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    Carlos Hazday
  • Author
  • 2,489 Words
Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Wheels - 1. Wheelchair Guy

lake on saturday bro… dad says we can take the boat out by ourselves”

Brion did not have to wait long for Caleb, his fellow swimmer on the high school team, to text his reply.

fuck yeah when we leavin?”

Invited to the Olympic trials, Brion March Atwater and Caleb Ray Dresden had missed making the American team for the London games. They returned for their final year before college, recommitted to their sport, and looked ahead to the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

“got the truck… pack your shit… pick you up in the morning… head out after classes”

The Atwater family owned a lakeshore cabin south of Evansville. Brion had grown up swimming, fishing, and water skiing around his familys place. Having turned eighteen the previous month, he was at last allowed to stay there without parental supervision.

Brion and Caleb had met in elementary school and been friends since. After graduation, both planned to attend Indiana University and share a dorm room. The school was renowned for its swimming and diving programs.

will raid garage fridge

At the Dresden home, an old refrigerator was used to store beer, wine, and soft drinks. Both guys were underage, but their parents allowed sporadic alcohol consumption. Alone at the lake for the weekend, they would not have to worry if they overdid it.

Like his two sisters, one married with a kid and the other one in college, Brion had inherited good looks from his parents. The brown hair he kept short and the pronounced dimples made him seem like a carbon copy of his father, albeit younger and taller. The hazel eyes he got from his mother.


By the time they arrived at the cabin and unloaded the truck, the sun was on its way down. There was not enough time to get the boat out, but the guys decided to jump in the water anyway.

Fuck! Thats cold.” Anything else he might have had to say was drowned out when Caleb pounced. Sputtering, Brion resurfaced, wildly flailing his arms, trying to grab his friend.

You gonna have to try harder, Bri.” Caleb had swum out of reach. Youre right. It is cold as shit. Now that Im awake, lets get out, light a fire, and have a beer.”

Youre on, peckerhead. But Im getting you back tomorrow.”

While Brion collected wood from the shed and started a fire in the pit between the house and the shoreline, Caleb dragged the cooler they had brought onto the back porch. Typical of provisioning by teenagers, aside from beer and soda, they had hot dogs, chips, and marshmallows.

Brion, like Caleb and most Olympic-caliber athletes, took care of his body and was careful about what he put in it. The rules were being upended during the trip and junk food was on the menu. Everyone needed a few cheat meals.

Dude, I want to be up early so we can ski before the lake gets overrun. Let's have a beer each and save the rest for after we come in tomorrow.”

Caleb shrugged and nodded.

Using branches stripped of leaves, they cooked hot dogs over the open flame, drank their beer, and used the sticks again to roast marshmallows. Relocating inside, a couple of action movies kept them entertained until bedtime.

The next morning, accustomed to rising for training before the sun did, they did not sleep late. Breakfast consisted of toaster pastries slathered with peanut butter and an energy drink. Since they would be at the lake for most of their spring break, the guys planned to hit a grocery store on Monday. Until then, they would get by with what little they brought and whatever they found in the cupboards.

On their way to the cabins boathouse, Brion grabbed Calebs arm and stopped. Dude! Look at that water. Its like a mirror out there.” Barely a ripple could be seen, and sunlight made the surface glimmer. This is gonna be epic!” The guys high-fived each other.

Come on, lets get out there before it gets full.” From previous visits, Caleb knew many of the families with homes on the lake had kids around their age and boats. By the afternoon, there would be traffic jams trying to reach the ramp in the middle. They expected to run into friends from school and spend time with them.

Along with his father, Brion had been at the cabin the previous weekend. They had aired out the place, replaced the gasoline they had drained when the boat was winterized, and taken it out to ensure everything worked well.

