He stood in the arena where he had taken the county championship two years earlier. He had called his grandmother from the bus station to pick him up here. He had left the depot because of the stares, everybody stared at him, even the bastards at the airport with their protest signs in their hands.

It had been a hard year and a half what with the surgeries, rehabilitation, and prosthesis fittings. At least he could walk now. He had gotten hit eighteen months ago and was now ready to go home, they said. The corpsmen and doctors had said he was lucky, most in his condition wouldn't have made it, yeah real luck. He had one leg, one arm, one eye, one ear, and a plate in his head, more metal than flesh and bone. He wore his dress uniform home for his grandmother, perhaps she wouldn't notice his disfigurement, so much.

He felt her looking at him, he looked around and there she stood by the side gate of the arena. He was half way to her when he heard a boy's voice behind him.

"We're glad you're home and okay" repeated the young voice.

"Yeah, we're all glad you're okay" chimed in another young voice.

Yeah I'm just fine he thought, just peachy. He started toward his grandmother again, and heard a third voice even younger than the others.

"When are going to teach how to ride like you promised?"

The promise, he had forgotten all about that, it seems like ages ago. How could he teach anything to anybody like this? He was a monster, part man part metal.

He walked on toward his grandmother and as was her custom, she spoke volumes with her eyes, she raised one eye brow as if to say, well are you going to answer them. He turned and looked at the three boy, full faced, standing in the arena, maybe this will scare them away, he thought. But they looked at him with admiration in their eyes, they did not stare.

He looked back into the eyes of his grandmother and saw pride and love, she didn't stare either. Then she looked past him at the three boys in the arena, then over her shoulder at the rusty old barrel swinging in the oaks beside the arena. He and his friends had hung the barrel on chains and springs that the hardware store had given them to train. Then she looked back into his eye and raise both eye brows as if to ask, well? you did promise. he smiled for the first time in a year and a half shaking his head and shrugging.

"Be here Saturday mornin' at 10, bring your gear and your parents"

His grandmother made the sign of the cross and prayed silently, thank you for returning my grandson.

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