Axel's Flight

Overhead, they swoop and soar, chirp and chatter, but Axel doesn’t seem to hear. His defences strong, resolve weakened, he protests his plight in that way of teenagers. His old head on young shoulders says he was destined to be caged.

My heart breaks to see him, happy in his own skin, with eyes black as the crows, but never to be free as the birds. 

I told him, ‘Accept nothing, Axel; challenge everything.’

He slants his eyes at me as if to say, ‘Don’t be ridiculous; it’s the way it’s always been.’ 

His chair squeaks with each slow wheel rotation but when he’s in a playful mood he’ll make it whir like a rotor that might lift him up to swoop and soar in the blue sky and billowing clouds. 

‘I figure it’d be pretty cool up there but I guess I wouldn’t last long,’ he says. 

‘Probably,’ I reply. I don’t want him to tell me he’d prefer to be up there. He’ll be there soon enough. 

I cannot imagine my life without him, empty of his squeaking and whirring, but I swallow, smile and open the door. He primes his wheels in preparation for the wheelie I know is coming; the escape. But only to the next cage. He stops short of the door and turns back to me with a wry grin. 

‘Maybe this time it will work and I’ll be cured.’ 

His whirring wheels gather momentum. The chirping and chattering increases overhead.

The ambulance driver glances skyward. 

‘You’re a hit with the birds, Axel.’

My boy laughs, the first time in months.

by Alva Holland


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