After thinking about it for a little bit, I’ve decided that there’s no real harm in giving you a little taste of the early Dave Riggler. This is “Waiting for the Weekend”, the first or second Dave Riggler story I ever wrote. The title of “first” goes to either “Waiting for the Weekend” or “First Steps”, but I’m not sure which came first. It’s really a toss-up.
Funny/interesting story about this one: I wrote it for English class. My English teacher at the time (who shall remain anonymous, in case she’s still among us) thought it was plagiarized. I shit you not. Plagiarized! And she announced that in front of the whole class. My reaction was, essentially, “Sister, [this was Catholic school, remember] it’s about a guy in a wheelchair in high school. Do you really think I made this up? I don’t have to make this up.”
She was a decent teacher. She just didn’t have a very high opinion of me at the time. Probably on account of the fact that I was such a scatterbrain. (Some things never change, Sister… )
Anyway, for your reading pleasure, here is “Waiting for the Weekend”. Some form of this (or parts of it) may end up in Long-Distance Dedications, but it won’t end up there in this form, which is why I feel safe posting it.
Anyway, have a look, and leave comments if you like it (or even if you think it sucks), but remember: Aside from minor edits, I was 17, at most, when I wrote this.
Waiting for the Weekend
By: Brian Hartman
Sound. It started with sound. The clock radio blared him awake, and Dave roused himself to semi-consciousness.
Oh God. What day is it? Wednesday? No. The Spanish test was Wednesday. Damn. Don’t think about that. It’s all over now.
Dave thought about it for a while. Biology today. That makes it Friday. That was good. That was very good.
Besides the usual weekend bliss, he had another reason to get out of bed. This particular Friday night, he was going to see Jessica. Whatever else happened today, he was going to see Jessica. That woke him right the hell up.
A billion Pop Rocks firecrackers went off in his head, and Dave knew he was going to ace the day. He literally lept from the bed to the floor, his knees hitting the hardwood with a loud thud. Christ. Hope Mom didn’t hear that! It was only 6:30, too early to be getting her up for any reason. She still had another hour to sleep.
Normally, Dave’d lay in bed a little while and listen to the radio, but now it was all about seeing Jessica. And he couldn’t do that laying in bed.
Dave shut off the alarm and crawled into the bathroom. After taking care of business and showering, he crawled back into his room.
He turned on the tape deck. By the time side one of Nervous Night was over, his tie was on, and he was looking for his keys. Finding them, he flipped the tape over and fast-forwarded to “Blood From A Stone”. He turned it up to 3 (which was loud enough, but not so loud to wake his parents) and put his jacket on.
Then it happened: Faint stirrings upstairs told him Mom had arisen. He prepared himself for his first meeting of the day with a human.
“Are you ready yet?”, he heard her shout from the dining room.
“Just a minute. Almost.” He couldn’t possibly be ready before he heard the end of the song. When it ended, he shut off the tape deck, climbed into his wheelchair, and left the Inner Sanctum.
“Do you want anything?”
He said no thanks, and downed the juice with his pills in one swallow.
7:30. He went out the door and flew down the ramp leading to the gate. At the curb, he waited impatiently for the bus. At 7:45 the bus arrived, and five minutes later he tossing his jacket in his locker, heading for Ann (which was standard procedure, since Ann had been his best friend since freshman year).
Ann showed up around 8. She put her homework books neatly at the bottom of her locker, and picked up her books for first period, and turned to face Dave.
“Hey. What’s up?”
“Not much. How’re you?”
“I’m psyched. It’s Friday. Jessica tonight at the movies!”
“What’re you going to see?”
“What’s that about?”
“Who knows? I got some free tickets. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about the movie. It’s Jessica!’
Ann proceeded to tell Dave about the events of the past evening, which consisted mainly of phone conversations of varying significance, from guys who’d called her (feeling her out for a date, probably), to girls who’d called her to discuss things only teenage girls really comprehend. She didn’t give details, which was just as well, as far as Dave was concerned. He always had a problem keeping up with the details of her stories, but he listened, because he was her friend, and that was his job. At the end, she glanced at her watch.
“Well, I’d better go. It’s twenty after.”
“When’re you free?”
“Eleventh and twelfth period.”
“Okay. See ya then.”
