Josef strode behind Roz and spread his arms saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. You know I love you, but Life is not the Special Olympics, Roz. Not everyone is a winner. The intellectually challenged don’t always get that kind of support.”
Rosemary (Roz) stopped and replied with steel, “The Special Olympics proves how we could be. But when I finally leave you, maybe you should start the Special Dating Olympics for the relationship challenged?”
Josef blew a puff of exasperation and lowered his arms around Roz’s waist and sighed, “I just don’t want our …your son to become a performing monkey.”
Without turning around, Roz laid her hands upon Josef’s clasped hands, saying softly, “I know.”
Josef owned a small lumber business. Roz had come to him asking for a job. Josef could not afford another full-time employee even though he really had needed a receptionist secretary and even as Roz was pleading herself, Josef remembered his scripture, Do you know what the costs of a new hire are? Forty percent on top of their wages with federal and state taxes, health insurance, workman's compensation, paid time off...
But Roz was sweet and radiant and pregnant and alone. Josef was sour and cloudy and insignificant and alone. Josef felt gracious looking at Roz. He thought to himself I have paid more for less value…
Josef hired Roz. Josef still had the big home in San Clemente up on the hill overlooking the ocean, even if he could no longer afford it. A bitter divorce had been no reason to leave. There was a guest house and a pool and a big lawn and garden. Josef offered to let Roz stay in the guest house, saying, “You don’t have to pay me rent… until you are able… under the circumstances… no strangers… no noise… we can ride in to work together…”
Josef had hired Roz with full benefits from Stellar Cross Health Insurance, knowing her child would come soon. The child came a boy, Joshua, who was born deformed, shaped like a barrel and with oversized feet and hands that fidgeted constantly. “Dysmorphic,” the doctor had explained benignly, “but physically healthy … very strong...”
Roz prompted the inevitable, nodding and asking, “And?”
The doctor said quickly, “There can be… in these cases… intellectual disabilities.”
Roz heard herself ask, “He’s retarded?”
The doctor gratefully parsed Political Correctness, “The American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disability no longer favors or promotes that expression, as the term “retarded” carries significant social and emotional stigma.”
Roz was resilient and said, “Now I think you are retarded.” The news was bitter herbs to Josef, who had talked Roz into the name Joshua, extolling, “Yehoshu'a, Joshua, ‘God is salvation’, the leader of the Israelites after Mosheh, Moses...”
Josef took it personally. It proved again to him that there really was a God… tormenting him, testing him like Iyov, Job, whom Josef considered the most significant man in Judeo-Christian history.
Joshua, son of Rozmary, as prophesized, was intellectually disabled. He was marginally socially interactive, yet he responded adequately to Roz and Josef. He did however spend a lot of time talking to an imaginary friend. Yet he was an astonishing physical genius. Joshua’s oversized, fidgety hands and feet had comprehensions of their own. As a toddler he started one day by shocking Josef and Roz as he climbed up the draperies and happily hung there. He next climbed up on top of the refrigerator and sat there giggling at his nonplussed mother.
Then one summer day, watching the Olympics on television with Roz and Josef, the Women’s Artistic Gymnastics came on with the Uneven Bars event. Joshua ceased his bounding and climbing on the furniture and fell before the wide-screen television as if it were a burning bush and listened and he saw before him entire routines flowing from one movement to the next without pauses, high-flying release moves from low bar to high bar, from high bar to low bar, or releasing one bar and re-grasping the same bar, pirouetting into handstand positions with straight body lines in the vertical position, and release moves twisting and flipping into dismounts in perfect form and stuck landings.
Joshua then alarmed Roz and Josef by being quiet and calm for the next seven minutes. He had withdrawn to a mountaintop in his mind. When Joshua’s spirit reemerged he said, “I want to be like that.”
Josef answered, “But those are girls…”
Roz quickly intervened, “So what, Josef? You can buy some uneven bars, can’t you?”
Josef quickly amended, “Sure. I can have some made with scrap lumber…”
Roz continued with Joshua, “You can be just like that. I bet you can be even better than that!”
Roz then was revealed a vision, saying, “Joshua, you can be the hit of the Special Olympics! You could be on television. Oh, Josef, television, wouldn’t that be miraculous for Joshua?”
