Read Life Happens Next Online

Authors: Terry Trueman

Life Happens Next

LIFE HAPPENS NEXT

Terry Trueman

Dedication

For Donna

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Dedication

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Author's Note

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Other Works

Credits

Copyright

Back Ads

About the Publisher

1

N
ight before last my dad tried to kill me. At least, I'm pretty sure that was his plan. For weeks and months I'd been worrying about it. I guess Dad had his reasons, but he didn't do it. Obviously. Lucky me, huh? Sorry, sarcasm is one of the few weapons I possess.

I heard this thing once on a TV program about a guy who had a recurring dream that he was a butterfly. One day he woke up and couldn't tell for sure if he was a butterfly dreaming he was a guy, or a guy dreaming he was a butterfly. Lately, when I first wake up, I have the feeling that maybe my dream life is better than my real life. Dreaming is my favorite part of each day, flying, soaring, feeling free because of all the amazing possibilities it offers. Yep, I've got reality—then everything else.

But here's the screwiest part: most of these dreamy possibilities spin around an impossible fact, the fact that I'm in love with Ally Williamson.

Damn, that's crazy. Maybe not so crazy for anybody else, but it sure is for me.

You see, I'm not exactly what you'd call red-hot, lover-boy material. At least not on the outside. Actually, I'm pretty smart and funny—on the inside.

Confused? Okay, let's start with the facts. I'm Shawn McDaniel, and I have cerebral palsy. C.P. isn't always severe, but in my case it's about as bad as it can get. I am stuck in a wheelchair or on my bed 24/7. I wear diapers 'cause I can't use the toilet. I drool a lot so I often have a big bath towel tied around my neck soaked with spit. Between my diaper and my drool, are you surprised that I'm not exactly a sweet-smelling chick magnet? Hell, my own dad can barely stand to look at me. I go to a special program for school, a program just for kids like me. I know a lot of people call us “The Retards' Class”—nice, huh? My sister, Cindy, and brother, Paul, go to the same school, but my classes are totally separated. Separate but unequal.

Oh wait. There's more. I make loud sounds instead of words, incredibly irritating noises that I can't control. It's like my brain sends an order saying, “All right, Shawn, it's loud vocalizations time!” and a big fat “Ahhhhhhhh” jumps out of my mouth.

These vocalizations are as close as I ever get to communication with others, since I can't control ANY of my muscles at all.

It kills me that nobody knows I'm smart inside this useless shell. The people who love me most in the world, along with everybody else who ever sees me, think I'm a veg. I'm trapped inside my body.

So you see how this stuff makes it more than a little crazy for me to be in love? Especially with
the
most beautiful girl in the history of drop-dead-gorgeous girldom. Ally Williamson is Cindy's best friend, and while she knows I exist, that's the extent of our “relationship.” In fact, the only time I get to see Ally is when my mom, Lindy, puts me in my regular spot in the family room, where Cindy and Ally usually hang out or watch TV. At these moments, I imagine Ally close to me. And lots of times my mind wanders into a daydream or fantasy. These are almost as good as my nighttime dreams, where Ally and I are walking on a deserted beach hand in hand, or running into the surf and diving into the blue waves or … never mind. The truth is that dreams and fantasies never last. Something like the breeze pressing against the windowpane, or some idiot on TV saying, “Love conquers all,”—something always snaps me out of it and back to reality.

“Love conquers all”?

Yeah, right. Maybe not quite
all
, huh?

I've been in love with Ally Williamson from the first second I ever saw her. Love at first sight. Well, maybe not the exact first second but pretty freakin' close to it. One night she came to our house for a sleepover with my sister and I got to hang out with them. Okay, “hang out with them” is not quite accurate. I got to sit in my wheelchair, little more than a lump of human flesh and unacknowledged teenaged horniness, in the room next to where they were. But at that first meeting Ally greeted me, looking right into my eyes. She was warm and kind, which caught me off guard. Hardly anybody ever acts interested when they are introduced to me, probably because all I do is sit and drool back at them, but Ally spoke to me. Her voice was a little too loud, which was probably nervousness, but there was nothing phony in her tone or words. I mean it was like she didn't even see my wheelchair or smell my ugly scent or judge me in any way. She was nice and, yep, totally gorgeous, so I admit that this combination of kindness and gorgeousness gave me the absolute, total, over-the-top, teenaged-love-junkie, mac-daddy-extreme
hotz
for her.

When I got put to bed later that night, I tossed and turned. I guess I should say that my brain tossed and turned me, thinking about Ally, her smile, eyes, lips, hair, her slender hands that cradled my face and brushed my cheek when she said good night. Okay, to be honest, I made up that last part.

