Larry is a good friend of mine. We met through church activities and became very close because of what we had in common. He was almost two years younger than me but just a years difference separated us in school. He was a big kid standing almost six feet and two inches and had a broad stocky body that made him a fairly good commodity on the pick up football and basketball games we would play with other kids from the neighborhood. He wasn't a real fast person but quick enough to shove his way down the lane in basketball or dump a defender from trailing him in football.
We walked to school together everyday of our high school years. We would leave early and arrive at school about a half hour before classes start to have some donuts and coffee that the special education class sold in the cafeteria every morning.
The build of Larry's body gave him problems. His back was not very flexible as long as I could remember. It never stopped him from throwing up a beautiful arced jump shot from twenty feet out though and he would hit them with tremendous consistency. He seemed to always walk with a little hitch in his step as his back refused to flex enough to make his motion smooth and easy. Still he never complained and kept attacking life on a daily basis.
There came a time during his sophomore year that the back finally gave out. I am not sure if it was a slipped or compressed disk but suddenly the pain began to increase in his back. He reluctantly went to the doctor to see what was going on and to his horror the doctor said he would have to be off of his feet for about a week and in the hospital. This was going to throw a big wrench into our summer plans of playing basketball almost every night. My girlfriend, Barb, would welcome the news in her own subtle way because it meant that I would have more time to spend with her instead of spending time on the asphalt of the church parking lot shooting hoops with Larry.
When Larry entered the hospital he was but seventeen years old. The drawback to this was that he was put on the pediatrics ward of the hospital. Not only was Larry confined to the hospital, he was confined with a bunch of little kids that took to wandering around and visiting with other kids during their stay at the hospital. To make matters even worse, Larry was to be in traction for that week. He was bed ridden with a series of ropes and knots attaching his back to some pulleys at the foot of the bed with weights hanging off the end of them. It was not a very comfortable situation and not surprisingly, Larry was in a rather sour mood during this week of traction in the hospital.
I went to visit Larry a few times during that week in the hospital and during the time I spent there several kids would wander in the room. Larry knew most of them and had made friends with the little ones who found Larry to be a nice man who happened to be the biggest and oldest person on the ward. Most of them would come bay just to tell Larry hi and then leave to continue their socializing rounds among others more their age.
On The Saturday before Larry was to be released from the hospital I went to visit him. As we were sitting there watching some baseball on the television a new kid walked in. Larry had never seen him before and neither had I. It was clear he was a patient at the hospital because the little six year old was wearing a robe and slippers that looked like they belonged to his dad. HE was the kind of child who liked to ask questions and he began string questions together one after another. What's your name? How old are you? Why are you on the kid's floor? The questions kept coming at rapid fire speed and was starting to irritate both Larry and me as the kid continued his interrogation.
Larry and I began to drop hints that maybe the kid should be back in his room. The nurses could be looking for him. What if his mother came to his room and find him not there. We tried everything but nothing would dissuade the boy from continuing his questioning.
Then it happened. The boy was standing at the foot of the bed while I sat in a chair up next to the head of the bed where I could talk to Larry and see the television. We saw it at the same time. The kid reached down and picked up the weights that were pulling on Larry's left side. Both Larry and I processed the situation at the same time and came to the realization that something very bad was about to happen. We were both trying to get the words out of our mouth's to tell the kid to leave those weights alone when he looked at us and asked, "What are these for?" As the word "for" left his lips he dropped the weights. Larry's reaction was almost instantaneous. He was expecting the pain, had prepared himself for the pain in that extremely little space in time but when the weights crashed down and stretched his back further than ever intended, Larry let out a yell. I jumped up to lift the weights to relieve the pain a bit but it was too late.
The kid was startled by Larry's reaction. He stood there for a second as Larry first yelled, then started cursing between deep breaths that his body had been shocked into. The last I saw of the kid, he was leaving Larry's room, walking slowly backwards and trying to figure out what had just happened. A nurse came in and I explained what had happened. Very calmly she told Larry not to worry, it probably didn't do much damage to which Larry responded with a few more choice words. He was definitely in pain.
We never saw that kid again and the incident did not extend Larry's stay in the hospital. The nurse was right in the fact that it had not done any damage to what the traction had set out to accomplish. Larry's back was more flexible after that and he moved with more of a swagger instead of the old stiff walk I grown accustomed to seeing him with. After that shock of pain, I never heard Larry complain about pain again. I guess nothing he would feel in the future would ever compare to the weights being dropped to stretch out his back for an instant.
Larry looked for the kid when he was discharged, but apparently the kid had gotten well, or had fled to another jurisdiction.