(In 1952, polio reached its peak in the United States with 21,000 cases of paralytic polio. The first polio vaccine was introduced in 1955. By 1965, the total paralytic cases had fallen to 61. In this fictionalized history series, we will be experiencing the aftermath of polio, before the dramatic triumph of a vaccine. If you're just joining us, go back to Part 1.)
Thirty-Four Years and One Month Since Hospital Admission
August 1986 (41 years old)
The little boy jumped onto the stool and wheeled across the room.
His much older sister made a will-you-just-stop-it face. "Come on, Billy. Get off that."
He clanked into a tray and tipped a cup of water. Liquid fanned to the edge.
The boy raised his hands. "What?" The water overflowed and began to splatter on the floor. "The chair didn't go straight."
She grabbed for him, but he scrambled out of reach.
"I'm sorry, Aunt Julia," the girl said, not meeting her eyes in the mirror.
Julia just shook her head and smiled.
A man strode into the room. Julia's little brother. Billy Jr. slapped into his leg. Some kind of failed Judo move.
"Why couldn't I have stopped at four kids?" he said, laughing. "Come on, chief. Chill out."
The boy took two more runs at his leg.
He nodded to Julia. "Hey Sis."
"Don't like being king of the castle anymore?"
"The subjects are in revolt."
Billy Jr. yanked on his shirt. "Daddy?"
"Why is she in a microwave?"
Across the room, the oldest daughter groaned.
"First, my little ambassador, 'she' is your Aunt Julia. Secondly, it's not a microwave. We explained this to you like fifty-five times. Aunt Julia needs this machine to breathe."
"I'm not going near it!"
"I see our money on charm school is going to good use," Billy Sr. said.
"Leave him alone," Julia said. "I wouldn't want to come near this thing either."
"Come here, son." He flagged the boy to the back of the room.
Julia craned to see, but it was hard when people were directly behind her. "It's alright Billy."
The girl perked in the visitor's chair. "Dad? What are you giving him?"
"Nothing," a voice said.
Julia could only see the tops of their heads.
"No!" the boy yelled.
"Go on! Hurry up."
The boy wriggled. "No!"
"I don't want it!" The boy ran out of the room.
Billy Sr. shook his head. "Kids these days." He sauntered over, raised a hot pink water pistol, and launched a long ribbon of water into Julia's eye.
She flinched. "Ack!"
The daughter shrieked. "Dad!"
But he was laughing too hard to breathe.
"Billy! Wipe me off! I'm WAY too old for this, for Christ's sake."
Billy Sr. held his belly.
"Hurry up, it's dripping!"
"Mom's not here to protect you, Jules. Remember when we played dress-up? Somebody get the lipstick!"
"Don't you DARE! Nurse!!"
On to Part 15.
Back to Part 13.