Ukiah Daily Journal from Ukiah, California on June 14, 1998 · Page 40
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Ukiah Daily Journal from Ukiah, California · Page 40

Publication:
Location:
Ukiah, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 14, 1998
Page:
Page 40
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SUMMER FICTION SECOND IN A SERIES WRITTEN FOR USA WEEKEND A paralyzed teenager and his troubled sister discover the healing power of sibling love. PINKIE M Y FIRST NAME is Ishmael. My middle name is Ahab. My mother and father love literature, especially Moby Dick. They're outrageously smart but have no common sense. Ishmael Ahab Potts. Makes you want to puke, doesn't it? From the age of 9,1 refused to answer to Ishmael, Ishy or Ahab. I insisted on being called "Mo," because the Three Stooges made my oh-so-intellectual parents shudder with loathing. Subsequently, I preferred "Fred," as in Fred Flintstone. Then I became "Danielle" in a calculated attempt to make my parents think I was suffering gender confusion or even multiple-personality syndrome. Lately, I'm known as "Bob." No reason. Bob Potts. It's a solid friendly name. I've considered legally changing my name to Slash. At university parties, how wonderful to hear my genteel, refined mater and pater introduce their son, Slash, to their phony academic friends. Chronologically, I am 13. Intellectually, I'm older. I'm a raving genius. The last time I was given a battery of IQ tests, I scored so high that the psychologists were uneasy around me. To be honest, they were not awed by my vastly superior intellect. It was my tongue that scared them. When in a mood, I'm a sarcastic, smart-mouthed twerp with rapier wit — and proud of it. Although often obnoxious and rude, I've never been punished, seldom scolded. Few people have the courage to reprimand a kid in a wheelchair. My parents are gutless about disciplining me. My useless legs are a license to be dreadful. I don't have many friends. I don't care. People do and say such stupid things. They're so absurd. I'm happiest by myself, reading or playing the piano. I'm a piano prodigy. I can perform the Goldberg Variations with such skill and emotion that Bach enthusiasts weep with pleasure. My only friend is my sister, Thelonia Wilhelmina Potts, who will sit at my side for hours while I play the piano or read or build model ships. We call her Pinkie, because her name is as dumb as mine but also because she once was the pinkest baby anyone had ever seen. Two years before Thelonia Wilhelmina was born, on the morning of July 15, my spine was severed in a car crash. We were on our way to the beach. , My father was driving. He suffered only a bloody nose. My mother was unhurt. I was 4 years old. I don't remember the collision—just my mother screaming and streaked with blood. I was afraid she was dying. But she was stained with my blood, not her own. During my sister's first year — her pink phase — I hated her. I thought my parents just wanted a healthy child for whom they could have all the hopes that they weren't able to sustain for a crippled kid like me. It's not easy being precocious. Too much thinking, brooding, instead of just playing with Star Wars action figures. Anyway, before Pinkie turned 3, we knew she was ... different. She never learned to speak. Most of the time, she stared through you, as if looking into another world. Autism, the doctors said, but then changed their minds. Finally, they called it "a singular form of psychological withdrawal." Pinkie Syndrome. She wasn't troublesome or bratty. She had a sweet temperament. Cheerful. Often humming happy tunes. Quick to smile. She could feed and dress herself, though sometimes she became so fascinated with her green beans that she took two hours to eat them. Mostly, there was no way to know what Pinkie was thinking — but she did communicate with hugs. She was the huggingest kid you'd ever seen. She liked to cuddle — with mater and pater, even with me. She had a gift for love. S ometimes, when being a genius and piano prodigy wasn't enough, when I was feeling like a pile of cat barf, I'd suddenly realize that Pinkie had taken my hand. If I tried to push her away, she wouldn't go. She would hold my hand for hours, until I felt better. Pinkie rarely made eye contact. When you did catch her looking at you ... well, you knew you weren't good enough for anyone ever to look at you with all that love, so you turned away from her. In seven years, Pinkie had never spoken a word — but she'd said more than anyone in our family. Once I overheard my parents discussing what plans to make for Pinkie's care after they were Continued on next page By Dean Koontz A master of the dark psychological thriller, Koontz is the author of 34 books, most recently Fear Nothing (BANTAM, $26,95). More than 200 million copies of his novels have been sold worldwide. 16 USA WEEKEND • June 12-14,1968

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