My name is Leigh and I have a bad knee. No, I am not a poet. I just like to rhyme sometimes. My dad always says that's a waste of time. Okay, okay. I'm getting off topic. I blew out my knee playing basketball and I'm writing this story in my journal as I'm waiting for the doctor to come out and see me. My dad looks over at me shakes his head.
He's never really approved of my passion for writing. He thinks it's a ridiculous dream, but I am determined to somehow and someway prove him wrong. "Leigh Harper?" Someone calls. I gather my things and follow the nurse and my dad back to the office.
"How's it looking, doc?" My dad asks. He likes to pretend to be concerned, but all he really cares about is me playing basketball and I don't have the heart to tell him that I hate basketball. Don't get me wrong.. I'm good at it. I just don't like it. I'm not boasting. I'm just informing you of my skills.
"I'm sorry, Leigh, but it looks like you won't be playing basketball anytime soon. Your knee still hasn't healed." My dad looks disappointed, but I'm secretly relieved. Once we get home and tell my mom what happened, she suggests that I use the old cane in the closet.
"I'll be the laughing stock of the school then," I say, hoping that this will be the end of the conversation, but it's not.
"Of course you won't be! Be my brave little girl, okay?" Mom says and then goes back to texting whoever she's texting. It must be a client of hers. My mom is a hairdresser and a very famous one.
Just to make my mom happy, I go to school with the cane. Out of boredom, I decide to give it a name. I name it Bob. When most people see me with the cane, they're sympathetic and ask what happened, but some people aren't so nice and don't like differences. Someone even pushed me down.
After school lets out, I meet up with my best friend Eleanor at my locker. I'm about to put Bob in my locker when Eleanor stops me with what I like to call her mom look. "What are you doing? Don't you need that?"
“Are you missing what just happened here? I just got knocked down. I knew I would be the laughing stock,” I respond defeated.
"Leigh, if you keep letting these people get to you, then you're never going to be brave enough to stand up on your own. That isn't the Leigh I know.."
“Then the Leigh you know is a fraud!” I say before taking off. I run as fast as I can to my house. Dad has already cooked dinner and mom is at work.
“I found a specialist for you. He's going to help your knee get back in shape so that you can play basketball again. Isn't that exciting? Where's your cane?” Dad asks almost as an afterthought.
"Yeah. exciting and I left it at school. I told you I would be the laughing stock and I was! I'm never going back there!" Dad sighs and then sits down without a saying word.
When he sits down without saying a word to me, I know I've disappointed him. It's not a great feeling to disappoint your dad who has supported the basketball career that you never wanted in the first place.
After dinner, the doorbell rings. I rush to answer it because I know it's going to be Eleanor. Sure enough, she's standing at my door with the cane.
"I think it may be good for you and Bob to bond," Eleanor says. I roll my eyes and grab the cane from her.
"It can't be that bad, Leigh. So what you've had a bad day today. Tomorrow will be better. As far as the people making fun of you, they're only making fun because they don't understand." Eleanor says goodnight. I shut the door and go to my room. I put the cane in my closet and sit down at my computer to write.
"Hey, sweet cheeks? How about letting me out of this suffocating closet?" A voice calls out. I think I know who and what it is, but that's impossible.
Canes cannot and do not talk. I slowly walk over to my closet and Bob hobbles out and over to me. I can't believe what I am seeing, “That's more like it,” Bob says and climbs on my bed.
"Nope. Not happening. This is not happening. You've got to go back in the closet, Bob. I don't need you anymore!"
"Wrong! You still need me. You can try getting rid of me all you want, but I'll show right back up in your orbit. I bet if I were a human you wouldn't have any problem giving me a chance, Bob says wistfully.
"You are an inanimate object! You should not be talking to me! I am just tired. I'm going to take a nap and when I wake up, I hope you're gone!" I try to warn Bob, but he only seems to be entertained by me trying to be braver than I really am.
I somehow am able to take a nap, but I am soon being shaken awake. I assume it's my mom, but I am wrong. It's Bob.
