It was a blindingly glorious and day in the rolling, green-lawned suburb on the east side of Louisville. Oeddy was inside his basement room, taking apart and rebuilding his laptop in the alien, glowing light from the humming monitors and video game systems. His tanned, blonde, long-limbed siblings bounded inside their immaculate brownstone; they were sweaty and invigorated from a sunny July afternoon of extracurriculars and contact sports. Upon hearing their riding boots and cleats stomping on the floor above Oeddy’s head, he sighed and placed his headphones on, blaring his music to drown out their excitement.
His mother came downstairs, creeping gently, her frame lit from behind with a hazy glow like an apparition. Oeddy sat up straighter and removed his headphones.
“Oeddy, honey, let’s go upstairs. Dinner is almost ready and your father will be home from work soon.” Oeddy’s eyes traveled his mother’s slim frame, to her watery blue eyes and her dyed blonde hair. He nodded complacently and let her steer his cumbrous wheelchair, then gently guide his scrawny boy into his stairlift. His useless legs swayed back and forth and the machine groaned as it chugged his skinny frame out of the basement to the main floor.
Dinner for Oeddy was an automatic affair. His mother helped to place him in the wheelchair that was kept on the main floor, and the robotic metal frame of the gargantuan machine took up an obnoxious amount of space at the dinner table. He obediently ate the bland and carefully proportioned plate of vegetables that his mother sat in front of his place at the table while his siblings gobbled up their feast like a pack of ravenous wolves, elbowing and quarrelling over which sibling was entitled to the biggest portion.
“I had football practice, I need extra dessert!”
“I jumped my horse for two hours, it’s me that deserves the extra dessert.”
“I lifeguarded at the pool all afternoon, so I don’t wanna hear it.”
No one spoke up for Oeddy. He didn’t make a peep as the table was cleared and ice cream was served to all of the siblings but him. He didn’t say anything as his siblings excused themselves for an intense video game tournament. He had had 15 years of being ignored by his peers, and it no longer bothered him. When he began preschool as a young child, he tried very hard to be included in playground games and fit in with the other children, but his mother told him he was too different. For one, it made him cross that no other child could pronounce his name correctly; they didn’t comprehend the “Eddy” sound stemmed from the Greek myth of “Oedipus,” from which he was named because his mother loved mythology. Physically, he could run and play with the other children, but his mother constantly fussed and reminded him to take it easy because he was not able to withstand as much exertion.
The rest of his early life was remembered as a steady diet of doctor’s visits and homeschooling by his intelligent mother; she reminded him often that he was sick and very different. Long-winded doctors could not find a specific diagnosis for his “condition”, but all Oeddy could associate with the impersonal smell of hospital disinfectant was his mother repeating symptoms and insisting her sweet son needed help. As she rambled on in office after office, Oeddy felt as if she were describing someone else, but the sympathy and attention she gave him over his siblings kept him complacent to her erratic behavior. Eventually, his mother stopped allowing him to play outside with his brothers and sisters and kept him on a strict diet with a supplement of a multitude of colored pills he had to swallow. Oeddy has memories of his mother explaining his gradually worsening state to concerned relatives, wringing her hands while her eyes lit up like Christmas trees.
“Mother, can I return downstairs?” Oeddy finally croaked.
“Wait for your father to get home, please, my pumpkin.”
Minutes later, the front door of their comfortable home slammed open and shut with the force of a gale. Tall and broad as a linebacker, Oeddy’s father stomped into the house, tossed his briefcase down on the kitchen table, and kissed Oeddy’s mother passionately. Oeddy looked away from the spectacle that was his father.
“Hey honey,” Oeddy’s father boomed, ignoring Oeddy altogether. Oeddy’s mother trilled about the latest development in Oeddy’s condition and the doctors she had spent hours researching. Oeddy’s father put his arm around his mother and put on a sympathetic face, but he did not spare Oeddy a glance.
“Oeddy,” His mother broke the harangue with an authoritative voice, “It’s time for your medicine.”