Dave made his way to Algebra, occasionally hitting the shins of students who weren’t careful. He just excused himself and kept going, making it to class just as the bell rang.
The class just dragged on. It would’ve gone quicker, but Dave wasn’t called to the board to do a homework problem. That was just as well, since he couldn’t write on a chalkboard to save his life, but it also condemned him to sitting at his desk absently while the teacher corrected the chalkwork of more (or less) fortunate students. After fifty minutes of this, he was glad to make it out of there.
Rolling down the hall, his mind turned to Jessica and the night ahead, building up his expectations. He imagined the whole night, and when he was satisfied with the image, stored it in his head. He started to sing to himself, silently.
Oh, thinking about our younger years
There was only you and me.
We were young, and wild, and free…
By the time Dave reached the elevator, he was at the part with the electric guitar, so he stopped mouthing the words. There was a freshman standing on crutches waiting for the elevator, and he didn’t want him to see him mumbling to himself like a nutjob.
Dave rolled into the elevator and pressed 1. When the elevator stopped, he let the freshman out first, and played bumper cars with the too-small elevator until he was able to get his chair out.
By the time he got there, the caf was always packed, and finding an empty spot was an act of perseverance. He plopped his his algebra book and a notebook onto the table and headed for the food line.
On the food line, Dave got his standard lunch: a hot dog with mustard, an orange soda, and Ring Dings. Just your basic health food. He handed the woman at the counter two dollars and got back sixty cents.
Back at the table, Dave proceeded to eat. He didn’t really taste it; h never really did. (He just thought of eating as something he had to do.) Afterward, he looked through his notebook awhile. There were no incomplete poems in it or anything like that. He sat at the table thinking of something to do.
Being a nervous person by nature, Dave couldn’t really bring himself to sit still without anything to do, so he rolled to the library. At least there, he could think.
The library was kind of a muffled cafeteria. You weren’t really supposed to be talking there, so everyone whispered low enough to convince themselves no one could hear them. The cumulative effect of this was a fairly loud mumble.
For his part, Dave was trying to write a poem. The poem was about Jessica, or at least, it would’ve been. As it was, the Muse wasn’t with Dave that day, and the poem didn’t materialize. This frustrated Dave to no end. He wanted a poem. He wanted a tangible symbol of his feelings for Jessica – something to hold and keep close until tonight, and after. He tossed around words like “heart”, “love”, and “you”, trying to form some kind of a thread of thought. But as filled as he was with Jessica today, it wasn’t any good. When the second bell rang, Dave reluctantly gathered his things and roled to homeroom.
Homeroom was like being in a coma where you could still perceive announcements. The moderator read these announcements, which consisted mostly of club meeting times and guidance announcements, and then let the students talk. The babble continued until 10:20, when the bell rang.
Dave’s next class was Religion. He went to Catholic school, and that, in itself, was a long story.
It’d started in fifth grade. As he understood it, the public high school had steps, and no elevator, and the school system had made it clear that by the time his parents had won a case forcing the town to install an elevator in the public high school, Dave’d already be graduating from college. So, being the generous scumsuckers that they were, they offered a deal: If his parents agreed not to sue, they’d pay for my education in the Catholic high school. So he found himself there at Our Lady of Light High School. So Dave ended up in Catholic high school.
Dave didn’t really mind Religion class, even though he didn’t believe in God. To him, it was just another way to look at history. (Church history, in this case.) He was pretty sure there wasn’t a God – because he’d seen a girl at summer camp with Downs Syndrome, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, inverted kneecaps, and dwarfism, rolled up into one inconceivably unjust package – but hey, if it was for a grade, he could play along.
He opened his book and began to read along with the rest of the class, but his mind wasn’t on the book. There was that poem sticking there in his head, with the picture of Jessica. Daring him. Mocking him. It wasn’t going away.
The class itself provided his inspiration. He began to think about God and eternity. Love itself – the real thing, not the stuff you see in movies or read about in the adult section of the library — was eternal. “Til death do us part” was some serious stuff. That’s not something you can take back on a whim. (Well, of course you could, but the point was, you shouldn’t.) That thought overjoyed and terrified him. He enjoyed the security of knowing he had something with Jessica that was eternal. There was nothing on earth better than saying “I love you”, and hearing “I love you, too”, back, and knowing it was true. On the other hand, he was a little scared of the prospect of feeling this intensity forever if she couldn’t actually be there with him. She lived 40 minutes away in another town, and he knew life doesn’t always go the way you want it to. He was on the horns of a dilemma, and that meant a poem.
