I watch them from my chair by the window. Mummy has dressed me in brown, cord pedal pushers and a white blouse with navy-blue bow that dangles from the top button like a Christmas decoration. She tells me how pretty I look. How special I am.
I look like one of those creepy Victorian dolls with long curly blonde hair and blue eyes that Mummy decorates my bed with. She pretends I like them. She wastes an hour every day brushing my hair and tying ribbons. She needs me to look and feel pretty.
I wish she would leave me alone to watch the other kids.
Tommy is dragging a piece of white chalk along the road. He’s trying to draw a straight line, but he’s reminding me of my little brother’s plastic toy snake swaying from side to side as he holds it by the tail.
Tommy draws another line then joins them together. Dropping the chalk, he skips over to the pavement. He bends down in front of a hedge and I can no longer see him. I sound like a seal when I emit my signature high-pitched bark. Sound is the only thing we have in common, cos seals can clap.
Tommy appears with two tennis rackets.
‘Right, who has the ball?’ he asks.
The other four in the group look at one another expectantly.
He uses the f-word and tells them how useless they are. ‘I make the court and bring the rackets, and nobody brings a tennis ball?’
‘I know where I can get one,’ Maggie shouts excitedly. She shoots off in the direction of her house.
I wish I was Maggie. She is everything I want to be.
‘Right, it’s my stuff so I’m going first,’ warns Tommy.
The others nod.
‘I’m going, Sampras. Bulldog, you can play me first. Who are you going?’
Bulldog scratches his head.
I’ve no idea why they call him Bulldog. For a split second, I’m glad I’m not part of the clique. What nickname would they give me!? Clawhammer, cos of my buck teeth, maybe?
Bulldog’s face is always dirty. My Dad says he hides his money under the soap.
‘Eh, I’ll go Egberg,’ he shouts as he jumps up and down like he’s on a pogo stick.
They’re laughing and pointing at him. ‘It’s Edberg, stupid, not, Egberg.’
‘That’s what I said,’ the now stationary and frowning Bulldog claims.
The cry of, ‘Got one. Got one,’ rescues him. Maggie runs with her arm in the air clutching the ball. She is wearing white denim shorts, a Take That t-shirt and fancy Nike’s.
My footwear is always based on comfort and practicality.
She tosses the ball to Tommy.
‘What’s this? Where’d you get this? He twirls it in his hands, examining it like it’s a Rubik cube. There’s a wee valve thing in this ball.’
‘I cut it off my wee brother’s Swingball with my sister’s hairdressing scissors,’ Maggie beams.
Tommy puts his hand over his mouth. ‘Oh, Maggie, you’re in big trouble. That’s mental.’
Maggie looks like she’s been rejected for the lead part that she’d set her heart on in in the school play.
I let out an excitable screech.
Tommy turns his neck sharply in the direction of our house. The way he moves his neck reminds me of the time I cried at a programme when I saw a farmer break a chicken’s neck. Tommy screams, ‘Edgy! There’s Davie!’
They run like they’re trying to catch the ice-cream van as it pulls away from the street on its last visit of the night.
Davie, who is our next-door neighbour, is sprinting down his garden path.
He runs like one of my dad’s heroes, Groucho Marx. Like he hates being noticed and is trying to make himself look smaller. When he catches them, he gives them a suffocating bear hug.
He presses his face against theirs and laughs at them trying to wrestle free. His laugh is like the one at the end of Michael Jackson’s video for Thriller.
I heard one of the other kids, Kyle Cameron, saying he thought Davie was going to crush his bones into sherbet.
I don’t like Davie. Everyone says he doesn’t know any better cos he is special.
I hate that word. Special. It makes me wish I could slam my pathetic little trotters on the armrests of my wheelchair. If only I could hide them in my pockets, but my arms are locked, like they’re strapped to my chest. If Davie is special, then I don’t want to be.
I want to be Maggie. I want to play in the streets with the boys. I want to cut the tennis ball off Swingball. I want my little brother to cry and scream at me for ruining his game. I don’t want excuses made cos I’m special.
I don’t want to go on the special bus to the special school for special kids. I don’t want to be like a broken toy. I don’t want sympathetic looks or pity.
I don’t want to be me.
Did I do something wrong in Mummy’s tummy? Did Mummy or Dad do bad things before I arrived? Did they not pray enough?
Sometimes, Mummy, places space dust popping candy on my tongue with a teaspoon as a special treat. She uses the spoon to flick my tongue under my front teeth back into its proper home. She sighs when it returns to its natural resting position on my right cheek.
When I watch the other kids play, feelings and desires explode inside me like space dust.
Space dust makes my tongue feel alive. I dream of bathing up to my neck in space dust letting it transform my broken and brittle body into a proper one that works and looks just like Maggie’s.
Maggie is special.
Martin Geraghty is a forty-six-year-old from Glasgow. His debut novel, A Mind Polluted, was published by Crooked Cat Books in May 2018. He has had work published in short story collections and various Lit-Zines. He recently completed the writing of his second novel which he shall be seeking representation for in the coming months. Twitter: @MartinGeraght1 Website: martingeraghty.com.