“Yes, mother,” he replied in his nasal, awkward voice. His mother systematically ravaged the medicine cabinet and emerged with an assortment of pills and liquids of varying colors that all served to dull Oeddy’s mind. He swallowed the pills obediently, but he winced as the bitter formulas went down, dreading the familiar muggy haze the medicines brought over his mind and body.
Later that evening, as Oeddy was reprogramming his computer, his mother descended the stairs. He glanced at her and returned to his project.
“Oeddy, honey, I think it’s time to tell you of the decision I’ve made,” she said carefully. Oeddy nodded. “I’ve read that too much time in front of a computer screen is hazardous to your health, and your father and I agree that you spend too much time in front of your computer screen. I’m afraid that for your benefit, I must take away your computer.”
Oeddy’s heart dropped and his head pounded. His frail, atrophied body drew into itself as sadness and shock consumed his frame. His face crumpled and his oversize glasses drooped down his nose. He felt that his mother had experimented with his well-being for far too long, and now his passion, the only source of joy and accomplishment in his life, was going to be taken away.
“Mother, please, no.”
“Honey, I’m afraid it has to be done.”
She reached behind Oeddy’s desk and began ripping cords from the wall. Suddenly, Oeddy’s hand shot forward as if expelled from a cannon and his long pale fingers clamped around his mother’s wrist like a bear trap. She froze, her eyes widened and her skin pale.
Oeddy’s voice shed its nasal effeminate quality to reveal a newfound masculine bark. Locking eyes with his mother, Oeddy slowly pulled one leg from the foothold of his wheelchair, and then the other. His mother watched, horrified, while he slowly rose from his chair as if rising from the grave. His legs wobbled and quivered from the effort, but they held fast and Oeddy was standing, unsupported, in front of her. His eyes that once gazed like a newborn calf now smoldered with unrequited fury and disbelief.
“Mother, don’t,” he repeated. She slowly released her handful of multicolored cords and backed away. Oeddy released her wrist. “I’ve been living a lie,” he said in a tense monotone, his voice breaking, “I’ve been your little pet. I’ve been your little project. I’ve been your little tax break. I’ve been your little freak to hide away in the basement. I can’t do this anymore.”
His mother stammered and coerced and barked, but she could not stop Oeddy from slowly, disjointedly walking away from her. He bypassed his stair lift and gripped the railing of the staircase, pulling himself up step by step with a monumental effort.
Oeddy’s siblings were inside when they saw the door to the basement swing open, and they involuntarily gasped when they saw their invalid, pacifist brother stagger into the light of the main floor. His brow was beaded in sweat, his muscles were shaking all over, his breath was coming in gasps, but his eyes shone with a light of euphoria they had never seen before.
It was a quiet, comfortable fall day in the brilliantly colored tree-lined village of Worcester, Massachusetts. Oeddy put his arm around his petite, blonde wife and sighed contentedly, watching his two small children jump and quarrel in the pile of freshly raked leaves from their view from the porch.
“Honey,” his pleasant, pretty wife said, “Your mother called. She wants to come for a visit. I told her that we would have to talk about it, but she really sounded like she wanted to see you and to meet the kids.”
Oeddy’s brow furrowed and his watery blue eyes clouded. “Hold on,” he mumbled, slipping out of his wife’s embrace. Oeddy jumped off his brick front porch with a deft step, his long legs reaching out in front of him. His wife’s mouth dropped open as he flew into a sprint and strode out of his yard into the quiet suburban neighborhood. His chest pumped oxygen in gusts; his arms sliced the air with karate chops, but Oeddy relished the feeling of blood pumping through his legs-his strong, capable legs.
He returned to the manicured lawn of his cozy brownstone, his children looking at him as if he were a superhero, or a stranger. His breath came in gasps, sweat beaded on his forehead, but his muscles did not shake or falter. Oeddy looked at his wife with euphoria in his eyes and said, “Tell her to book a flight.”
Laska Anderson is a freshman history major from Leitchfield, Kentucky