Booster is a 1967 lithograph by Robert Rauschenburg. It depicts a human skeleton assembled of several x-rays centrally, with a red calendar in the background. The top of the piece speaks of technology with some diagrams, much smaller, and to the right side of the skeleton sits a pivot mechanism and the only picture in the whole piece, that of a basketball star jumping.
John Ferri woke up, like he did every day. He really did not enjoy waking up now; the part of him that woke up first was the pain. Specifically, the pain in his knees. This pain was a part of him, it lingered, no matter how many painkillers he took. It got up about five minutes before he did, rousing all its friends, so that he always woke up to say, a headache, sore throat, and the pain in his knees. He had tried several times to beat it at its own game, and wake up before it did. Once, he succeeded, by staying up the entire night, going out onto the tiny balcony of his tenement. He remembered the sun coming up that morning, filtering through the buildings. It was beautiful, but then, part of the beauty was in the fact that it wasn't painful to watch. Of course, he had to go to sleep right after that, just as the pain had faded away, and had woken up pained again. So, he mostly slept in late these days, got jobs that didn't require him to wake up bright and early. At least he didn't have dreams with pain in his knees. He always was wondering when it might subside to an ache, but it still hadn't gotten to that point. He swung his legs gingerly over the bed, then set them carefully down, lowered them gently to the floor. Then he walked to the kitchen, wincing to himself occasionally. He opened the cupboard, shaking down a box of painkillers to his hand, and laughing silently to himself. Bottomless boxes of painkillers, instead of another surgery. Then he sobered up, remembering that the boxes weren't really bottomless, they ran out in another sixteen years. Maybe, by then, he would be able to pay. It wasn't fair, he thought to himself just as he did every morning, mornings which had remained fixed, except for the setting, and the coffee. He had gone to court, with a good lawyer, and argued his case, that the research company should pay a corrective surgery. They had countered, saying that the pain he felt was a response to the excessive amount of coffee he quaffed every day, and that they should provide painkillers, instead of a surgery, while he cut back on his intake. He supposed they might have a point, he was feeling better, his leg used to bother him all the time, now it merely ached or throbbed. But whenever he sought to dismiss it, it always eluded him, becoming unendurable in some other aspect. He certainly couldn't play tennis now. What was the point of being able to jump high if it hurt like hell each time you landed? He hated those researchers now. The nerve of them, walking up to him in the hospital while he was in for an injury described as "kneeling on two equally spaced nails." Of course that wasn't true, it was just less likely to get him further hurt than if he described his injury as "physical persuasion". That was certainly what they had referred to it as. He had made the mistake of bringing up the subject of knees. "What, break my kneecaps with a hammer or something?" he had asked, and laughed, at this parodied image of a gangster. In the hospital they had told him how strange it was, that the nails had cut back and forth, done so much damage. And he thought some of them knew, or suspected, by the way their eyes widened near him. But no one said anything, and he lay there on the hospital bed, waiting for something to happen with medical insurance or something, for his knees to be fixed. The walls of the hospital were this horrible, caustic white, and everything in the hospital seemed perfectly straight, laid out by an obsessive-compulsive and his ruler. Everything in the hospital was always perfectly normal. The unforgiving nature of the rules in the hospital had bothered him. He felt like a piece of overripe fruit, rattling around inside a metal box, completely out of place. Nothing here would ordinarily harm him, but in his current state, he thought falling out of bed might kill him. There was nothing to do. When they said that someone had come to see them, he was surprised. It couldn't be his mother, who did absolutely nothing after work on Fridays. It couldn't be his sister either, she had a party tonight that she'd been looking forward to a long time. So, as he prepared himself for his sister, glad that she could spare her partying to come visit him, they had come up to him. At first he thought that they were looking for someone else, they were all business, dressed in dull clothes which screamed 'tell me a joke and I won't even crack a smile'. They asked him "would you rather pay, to get your knees patched by regular prosthetics, which they may not even be able to do a decent job of, or would you rather have us fix you up, so that you can jump higher than even before, for free?" Or something like that at least, he couldn't remember the exact wording but that was what he'd heard. And it wasn't a choice, not really if you'd seen his wallet, so that it was pointless that they spent all this time explaining to him the kinetic properties, and how he would pioneer the new technology, one of very few, and they may as well all been doing things which they enjoyed, instead of sitting in a crowded hospital around a single bed with graphs and stuff in their laps. Although, who was he to judge, maybe that was what they enjoyed. So he signed off, and they fixed him up. When he woke up afterwards, he'd been able to walk, run, and jump, higher than before. The pain started maybe two weeks later. The first time he'd noticed it, he was jumping extra high to impress his new friends. Or, acquaintances was probably a better way to describe them. Nobody visited him now, after he'd lost the court case, stopped drinking coffee. He'd of course left the Boston Memorial Hospital far behind. The main reason was that he still didn't feel like working for a certain organization, so he simply moved hundreds of miles away. He'd gotten away. Logically, he knew that it just wouldn't be efficient to sniff him out again, instead of just picking up another guy on the street with some cheap toys. He still had nightmares about it though, and he knew he would never be able to return. When he jumped, this one time, he'd landed, and some pain shot through his left leg. It wasn't as bad as some of the pains he put up with now, but he'd cried out, stumbled, looked like a fool. He wondered what was wrong with his left leg only half a day; his right leg quickly started up too, and he knew it had something to do with the surgery. What they had done was to modify his leg bones by attaching this device, essentially making each leg a single bone-ligament thing. They had stripped the tissue out from his knees, and coated the metal with a neutral compound which essentially eliminated swelling. The new 'joint' contained a small pneumatic piston which compressed as he walked, and decompressed when he started to jump. He tried to tell himself he didn't know anything about this technology; but the fact was that he did know. He knew enough to realize how expensive and cutting edge this was, and that someone had spent a lot of money on him. He tried not to think about this, it was too ironic. He never had enough money to make him comfortable, and then, when he finally got some given to him, it was in the form of useless, worthless, painful leg devices. Although, now, he had to admit they'd done a decent job otherwise, and he figured the pain probably wasn't very big for them. He'd heard that they'd had problems like that in a couple of other patients, but they always faulted the patient by showing that they were doing something to aggravate the pain. He couldn't really blame them. If he had to pick a point where his life went wrong it wouldn't have to do with signing any document. But then again, it wasn't exactly when he joined the organization. His life had sucked, been a disappointment, until then. Possibly, there was no point where his life had gone wrong, it had just been a continuous downhill grade with differing slopes. If there was one thing that life had taught him, it was that there were no definite points; everything was a spectrum. Except in generosity. No one was generous. He had thought that the researchers were being generous, that the organization was generous, but they both wanted something back. Services. The researchers hadn't cared. They hadn't cared that his knees were hurt, about the peculiar circumstance of his accident, they just wanted to try something out. He looked out at the city, hearing the sound of coffee not brewing. It was palpable every morning, the strange feeling you got in your ears when a noise stopped, reminding him about the fact that coffee was not being made, that he was hurt, what sort of a day he could look forward to. He looked at the building across the way, and his view wasn't that great, but it was pretty good. He really could jump amazingly high now. And, as the sun started to float above the buildings, he smiled broadly. He'd found a jump to which landing didn't hurt.
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A piece I wrote for a writing class some years ago, some standard loner male fare. The assignment was to write about an art piece, the description of which is given at the beginning. It is being uploaded for *PtolemaiosLS to determine my literary caliber, but should anyone else see it and enjoy it, be sure to inform me, as I am not likely to upload any more otherwise.
Aren't spoken quotes normally supposed to have a new line?