If love is for eternity
Then what am I to do?
For I know you’re in love with me
And I’m in love with you
There. He’d stated the basic premise. Now all that was left was the problem and the solution. Obviously, the problem was the “long distance thing”.
But there you are right where you are
And here I am right here.
Our distance is so far apart
It fills my heart with fear.
The words were coming somewhat easier now. Dave could feel the Muse coming back. That fifth line sucked, but it wasn’t a finished product, anyway. The rest of the poem would have to wait. He’d see Jessica tonight, and that’d give him plenty of material.
Dave went to History class with a much clearer head. He listened intently to the teacher as she gave the class notes about John Adams’ administration. She talked about his economic plan and the first national bank which he created. He was so fascinated by this that the two periods involved drifted by uneventfully.
Much to his disgust, though, next came Spanish class, his absolute worse class, and thus, the one which he loathed. It had nothing to do with the teacher, who he thought was a really nice woman (especially for a nun). It didn’t have anything to do with the way the language sounded, either. He simply couldn’t speak it if his life depended on it (which, since he was in high school, it pretty much did). He was terrible at it, and anything he was terrible at, he hated. He trudged (to the extent that someone in a wheelchair can be said to “trudge”) to the class with no enthusiasm.
As Dave entered the class, his mind filled with a black terror. He’d remembered to do the homework last night, but the mere fact that he’d filled in the blanks on a page didn’t ease his feelings of inadequacy. The teacher called on him several times, and sometimes he would come up with the right answer. But she’d also had to lead him through a sentence in Spanish several times, and those times, he’d just wanted to crawl under his desk and make the class go away. He wanted to be invisible and unobtrusive, like the smarter kids in the class. The class dragged on for another half an hour before he was finally freed.
Dave had two back-to-back free periods next. Since Ann was also free, these periods weren’t completely worthless. (Not that Ann was Dave’s only friend, but most of the others were cheerleaders, too, and Ann was co-captain of the cheerleading squad.) He met Ann at the doorway, and she pointed to a table in the corner of the caf. For some reason, she never sat at a table by the front, so he ended up pushing aside tables to get to the one she chose. He’d gotten used to that.
Dave rolled up to the table next to Cassie, from his English class. Margarette, another cheerleader he met through Ann, sat next to her.
Dave turned to Cassie, “Hey. How’s life?”
“Not bad. What’s up with you?“
“Well, I’m seeing Jessica tonight. Kinda psyched about that. We’re gonna see a movie.”
“That’s great. Tell her I said hi. Are you bringing her to the dance?”
“I’m hoping to. I have to check the handbook to see when the next dance is. My brother’s in college, so he can’t drive us there. I have to ask my Mom.”
“Cool. I hope she can come. Seeing you guys on the dance floor’s a blast. You two‘re so cute together.”
Dave smiled, but he actually hated when people said stuff like that. People always said it in a weird tone, like, “You guys are so special.” It was a wheelchair thing. They always got the most attention, because they were both in wheelchairs. Both with spina bifida, too. In wheelchair terms, they were kinda like the quarterback and the captain of the cheerleading team. Very…cute. Ugh.
“Thanks. We try.” He smiled.
Ann tossed Dave half of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This’d become standard procedure, since she wasn’t a big eater, and Dave liked the way her mother made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Even though he’d already eaten, he thanked her, and ate it gratefully.
By this time, the bell was about to ring. He got his notebook and prepared to make his way through the mass of humanity out of the cafeteria.
To Dave, people standing up were like trees when you’re skiing. (Of course, he’d never been skiing before, but that’s how he imagined it.) The objective was to get from point A to point B without hitting any of them too hard. The migration to Health class consisted of breakneck rolling, interspersed with “‘Scuse me. Sorry. Heads up! Watch your feet. Sorry.”
In Health class, they were studying respiration. Well, maybe “studying” is too strong a word. They were trying to study it, but were being hampered by the class clowns, two of the most irritating people it was ever Dave’s displeasure to meet. They presented what was to Dave, at the time, a classic paradox: Two people who learn nothing, yet think they know everything. He was annoyed enough to almost lose his good Jessica mood. Dave didn’t love respiration (althoug it was, of course, a necessary evil), but he craved order. These two were destroying the order. Consequently, he wanted to destroy them. Matt and John. The teachers called them Mutt and Jeff. Dave thought of them as Fuck and Nut.