Josef then started the argument by saying to Roz, “Is that really such a good idea? I mean, he can have uneven bars to play on, but should we subject him to the kind of pressure you just described?”
Roz shot coldly, “Are you ashamed of Joshua? Are you? You can’t hide him here forever. No! Joshua and I can leave anytime!”
Josef spoke up and instantly regretted saying, “Roz, sometimes you can be intellectually deficient,” as Roz immediately stood erect and proceeded toward the big sliding glass door and the guest house beyond as she had so many times, saying coldly, “Come with me Joshua. We’re packing.”
Josef strode behind Roz and spread his arms saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. You know I love you. I love you both, but Life is not the Special Olympics, Roz. Not everyone is a winner. The intellectually challenged don’t always get that kind of support.”
Roz stopped and replied with steel, “The Special Olympics proves how we could be. But when I finally leave you, maybe you should start the Special Dating Olympics for the relationship challenged?”
Josef blew a puff of exasperation and lowered his arms around Roz’s waist and sighed, “I am sorry. I just don’t want our …your son to become a performing monkey.”
Without turning around, Roz laid her hands upon Josef’s clasped hands, saying softly, “I know.”
Josef had the two uneven bars built of the finest materials. But it was very soon not enough. Joshua explored the moves he had seen on television and which he had memorized instantly, and then he created his own moves literally “on the fly”. Joshua had his own conceptual abilities and he asked Josef to extrapolate a third, a fourth, then a fifth uneven bar all at different heights and angles. Joshua slung himself up, down, up, down, and orbited around all five uneven bars as if he breathed gravity.
Even Josef could not deny, saying, “Maybe we should start with the Special Olympics. Truly this is miraculous.”
Joshua was so startling via his audition performance video, that the Special Olympics Committee created a Men’s Artistic Gymnastics event just for him. Josef financed the building of Joshua’s latest vision of a towering pyramidal scaffold of uneven bars. Representatives from the major television networks were alerted. Scouts from major sponsors took cell phone videos for their incredulous bosses. Josef saw immediately that if he controlled this circus correctly, Joshua would be their salvation, saying, “Sky’s the limit.”
Roz jokingly called Josef “Colonel Josef” and Josef jokingly called Joshua “Elvishua”.
By the time of the Special Olympics Joshua’s tower of uneven bars was 40 feet high. It was difficult not to make Joshua the poster-child for the Special Olympics that year. The publicity was unprecedented.
On the day of the event the crowd was twice as massive as usual. There were the usual Special Events in Aquatics, Athletics, Basketball, Golf, and Gymnastics, but this time there was Joshua. No one was more nervous than Josef, who wore a brightly colored jacket with the logo “Team Joshua” emblazoned over the heart and on the back. Roz was looking around, fulfilled in her own prophesy no matter what happened. Joshua was unresponsive to the cries of all the strangers in this strange congregation, was absorbed speaking in earnest to his invisible friend.
When it was Joshua’s time, a thousand tongues rolled like drums. Joshua anointed his palms with powder of chalk. He flexed and cracked his joints, then he suddenly leapt to the first uneven bar, causing the crowd to gasp. Flowing from one movement to the next without pauses, conjuring high-flying release moves from low bar to high bar, from high bar to low bar, releasing and re-grasping the same bar, pirouetting into handstand positions, then twisting and flipping, rising higher, higher, higher, faster, faster, faster. The crowd became frenzied. They chanted Joshua higher and yet higher.
With a crescendo of fireworks Joshua reached the highest bar of the pyramid and arrived at a handstand position wavering like a flame and the crowd screamed and jumped up and down and hugged one another. Roz and Joseph held each other and cried. Roz let Joseph kiss her deeply.
Suddenly there were yells from the crowd. Joshua had started to spin on that ultimate bar again, faster and faster, and this time he let go with one final swing, his feet kicking toward the heavens. And he spun away out of sight, up into thinnest blue sky and out of the crowd’s perception.
The stunned crowd began to stir again, some hollering, “Fake!” some crying, “He will be back!” some saying, “Good show!”
As your own invisible friend, I recommend that you get ready for your next event.
Return and read all the other stories at The OS Weekend Fiction Club
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