Motoring out of the shed, another boat with two couples waving at them sped by. There were no others nearby. Wanting to take advantage of the near-complete solitude, the two swimmers readied to ski. Brion went first, with Caleb driving at a moderate speed, allowing his friend to loosen up. After one full circuit of the lakes perimeter, they switched places.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, the growing crowd proved just how popular the lake was. There were boats and people everywhere. Some anchored as far from the center as possible and their occupants threw fishing lines over the side. The majority pulled individuals on skis or boogie boards. Brion and Caleb did a couple of passes, attempting wilder tricks each time they jumped off the ramp.

The frequency of their tricks diminished as other skiers took turns. Brion brought the boat around to where Caleb bobbed in the water after losing his grip on the tow line. He slowed as he approached, and gave his friend a thumbs up after coming to a full stop.

Bro, Im getting tired and hungry. Lets break for lunch and a nap.” Caleb climbed aboard, ran a chamois over his body, and replaced Brion at the wheel.

Okay. Sounds good. Give me a final run and well head inside.” Brion jumped in the water, grabbed the rope, and shouted at the top of his lungs. GO!

Caleb pushed the throttle forward while looking behind; once Brion was up, he accelerated. A wide circle brought them back to the other side of the ramp. Increasing their speed further, he steered to pass the contraption on the right side while Brion aimed dead center.

Their goal was to remain tethered to the boat no matter what type of stunt they pulled once airborne. Much later, Brion could not recall the details. He hit the ramp off-center, still caught big air, and attempted a move he often did while on a skateboard. As he began to twist his body, the rope slipped from his hand, his forward movement became negligible, and instead of landing in the water, he hit one of the concrete pylons used to anchor the ramp in place. He lost consciousness.


Yeah, you, the guy with the wheels.” CJ smiled while waiting for someone to hand the man he had identified as his next questioner a microphone. César Marcos Abelló, Jr was a guest lecturer that day.

Hi. Im Brion. In your book”—CJs presentation was part of a tour promoting Diplomat Dad: Un Año en Mexico—“your conversation with the Times reporter’s not exactly the same as what he wrote. Why?”

CJ shook his head. I cant believe you read what I wrote and compared it to what he did.” When the guy shrugged, CJ carried on. Lets just say Im impressed with your thoroughness. Pretty sure the only difference was when I spoke off-off-off the record after he brought up Russia invading Ukraine. I mentioned my belief Russia and the West had been in a renewed Cold War for a while but asked him not to print the comment since it was my personal opinion, and I didnt have the authority to discuss policy. I was unsure my employer would approve, but the State Department apparently had no problem with the comments when I submitted the book for review, and they greenlighted it.”

Did the Russian you helped defect inform your ideas?”

The Russian I helped defect?” CJ chuckled. I think Yevgeny did that of his own accord. Of course, I may have unintentionally nudged him along. My thoughts on Russia were based on professional journals and what I read in newspapers and magazines.” Somebody gasped. Yes, I read the Washington Post and the New York Times regularly. Even hard copies when at home. Theres some great reporting going on in this country, even if TV talking heads don’t know what they’re talking about most of the time.”

Can you give—” Brion was interrupted by the professor, explaining the next class was waiting outside the room. He expressed his gratitude to CJ for agreeing to speak to his students, congratulated him on the books initial success, and asked him to return to the University of Evansville sometime soon.


So how come youre in a chair?” While thanking the class, CJ asked Brion to wait so he could answer his last question. Outside the classroom, they agreed to continue the conversation in the student coffee shop.

Brion sputtered and accepted the offered napkin to wipe the latte dribbles. Damn! I figured you were a no-nonsense person from your book. But you surprised me there. Not many people would be so direct. Generally, they try to act as if the wheels didn’t exist and dance around me being a crip.”

CJ shrugged. Yeah, but they’d all be thinking about it anyway even if they dont bring it up. That chair’s an integral part of who you are right now; if anyone wants to really get to know you…”

“Fair enough. Water skiing accident years ago the summer between my junior and senior high school years. I was paralyzed from the neck down, but as you can see, Ive recovered mobility except in my legs.”

“My friend, who lost his legs in the Middle East, tells me about frequent phantom pain. How bad has it been for you?”