"Wake up! Rise and shine! Time for school. I put all of your homework assignments in your book bag, Oh, and I fixed that poem assignment of yours. It was good, but it just needed a bit of sprucing up."
A cane is talking to me. It's even creepier that he has a painted face that Eleanor drew on him to cheer me up before returning the cane.
I hold on to Bob for support as we navigate the halls. I can feel someone's hand on me. I turn around ready to confront them. Bob, must have slid out of my grip and giggles.
"Hey, you there! You! Yes,you the one I just tripped! It's not so fun being the laughing stock of the school, isn't it?" Bob says to the person that was about to push me again.
Now anytime I try to go near anyone, they back away as if I've scorched them. I do not like this one bit. It's not that I don't appreciate Bob's willingness to defend me, but does he have to take it so far? "Come on, Leigh. You can't stay mad at me!" Bob says to me once we get home. I put my hands on my hips and turn around to glare at him. "You didn't have to take it so far! Now people really do hate me!"
"Why are you so obsessed with people liking you? If people don't you like because of an ability or disability that you have, that's their loss. You shouldn't be so focused on trying to impress these people but if you really want to impress them, why don't you sing those beautiful songs you've written?" I shove Bob back into my closet and plop down on my bed. A few hours later, Dad is calling me to dinner.
"I heard you had an incident at school today. I've taught you better than that. Did you trip someone? I taught you to fight meanness with kindness, didn't I?"
"But, Dad? It wasn't me! It was that cane! I swear! You have to believe me. Say you believe me." I don't know why I am begging him to believe because I know he won't.
“Your imagination is running wild. No more journals and books until you do the right thing and go apologize to your classmate!”
“That's not fair. You can't stop me from writing!” My dad pulls out one of my journals from behind him.
“Oh? You think this stuff is good enough to get published? It's not. Stick to basketball!” Dad yells and I run upstairs to my bed to cry. I pick up of all of my journals and throw them away.
“Leigh? What are you doing?” Bob asks, hopping up on the bed next to me. He leans against me. I didn't know I could feel so comforted with Bob right here.
"Maybe my dad's right. It's a waste of time. All of this? Everything I pour my heart and soul into. It's not good enough." "No. It's great. I've read your work, Leigh. You are so talented and I'm not going to let you give up your dream," Bob says and then hops down.
"Where are you going?" I yell after him. When he doesn't answer, I follow him. I gasp when he reaches my dad.
My dad screams and then sits down. "If it's quite alright with you, Leigh's Dad, I would like to have a talk with you," Bob says.
"She wasn't lying. You do talk!" My dad picks up a baseball bat and is about to smash Bob with it, but I can't bear to see that happen. "Dad! I don't want to play basketball anymore. I know how you feel about my writing, but it's something I love doing it. I know you don't think I'm talented, but I know I have what it takes in me." Dad drops the baseball bat and Bob runs over to me. I pick him up and lay him down across my lap and put my hand on him for comfort.
"Leigh... I was wrong. Your work. It is good enough. I only said that because I was jealous. Come with me. I want to show you something." My dad leads me to his writing office. He used to be a writer, but he gave up on his dream a long time ago to be a basketball coach. My dad reaches for a journal and hands it to me.
I skim through the journals of pages and pages of poetry, "Dad? Your poetry. It's beautiful and flows just like poetry should." "My mom told me I wasn't talented enough once. She told me I was wasting my life away just sitting in my room writing. When you were born, I promised that whatever dream you had I would support, but I went back on my word. I'm truly sorry for that," Dad says.
Bob clears his throat and we both turn around to give him our undivided attention. "It seems that you won't be needing me much anymore. I hope that whenever you do need me, you'll tap the top of my head and I'll come to life for you," Bob says before he disappears back into a regular old cane. I wipe the tears that are starting to fall from my eyes.
“You know? This would make an excellent story,” Dad says and I giggle. He puts his arm around me and tells me he'll make me some hot chocolate. I look over at Bob one more time and he winks at me before really retreating back this time.