Weak legs…Strong mind

 In these exercises the student is asked to vizualize a situation and then write what might happen next. I include a sample from one of my novels that speaks to the same situation. For reluctant writers, it’s possible to read my sample first and ask the student to continue the adventure or to come up with an alternative outcome. In any case, the point is to get imagination juices flowing and to jump start storytelling skills even if they’re verbal rather than written.

 The scene:

A tall bus gets stuck under the low arch leading to a horse stable. Any ideas on how to get the bus out?

 Here’s what Meredith, challenged with cerebral palsy and part of a therapeutic riding program, suggested in, Zan, City Cowboy:

 “Nick, I was just thinking,” Corky said before pausing to blow on her steaming mug of coffee and then taking a careful sip. “You know, our front gate might be too low for some tall motor homes and such.”

Nick glanced at the two fieldstone towers supporting a metal sign that spanned the entry way. The sign, clover-leaf green letters on white, spelled Shamrock Stables in two-foot high letters. Silhouettes of horse heads faced each other from opposite corners.

“What we need is a sign to warn the tall vehicles to go around. We can’t have people smashing our sign now, can we?”

In the tool shed Nick scrounged up a piece of plywood and a can of white, quick-drying spray paint. By the time he found a small brush and a can of green paint the background was dry enough to be lettered. First he drew with a pencil; then he filled in with paint:


Then he drilled holes in the top corners and was twisting a piece of hanging wire in place when he heard a loud SCREECH!

A yellow school bus was wedged under the Shamrock Stables entryway blocking the long line of cars waiting to get in.

“Too late,” Nick muttered.

Running with the still wet sign, Nick could make out Corky telling his Aunt Josie to direct traffic around the arch. A crowd gathered. One of the children on the bus recognized Sara and soon all the children along one side began calling out to her.

“Sara. Hi!”

“Hi, Sara!”

“It’s me, Meredith.”

Sara waved, then spoke to the bus driver, “Take children off. No?”

“Good idea,” he replied. “Then we can work on getting the bus loose.”

He and an aide raised the handicap ramp and one by one the wheelchair-bound children were lowered to the ground. Children who could walk with the help of braces and crutches climbed down the steps under Sara’s watchful eye.

“Are those the kids who are going to be in the riding program?” Zan asked.

“Uh-huh,” Nick responded.

“They’re pretty weird looking.”

Nick said nothing. He thought so, too, but didn’t want to agree with Zan.

A circle of rodeo spectators formed around the bus, all eyes looking up, puzzling how to free the bus without breaking the sign.

“Maybe if you tried to back up very slowly,” one voice suggested.

“Naw,” someone else answered, “You’d pull the sign with it.”

“Is there any way to raise the sign?” someone asked.

“No,” Corky answered. “It’s cemented to the top of the towers.”

A strange-sounding voice, like a computer robot talking with a mouth full of food, broke the silence.

“Huh?” the driver said.

 Everyone turned to stare at Meredith. She leaned into her arm-crutches and blushed such a deep red that the freckles covering her face disappeared. Then she cleared her throat and repeated herself. “You don’t have to raise the sign.”

“She talks funny,” Zan remarked.

“Shh! Just listen,” Nick replied. 

Sara stepped next to her friend, reached a protective arm across her shoulders and gently stroked her carrot-colored hair.

“You just have to lower the bus. Let some air out of the front tires.”

 The driver stared, open mouthed, while her words sunk in. “Great idea!” he said, before squatting next to the front tire and depressing the valve stem.

“I could of thought of that,” Zan said rather loudly.

“But you didn’t,” Meredith answered.

Zan locked eyes with the girl. “You’re pretty smart,” he grudgingly admitted, “for a—” He paused.

“For a girl. Is that what you were going to say? Or for a cripple?”

Zan looked away.

Meredith’s blue eyes glinted like icicles in the sun. “My legs may be soft but not my brain.”