But when I finally fell asleep, I had this wonderful dream, where we were kissing and cuddling. And in the dream, Ally looked me in the eyes and told me she loved me. I told her I loved her too, knowing somehow that this was true not just in my dream but in reality, also.

Now I am consumed by wanting to know her and to be known by her, to love and be loved. In the dream, I felt that I
had
to be known and loved by her—
I had to be!
When I woke up in the morning, I started to worry. How can that ever happen? The reality is there is no way I can
ever
tell Ally how I really feel. And it hurts because without being loved for who you really are, without being known by anybody, what does life even mean?

I've had cerebral palsy from birth, and never being “normal,” I've had to adjust to a lot of things that most people don't even consider. If you think about the phrase “take it for granted” and then think about all the stuff normal people do all the time, it's amazing: walking, talking, peeing, winking, sighing, crying, burping, farting, laughing, staring, grabbing, holding, kissing, blushing. Do normal people ever think of any of these things as amazing? I doubt it. Not having any control over any of my body's parts, not being able to tell my hand, “pick up that cup,” or tell my eyes, “blink, yeah that was fun, now let's blink again,” makes normal things seem pretty awesome to me.

But I've gotten used to not being able to do all those things that normal people do all the time. What I'm never going to be able to get used to is dreaming about Ally Williamson, kissing her in my dreams (I
love
these dreams), loving her, and then waking up and realizing it will never be real, that these dreams will never come true.

So now you get that my body doesn't work. But my brain sure does. I'm almost fifteen years old, and since thinking is about all I can do, I've done a lot of it in my day. The only thing I can do to keep myself from getting depressed is just stay cool. I once heard my sister say to Paul, “No situation is so bad that having a bad attitude can't make it worse.” I love that. My situation is pretty bad, but I've got my hopes and dreams and firm belief that life is a pretty great thing. And thinking about Ally, fantasizing that we might somehow be together someday, is more than enough of a reason for me to live.

So back to my dad and how he planned to kill me a couple nights ago. He actually thought he'd be doing me a favor, ending my miserable existence. But because Dad didn't do it, I guess in one way I'm like everybody else now, just trying to figure out what's gonna happen next. I'm keeping my spirits up and enjoying a mental make-out here and there (hey, it's better than no make-out at all!), and focusing on the good things in life. Yeah, I've got C.P. but I know that there's always bad and good things coming at us that we can't even see, much less control. So how different am I from everyone else? Maybe not so much as it looks like.

2

H
ere's how I spin things in my head—some cool things about being me:

      
1. I get a hot bath every day of my life and never have to lift a finger. The warm water gets squeezed over my body from the big sponge in my mom's gentle, loving hands. And this bath is by far the most enjoyable physical sensation I ever feel.

      
2. I have a perfect auditory memory, remembering
everything
I
ever
hear, which is
totally
cool. This ability has turned our TVs (and we have four of them!) into the greatest learning devices in the universe. I mean, who needs real life when you've got 110 cable stations? And I remember
every
show, from Cesar Millan's
The Dog Whisperer
to Little League baseball to the love life of squids to “The bark beetle lays its eggs” to everything in between. In other words, I'm damned smart!

      
3. Although I can't tell anybody what kind of music I'd like to listen to, I love almost all the music that's played around here (rap/hip-hop, R&B, Bach and Mozart, geezer R&R) so whatever's on pretty much always makes me happy.

      
4. My brother, Paul, King Jock, Straight-A Student, Tough Guy Supreme, slips me bites of his deluxe bacon double cheeseburgers every chance he gets. Somehow Paul knows that I, too, think God invented this food to make up for the fact that all of us have to die someday.

      
5. My sister, Cindy, is a saint. She taught me to read by playing school with me when I was little, and to this day she never treats me bad—plus she has
great
taste in best friends,
wink-wink-hubba-hubba!

      
6. Although Mom has a master's degree in English and could be a college teacher or have some other higher-paying job, she works from home so she can take care of me. If Cindy is a saint, think about what that makes my mom.

      
7. I'll never have to get a lousy part-time job like carrying people's groceries to their cars in a supermarket parking lot or cleaning out toilets and mopping floors in some crummy restaurant.

      
8. In fact, I'll never have to get
any
job, which I figure is a good thing since
work
is a four-letter word …

      
9. … so I'll never have anybody bossing me around—I know this is partly a bad thing as I'll never get to boss anybody else either, but I don't think I'd like doing that anyway.

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