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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

Welcome to ADHD. 

[You in the Real World, be sure to click on the red underlined hyperlinks!]

Fire engine

“Phone’s for you, Jack,” calls out the receptionist to the physical therapist ardently convincing my right shoulder it used to move.

“Tell ’em I’m busy with an uncooperative patient,” says Jack, who looks down and winks. “Tell ’em it’s Blackie. They’ll understand.”

“That’s who the insurance company is calling about – Blackie. They demand to talk to you. Now.”

Nobody say a word, whispers Screen Four. Maybe Jack will forget he was working us over and go terrorize somebody else.

A necessary evil, chides Five. Don’t you remember The Accident just over a year ago – that high-speed Toyota smashing into Blackie’s bicycle – and how his left shoulder needed the surgery AND months of therapy?

Of course we do, replies One. But in this accident from a month ago, the car only clipped him and took off. It didn’t kill our human … just shattered his right shoulder. Surgery should have been enough.

Jack returns, eyebrows furrowed deeply. “Bad news, Black. Your insurance company has a chart that claims you should be completely healed by now.”

What? bellows Six. Are they aware you died the first time, boss? Do they know this go-round you can’t even put your right hand in your front pocket yet?

Works well, smirks Three. No reaching for the lunch tab.

I step outside, busted shoulders sagging, and start the trek home in the warm sun of Huntington Beach. Screens replay Jack’s sincere apology as I wobble up to the street corner, my balance stolen by The Accident. A red light detains two rows of several cars as well as a couple of young men speaking rather loudly.

Blackie! shouts Six. Hear these guys?

The first says with laughter, “Man, that car be burnin’ up!”

“Yeah,” says the second, “and that foolish woman don’t even be knowin’ it.”

That’s NOT what they said, chastises Three.

Keepin’ it family, reminds Two.

I look beyond the men to the vehicle they describe. In the distant lane, a small white car has flames roaring beneath it while a middle-aged Asian woman sits blissfully unaware.

All six screens hit hyperfocus,  joining images to form one giant IMAX screen. Motion kicks in without waiting for intelligence.  I, threading stopped traffic in an off-balance, loping manner, pound the raised driver’s side window, screaming, “You’re on fire!”

uncertainInside, the tiny Oriental woman stares uncomprehendingly as high heat surges against my shorts and legs. She’d best get moving, calmly counsels One. May blow any minute.

“Why don’t you guys warn me this way?”

We’re gonna toast! shrieks Three. That good enough?

I grab the car door with my left, swing the door wide, and echo in a small interior, “The car’s on fire! Get out, get out, get out!”

The woman cowers, burrowing beneath the steering wheel. Left-handed, I grab her shirt and pull until enough of her squirts free for me to wrap an arm around her body and lift her completely out of the car.

Now what? asks Two in an eerily high voice. This car’s on fire. All the other cars are packed around it, waiting for the light.

I look away from the flames to scan the other drivers, my unintended and unmoving audience. What’s wrong with these people? asks One. Don’t they understand they’re going to blow up right along with you?

No time to consider the gravity of One’s last sentence because the frightened woman starts to climb back in. Push her out of the way, commands Six. Jump in. Drive away before this car explodes!

Six united screens flash every detail. The car is hot. No other drivers helping. Chinese words fill the air like spooked sparrows. Transmission is manual.

Manual?” I wail. “My right arm’s a mess!”

Reach across with your left, cues Five, the way Big Blackie – Jeff – taught you to shift his Volks while you were a passenger.

“Not the same,” I challenge. “His car wasn’t on fire!”

I slide in as the light changes. Southpaw-style, I shift, then grab the wheel, swinging right from the far left lane and cutting off all other cars. At Four’s suggestion, I pull hard into the driveway of the physical therapy office I’d left mere minutes ago.

Jumping out and trying to shuck my jacket –

Look at all those faces pressed against the office windows, comments Two.

Three exults, Givin’ ’em a show, Black!

– I shout at the patient-packed panes, Extinguisher! I’m on fire!”

Eyes grow wide, as if my words explain what their vision could not. They empty the windows but do not return with fire-fighting foam. I bend to assess the danger but cannot keep my balance.

rebuiltNo choice, Black, Six advises. Drop on your good shoulder, then beat the flames with your coat.

“My good shoulder? You mean the one rebuilt last year?”

You can do this.

I drop, oh so painfully, and roll beneath the car, heat broiling my face as I wriggle madly to avoid flaming grease drops. Now, directs Six, slap at the fire! But I cannot. My “good” shoulder – the left side upon which I threw myself  – aches with an internal fire that matches what I’m fighting externally.

Plus it’s pinned against a tire, notes One. And your right cannot reach into your pocket, much less beat out an engine fire.

A quandary, says Four, this being caught between fire and an engine that may explode.

Sure isn’t how I thought I’d go!

My feet are grabbed and tugged. I am roughly pulled from beneath Blackie’s blazing inferno. My back pressed against driveway, I look up at clouds. Some are in the sky; some pour forth from the extinguisher in Jack’s hands. Wild shouting, crying, cursing and animal utterances blanket the air.

Squealing tires, then jammed brakes, join the cacophony. I lift my head to see a police officer leap from his cruiser, red lights crazily flashing. The hysterical Oriental woman, who kept her flaming car in sight as I fled with it, runs to him, shouting something akin to “carnapper.” Only now do therapy patients exit the building, and only to gawk.

Several breathy unprintables squeeze through Jack’s gritted teeth. He helps me to my feet, growls a single word: “Why?

I explain what I’d seen in the five minutes since we parted. Jack shakes his head, smiles, says, “That’s heroic.”

If you don’t go to jail, sighs Four, eyeing the angry woman berating the officer.

Not really, Jack, Six replies, and I repeat his next words: “Heroes see danger. They understand what they’re up against and step into it, anyway. But I’m ADHD, guy. I just flat dived in.”

No medal, agrees Two. Still, a good deed done. And nobody’s dead or wounded, so that’s kind of different. Now, let’s finish that walk we started.

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Helen gamPostscript: This is NOT an X-ray of my new titanium knee.

It IS, however, an X-ray of the knee of Mrs. Helen Pellerino, a young co-worker. Hearing of my operation, she says, “Show me your scar and I’ll show you mine.”

She assures me it is in an appropriate place.

I proudly peel up a pant cuff and display my angry red zipper of six inches. She laughs and unveils a NINE-inch scar.

Now that’s a zipper! exclaims Three, in a bogus Australian accent.

Miss Helen calmly tells me she stumbled one day, her knee hitting pavement. After months of rehab and medical appointments, she learned her tibia bone has cancer. Across several more months, doctors carved out all weakness and built up the tibia with bone cement. They braced the hardened bone by driving in multiple spikes in and clamping it together. She used a walker for six months, crutches for three, still undergoes physical therapy and yet has pain.

Complain even once about our knee, whispers Four, and she will kick our buns.

* * * * *

Anybody willing to do this for me with lemonade?

A loving look back as we enter the new year