“Its gotten better, but I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I was on strong meds forever, and once I started physical therapy, I was in constant agony. I’d cry myself to sleep most every night. That’s when I tried to kill myself the first time.”

The eyebrow CJ raised went halfway up his forehead. “The first time?”

“Yeah… Tried it a couple more times, but I obviously failed.” Brion shrugged and shared a wry smile.

“Don’t take this the wrong way. Im not hitting on you. But, you should smile all the time. It lights up your face, makes your dimples pop, and the room fills with sunshine.”

Brions raucous laughter attracted the attention of other patrons. Yeah, I got the impression from your writing that your husband has nothing to worry about. I mean, how many gay men would pass the opportunity to mess around with a ripped Russian ballet dancer offered you on a silver platter?” He referred to an incident in CJs book recounting a Russian intelligence officers attempt to entrap him with a Bolshoi Ballet performer.

CJ smirked. Ozzie would like you. So, you crashed, broke yourself, but got your crap sufficiently together to attend college. Thats impressive.

Im about to graduate! A little later than Plan A called for, but I got there.”

Congratulations. Whats your major?”

Communications with a minor in management.”

You have a job yet?”

Ive interviewed with about a dozen companies. Still waiting on some responses, but I have a job offer with a local firm, and another one in Chicago.”

I have family in Chicago. Its a great city.”

“One problems Id be living on my own. I can maneuver well and Phelps is a great service animal, but Id be away from my parents’ house for the first time in my life. Its… intimidating.

I bet it is. And its not like you can move into a third-floor walkup. You need a place that works for you. What’s your dog’s breed?”

“German Shepherd.”

“Cool. We have a Golden Retriever.”

“Anyway, I checked online when I got the Chicago offer and the availability of ADA-compliant apartments isnt large. The company did offer to help me find a place.”

“Too bad the gig’s not in Washington. When Ozzie and I bought our place and gutted it, the front steps and the staircase are the only barricades we were left with. We widened halls and doorways, installed an elevator, and built a ramp on the side entrance.”

“I wish… One of the reasons I was so interested in your book and your presentations I love politics. Ive read a couple of things about you and running for office seems to be a recurring theme. Let me know when you decide to become a candidate. I may want to apply for a job with the campaign.”


Brion looked at the phones screen and smiled when he saw who the caller was. “Ambassador Abelló, what a pleasant surprise.” He and CJ had maintained casual contact subsequent to their meeting nearly three years before.

“What up, Brion? How’s tricks?”

“Same crap, different day. Not sure I’m cut out for this job. I think they see someone in a wheelchair and assume if my legs don’t work neither does my brain. It pays the bills rather well, but I’m not being challenged. I was surprised when I read you resigned, left the tropics, and returned to chilly Washington.”

CJ chuckled. “You weren’t the only one, buddy. I think State assumed I’d be one of theirs for a long time.” Although the president had been aware of CJ’s intentions when he appointed him Ambassador to Cuba, the Secretary of State had been shocked when told the young man would be leaving the diplomatic corps again.

“How’s Owen? And the kids?” Although he had not met them in person, Brion always inquired about his friends husband and children.

“They’re all doing well. Ozzies been wanting to meet you for a while. Thats one of the reasons Im calling. What are you doing this weekend?”

“Hmmm… Nothing planned. Why?”

“Howd you like to come for a visit? Well fly you in Friday after work and return you home Sunday. You can stay with us, Ill take you on one of my famous monument tours, and well have a couple of friends over for dinner on Saturday night.”

“Famous monument tour?” Brion snickered. “I’ll be the judge of that. Would I have to dress up for this dinner party? Im not sure what protocol is when dining with celebrities and millionaires.”

“Asshole! Slacks and shirts will suffice.” CJs levity suddenly disappeared. “Listen, all kidding aside. We’re putting together a team, and I’d like you to be part of it. Owen needs to agree, though. And aside from him, so does Carson Sawyer. He’ll be our campaign manager. Wanna help me get elected The Districts mayor?”


The End

Copyright © 2022 Carlos Hazday; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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