head. And it’s not grotesquely big. You can’t rightfully call me the Wizard of Oz or anything like that.

My trunk balance is poor, which makes me pretty floppy. Holbrook maybe could have riffed on that and called me Scarecrow or Jellyfish. My legs are thin and spindly. If Holbrook saw me wearing shorts, that might have inspired something in him. Flamingo Legs?

But that’s a real stretch. Try as he might, if Holbrook pondered a cripple nickname for me, he probably couldn’t come up with anything better than That Crippled Guy Down the Hall.

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