The Boy in the Wheelchair

Here’s a Reddit thread that struck me, and here’s how to turn it into a short story.

The gist of the thread is that when he was two years old, the poster’s nephew pushed another two-year-old and the second kid fell down the stairs and was paralyzed. Now, they’re fifteen, and Nephew, who was never told about his role in the accident and of course doesn’t remember it because he was only two, wants to be friends with Wheelchair, because Nephew is a basically sensitive guy who wants to treat Wheelchair like an equal, unlike the rest of the kids.

But Wheelchair knows full well that Nephew is the one responsible for his paraplegia, and while he can’t legitimately hold Nephew responsible, he understandably doesn’t want to be friends with Nephew; and Nephew, who’s trying to be nice here, can’t figure out why.

In the Reddit thread, the aunt is looking for advice on whether and how to tell Nephew the big secret. But I’m a crime writer, so of course I’m going to go in a different direction. Let’s make them adults: college students. Nephew is now Niece, a spunky but unattractive young woman, whereas Wheelchair is one of those wheelchair people who do half-marathons and have super beefy arms. She has no idea that she’s responsible (in the sense that a 2yo can be responsible) for his paraplegia, but he totally knows. She’s horny, clueless and not getting attention from other boys, and Wheelchair does have lovely forearms, so she thinks maybe she can help him out. He’s standoffish at first, but then suddenly warms to her—and then she ends up committing suicide by jumping from a parking structure. What a pity: she had so much promise as a student.

Diana and Mustapha are called in because protocol, and it seems like a sad and all-too-typical story, but the university doesn’t like its suicide statistics, and pulls some strings to get them to do a less cursory investigation. See, the thing is, Niece was notably afraid of heights. This piques their interest. They do some interviews, and find Wheelchair, who after a bit of stoicism, breaks down: they’d made friends, he was trying to get her to confront her fear of heights, she told him she wanted to be his GF, he told her that his paraplegia prevented him from performing sexually and that she needed to look elsewhere, she jumped to her death in despair. Sounds sad but plausible.

But Diana is still skeptical: Wheelchair wears special high-tech gloves, and in the rivets of Niece’s jeans are a few threads from those gloves—yet he didn’t mention trying to grab her as she jumped or whatever. She traces phone records and finds that Wheelchair spends a lot of time talking to a pair of neuroscience professors. They tell her that Wheelchair is a great candidate for high-tech nerve regeneration therapy, because he’s not quite completely paralyzed. This leads Diana to the records, and thence to Wheelchair’s mother, who Diana snows by posing her own daughter Grace as another candidate for neurotherapy. Then an interview with Niece’s mother, who puts two and two together. Then, a final scene where Diana and Mustapha stage an event that forces Wheelchair to stand up, or to admit the truth, that he stood up behind her and tossed her off the parking structure in revenge for what she did when they were two.