“Wheelie,” by Eric Suhem

Apr 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Prose

The wheelchair was loaded with cabbages. It was electric and moved along the sidewalks of town, apparently on its own. Some people found its appearance disturbing, but most had learned to get used to it, some even affectionately calling it ‘Wheelie’. The wheelchair rolled to the seaside cliff on the outskirts of town, and for reasons unknown, tilted to drop the cabbages onto the wave-crashed rocks below. After this, the wheelchair returned to the hospital, where it stood inert. An orderly grasped the handles of the wheelchair, and it felt the warm glow of service and purpose, happily maneuvering the patients through the institutional corridors. Eventually, though, Wheelie felt restless. The wheelchair made a series of calculated moves, inserting its vinyl surface under the rump of a society dame, who was well enough to leave the hospital for a restful cruise across the Atlantic. This had required a brief conflict with the previously assigned wheelchair, the spokes entangling in an ugly sparked battle. As the wheelchairs fought, Wheelie reflected on a hospital gift shop cashier named Ludwig, who was relieved of his duties.

Weeks before, Ludwig boarded Wheelie and was scurrying about the institution’s hallways. He sped into the hospital gift shop, crashing into a rack of ‘Get well soon’ cards, sending them fluttering to the linoleum floor. Ludwig was not handicapped, but he was spending more and more time in the wheelchair, having become a fan of the now-defunct U.S. TV show ‘Ironside’.  “Raymond Burr has a deeper understanding than the rest of us,” he was fond of saying. As the alarmed gift shop manager looked on, Ludwig declared, “A token of atonement m’lady!” He grabbed a roll of wrapping paper, then some scissors and glue. He cut a crude flower-shaped piece out of the wrapping paper, then glued the paper flower to the cash register, covering up the ‘7’, ‘8’, and ‘9’ keys. “A pretty flower for a pretty lady,” declared Ludwig. And with that, he whirled Wheelie around to the right, and into a potted plant. As the manager pried the mess off the register, her gluey fingers sticking together, she felt great anger, but also felt strangely touched by the simple gesture of affection. About 30 seconds later, Ludwig was fired on the spot. Now, in the current  conflict with the other wheelchair, Ludwig’s soul seemed to fill Wheelie with new power, beyond its 4 electrical speeds.

Victorious over the rival chair, and safely ensconced under the seat of the matron, Wheelie left the hospital and sailed across the ocean to the European continent. The octogenarian’s destination was Berlin, and after disembarking the ship, the wheelchair accompanied her on a series of scenic rural train rides. Upon arrival in Berlin, the wheelchair felt the pull of its soul. It abruptly deposited the matron in Berlin’s largest park, the Tiergarten, and a foreign mode of transport moved in quickly to relieve the elderly socialite of any stresses, delivering her to a new reality she had never dreamed of, among the Teutonic well-to-do. Wheelie, now free, rolled along side roads towards the Autobahn. As the wheelchair sped along, it viewed the ghostly apparition of Raymond Burr, in Perry Mason mode, holding a law book in one hand, and a paper flower in the other, recommending a detour to the left. Wheelie followed that path, changing course from a potentially disastrous encounter with a pebble. Now on the Autobahn, Wheelie blazed along at 195 kilometers per hour, easily passing other traffic, feeling fulfilled.


Eric Suhem lives in California and enjoys the various qualities of his vegetable juicer. His work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Cerebral Catalyst, why vandalism?, Clockwise Cat, and elsewhere.

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