Matt’d always been nice to Dave, but that was normal. This was Catholic school, and Dave was sure Matt had calculated the years he’d get in Hell (or at least Purgatory) for mistreating him. Problem was, Matt could be an ass without even trying. It was just sort of him. He was an aspiring neo-Nazi. Last year, he’d given the English teacher (who was apparently Jewish) a hard time, saying how Hitler’d given the Jews “plenty of warning”, and that it was their own fault. Naturally, this didn’t go over very well. Everybody was pretty shocked, but because they hadn’t really studied it yet, nobody’d said anything. They were just kids. Hell, Matt was just a kid.
At the end of that year, Matt had signed Dave’s yearbook – with a swastika and a “Heil Hitler!”. A year later, Dave was still angry about that. Just what did Matt think the Nazis did with handicapped people?The stupid(er) thing was, Matt had sort of an olive complexion, with black hair. He was an Aryan only in his own mind.
Jeff, was just a follower. He was nothing. He was less than nothing. He was Matt’s lackey.
When the bell rang, it meant not only the end of the school day, but freedom from these idiots.
As fast as his wheels could turn, Dave rolled down the hall to his locker. Luckily, there weren’t too many people in front of him. He wasn’t about to stop for anything or anyone.
Dave awkwardly opened his locker (after screwing up the combination three times) and pulled out his jacket. Books he’d since piled on top of his jacket (because he couldn’t reach the hook to hang it on) fell to the bottom, disturbing the carpet of graded assignments and school fliers there. He took one final look at the picture of Jessica taped to the inside of the locker door, kissed two fingertips, and transplanted the kiss to the picture, closing the door.
Dave raced to the elevator, not even bothering with the “‘Scuse me…Sorry…” mantra. He hit the button like he was playing an arcade game and waited.
Once he was on the first floor, Dave headed at top speed for the doors. He didn’t even stop to open them. He just plowed through, letting his footrests deflect the doors. The bus was waiting for him (since he was the only passenger for the handicapped bus), and he rolled on to the lift.
On the way home, Dave started mouthing songs to himself again. It seemed to be a Bryan Adams day that day, so…
I think about her all the time.
She’s my fantasy.
An image running through my mind,
Calling out to me.
Well, my imagination’s running wild.
Things are getting clearer.
This time, everything is alright…
By the end, he was home.
Dave began his preparations for the big event. He showered, changed into some real clothes (from his Catholic school dress shirt and tie) and slapped on the English Leather Jessica’d gotten him for his birthday. (The stuff smelled pretty awful to him, but she liked it, so…).
In his enthusiasm, Dave had prepared too early. He was ready by 4:30, and the movie wasn’t until seven. Since he wasn’t supposed to leave with his Mom until 6, he had an hour and a half to kill. He had enough tapes to play until then, though. He put on “Kids Wanna Rock” (since, again, it was a Bryan Adams day), made sure the volume was still at 3, and waited.
Time passed in a melodic blur. While the music played, Dave tried to picture the night in his head again. As much as he tried not to build himself up for it, it was impossible not to picture a best-case scenario in his head, with all that entailed. He knew his expectations were too high, but surprisingly enough, that never stopped him before, either.
At six, Mom came home, and they left. Let the games begin. Not knowing what to expect was part of the fun. (Okay, so sometimes chaos wasn’t all that bad.) On the rare occasions he got to see Jessica, he’d roll with the punches (so to speak). He’d decided that that’s what love was about, mostly: Faith. Undying faith. The kind that people say they have for Jesus or God’r whoever it is they pray to. Gods were all well and good (well, mostly….), he supposed, but Jessica was real, tangible. It felt right to believe in someone when you could hold their hand, look into their eyes, feel their heartbeat. The last hand Jesus held was Thomas’s, and he sure as hell wasn’t talking. When he looked at Jessica, Dave could just trust what he felt, and let go.
Forty minutes later, Dave and his mother were parked outside Jessica’s house. Jessica was rolling down the ramp, looked at him, and smiled.