(Image by William Blake from the , CC0, via Wikimedia Commons)
Scene 4: The Tormentors Are My Teachers
Kitten’s heart physically hurt. A sick sensation arose, and she could not breathe. She gasped for air and leaned against the wall, but the pain increased, and she felt as if her heart were collapsing. She consciously inhaled and exhaled, but the physical feeling would not leave. Her breath came and went in short pulsing sobs. She pulled her weak left arm across her chest and tried to hug away the pain, but the constriction grew stronger. She slid down the wall, not knowing whether she were going to cry or drop to the floor.
Now, she knew the source of the dark premonitions that had haunted her for days. Her intuition had been warning her that the experts would attack as a group, like a flock of vultures. Mrs. Pinzetti and Dr. Lambert really were plotting against her and her friends. Tammy was a person, not a lab rat. Tammy’s disabilities did not make her less of a person, anymore than Karen’s did her. These experts did not know the first thing about what Tammy wanted or needed, nor did they have a right to be nasty when talking about her. They were supposed to use their specialized knowledge to make people’s lives better, not to further their careers and profit financially. Karen asked herself why people who had everything would hurt those who did not. Why would able-bodied people with college degrees feel they had to make disabled people’s lives more difficult? Could they not see that they were hurting the people they were supposed to be helping, and that they were further disabling the already disabled?
I thought Mrs. Pinzetti was my friend. Why do these specialists treat us like animals? Look what they are planning for Tammy and me. I thought they would just embarrass me with personal questions and by making me parade around in my underwear during clinic, but they don’t care whether Tammy breaks her neck in a new wheelchair, and Lambert is sure to try to talk Mama into surgery for me. What can I do to make them stop? Why did God make me crippled like this? He should have taken my life when I was in a coma.
Suddenly, she felt Pegasus’ warm, calming presence. The pain left her heart. She breathed deeply, and her body righted itself. She opened her eyes and looked down the hall with a new strength. She recalled her life goal. She would change how the world treated disabled people. But for now, she had to save Tammy and herself. She had to warn Mama and Mrs. Beaumont. She knew she could do her part to achieve civil rights for disabled people, but the bitter truth remained that the experts and institutions that were supposed to help her were her greatest impediments.
Resuming her walk back to class, she repeated to herself, The tormentors are my teachers, and I teach them in return.
Original text ©2022 by Karen Lynn-Chlup. All rights reserved.