Nathan Niche

Nathan works as a support worker in community aged care. Fantasy and Sci-Fi are his favourite genres that he enjoys reading and wants to write about. Nathan wishes that the process of writing a short story was the same as eating a bowl of ice cream- every spoonful is a pleasant experience, and it’s all over in about five minutes.

Sending all my hate

I’m on the rooftop of the Sip Sup cafe. Besides me is a duffle bag stuffed with as much hate mail as I could fit into it. That’s only a small portion of the hate mail I’ve received since that fucking interview. Back at my office, I have enough mail to fill ten duffle bags. It’s too bad that it’s physically impossible to climb up the side of a building while lugging ten duffle bags, otherwise I would’ve done it.

      The duffle bag is balancing precariously on the ledge. If I let go of the handles, the bag will topple thirteen meters to the pavement. Would a thirteen-meter fall have enough velocity to shatter bone? God, I hope so.

      Below me, people enter and exit the cafe. All I can think about is which one of them hated me enough to want to scratch a handwritten letter, jam it into an envelope, and slap a licked stamp in the corner.

      Maybe it was that woman cradling a Pekinese poodle in her arms. I bet she hates me. Or that man with a reflective vest and hard hat entering the cafe. He would definitely hate me.

      That toddler in the stroller. Yeah, I see you drippy drooler- wait. That’s going too far. Toddlers wouldn’t know the alphabet, let alone how to write. But I bet his mum’s been talking shit about me.

      On the opposite side of the street, an egghead, with a man bag slung over his shoulder, stops his brisk walk to look at me. He raises one hand above his eyes to block the glare from the morning sun. Now he is staring.

      Fuck off you idiot. Keep walking. I won’t be here much longer.

      The hate projected onto me, on a nationwide scale, could be traced back to that prick, Dr. Barry Beatson, during an interview on the BBC news.

      Doctor Dickhead had a lot to say about my speech during a recent conference on disability culture. His beach ball head was a shadow free zone under the glare of the studio lights. His pale skin would’ve shone bright as a full moon if make-up hadn’t been caked onto his face.

      His blubber lips flapped as he went on and on about how my speech was a vicious attack on the freedom and dignity of- not just people with paraplegia -but all people with a disability.

      Because going red in the face and baring his teeth wasn’t enough to convey his anger to the viewers, Barry had also slammed the tip of his index finger on the desk. Such a perfectionist, even when he was expressing his rage.

      The Interviewer nodded, to signal to Barry that she was listening. The only movement on her stern face was the raising of one eyebrow.

      People with paraplegia have had enough of belittling comments from experts who speak on their behalf. So claimed Barry, his ranting marked him as the self-appointed ambassador for the people with paraplegia. All they want is to be recognized as being equal to everyone else. To be employed, to get married, to raise children, to drive a car, to play a sport-

      “All that is true,” the Interviewer had said, interrupting Barry. “But to do all that, wouldn’t it require people with paraplegia to be in a wheelchair?”

      “That’s beside the point,” Barry had said, scowling at the Interviewer. ‘We should be empowering these people. We should be person-centered in our approach, not wheelchair focused. The word wheelchair should be absent from our vocabulary when we are discussing paraplegia.”

      Doctor Dickhead had failed to mention in his interview that I was a professor of sociology, or that the topic of my speech had been about: “the social consequence of inadequate wheelchair access.”

      None of that was important to Barry. All he cared about was using the BBC News as a platform to make public his indignation which had my name attached to it.

      What I had said, that had Barry flinging hate at me the same way an ape flings a handful of its own shit, was one comment. Only one. I swear to God. One sentence from a speech that had taken me ten minutes to speak.           

      (cough, ahem) “. . . due to the nature of their injuries, a person with paraplegia is confined to a wheelchair.”

      There, that’s it. That’s the comment from my speech. Wasn’t so bad, was it?

      Yet everyone who had been watching the news that night had been infected by Barry’s hate with the same speed as a zombie outbreak.

      The next day, public opinion had declared me as an insensitive asshole who couldn’t differentiate between a human being and a wheel chair.

      All because some academic wanker had a subjective interpretation of my objective observation. I had become an overnight sensation for all the wrong reasons.

      The hate mail started flowing into my letterbox. So much hate mail that the postman had to dump the bundles of letters in front of my office door.

      My academic peers avoid me. My wife refuses to come home. The University where I have been teaching sociology for twenty years has given me four weeks notice.

      So that’s why I’m on top of the Sip Sup cafe. That thirteen-meter gap between me up here and the pavement down there is looking like my only way out.

      Oh look. Here comes Doctor Dickhead, a walking jelly bean in an overcoat. Every morning at around 7am, he arrives at the Sip Sup cafe to fetch his decafe coffee with soy milk. He won’t head into the office until he’s had his early morning pick-me-up. I know this because I’ve been stalking him for a week.

      He approaches the front door of the cafe, reaching for the handle. Whoops-a-daisy. The duffle bag slips out of my hand. Oh-no. Poor Barry, he’s directly below it.

      Jeez-Louise, look at that bag go. It covers the distance between the rooftop to Barry’s head in under zero-point-thirteen of a second.

      Barry hits the pavement like an empty Sip Sup takeaway cup being tossed into a bin. The duffle bag lays on top of his prone body, hate mail spilling out of a split in the side.

      “Too bad Barry,” I shout with glee from the rooftops. “If you become a paraplegic, I won’t mention your wheelchair. I promise.”  

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