The children want to learn from me, but not until they know I’m someone with a knowledge. You’ll see at the assembly the moment they turn receptive, at which point you’ll know you’re getting your money’s worth. I have myself lowered from the flyspace on a pair of gymnastic rings, my arms outstretched in the iron cross—it’s most impressive—holding myself crucified above the stage and, while still aloft but gently descending, I call out “Hello, students!” then settle slowly into my waiting wheelchair, all with the use of my arms. “Like you, I tell them, I’m very good at some things, but I’m stupid at walking. Any questions?” They never ask about gymnastics, only why I can’t walk, and that they only care about because of what I can do. “Leaving Miller’s farm after a Senior Week kegger,” I tell them, “I drove my car into a cow.” That night, my first ever drink was forced on me by teens who took their democracy seriously. The very few sober seniors were kidnapped from our homes to Miller’s Farm, where Miller was spurring his sons to excess and imposing a flexible undress code. Corrie Wiener and I were delivered from the trunk of my own Plymouth, laid out on a table, and not offered options. In minutes we were skunked and in love with our stink. We cursed our sober high school years and swam the liquid night in beery benevolence thinking we and the world were beautiful. We hit the cow at eighty miles an hour, the police said. Somewhere between the driver’s seat and Miller’s ditch I broke my back and Corrie never had a chance. I tell the kids I’ve forgiven the Millers. It keeps me in bookings and makes the story inspirational. You’ll see.

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