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28th February
posted by amber

Last Cat Off the Fence

Edgar picks up an apple. His students watch, mesmerized, as he turns it over and over, then pares the peel from it with one fluid cut. For this demonstration, he uses one real-looking prosthetic hand and one multi-tooled hand, sharp knife deployed. Edgar lost both hands when he was four, but he doesn’t let this hold him back. Some call him ‘the bionic teacher,’ others “Edgar Scissorhands.”

Edgar calls himself lucky.

His parents say that even before the accident, he was something of a natural engineer. Lots of little boys take things apart, but not many put them back together working better – and sometimes differently – than they were ever meant to.

You may be saying to yourself that this isn’t a new story, that modern science has brought many advances in prosthetics and robotics and medicine, that clever disabled people are always coming up with ways to improve their lot. But Edgar’s story is undeniably different. You see, Edgar grew up in Nicaragua. He lost his hands to a black panther. And the first artificial hands he wore had been carved out of wood.

His father carved the hands, larger ones each year as his son grew. But by the age of nine, Edgar had lost patience with the blocky barely-useful hand-shapes tied to his stumps. He directed his father to make new hands from an old bicycle rusting behind the local mission. With metal ‘fingers’ that he could bend into required configurations with his mouth, he embarked on a career of building ever more functional hands. Hands with leather straps built hands with tiny motors and elastic bands which in turn built hands with sockets for various scavenged tools.

His genius was noticed and he was given the opportunity to attend a conference for young inventors in New York. After that, he received the training and funding to continue to transform his dreams into reality.

When asked about his amazing success, this young teacher who now lives in Seattle, repeats a Nicaraguan saying, “The black cat is always the last one off the fence.” He says that it means stubbornness is a virtue.

The Story 365 project is a year-long marathon of short story writing, with a new story for every day of the year and posted on this website from May 1, 2011 – April 30, 2012. Stories must be a minimum of 200 words. Please help me by adding first line or topic suggestions in the Comment section of any story. If you’d like me to use your name in a story, I’d be happy to do that.

This is the first story written working with three elements – a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre – to practice for the 48 Hour Movie Making Challenge that I’ll be participating in at the end of March in Calgary. If you’d like to give me elements, just click on the Comments section.

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