03 November 2009

Day 2 excerpt from Snakebit

In this excerpt, Chuck is revisiting an incident from his early childhood in which he used up the majority of his life's allotment of luck:

Grandma and the professor started running after me, but they were too late. I was on my own version of Mister Toad's Wild Ride, laughing and giggling as the stroller picked up speed.

This is where my luck kicked in, and I was too young to even know it.

My ride in the stroller that day quickly became the stuff of local legend. Verified eyewitness accounts, from students, instructors and staff who either attempted to corral me or watched helplessly as I careened past, detailed no fewer than seventeen separate instances in a twelve-minute span where I should have been killed. I went around corners on two wheels, the stroller straining to fall over but somehow remaining upright as it bounced up and down the sidewalk. I zipped in and out of traffic, narrowly missing not one, but two speeding Buick Rivieras being used by the television bigwigs in town for the game. I traveled through a construction zone, edging along the side of a newly-opened trench, then ducking under a pipe that was being lowered into the trench by a small crane. The construction workers fell all over each other trying to catch me, yet somehow I eluded their grasp, zipping on down the hill.

I continued bouncing down the sidewalk, sending pretty coeds sprawling onto the grass as I passed, their books and long hair flying haphazardly.

I was rapidly approaching an intersection, and at any other place in the United States at the time, I would have come to a curb, ending my ride and almost certainly causing me serious bodily harm. Yet luck intervened yet again. Mississippi Tech was at the forefront of the movement for easy public access for the disabled, owing mainly due the university's history in prosthetics engineering. In the early days of mechanized farming, thousands of farmers lost limbs as the result of gruesome harvesting accidents. Many of these men and women were sharecroppers in the east Mississippi farmlands, and it became a goal of the university to help these disabled farmers lead normal, productive lives. The work with false arms and legs eventually led to research and development for all disabilities, and the university was the first place in the United States where wheelchair-friendly sidewalk access ramps were installed.

So I didn't hit a curb and die. I zoomed across the intersection, narrowly dodging a carload of brothers from Kappa Sigma who were on their way to the county line to get a keg of beer. Down, down I went, weaving and laughing, until I reached the top of the steps in front of the coliseum and stopped.

The stroller's front wheels dangled menacingly at the edge of the stairs. It was a good fifty feet from the top of the stairs to the sidewalk below, fifty feet of cold, hard concrete, broken regularly by steel handrails.

More to come!

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