The popular image of a faith-healed cripple, tossing a walking aid jubilantly in the air as they skipped chirpily from the scene of their salvation was clearly inaccurate. The image conjured by this wreckage of a crutch was more one of vindictive rage. Fuck you, crutch, the pieces said, I always hated you. Fuck off and never come back.
If it hadn’t been for Rosy the Bag Lady, the whole shards-of-crutch incident might have gone unnoticed. But she told someone about the man she’d seen, hobbling along on one crutch. About the angelic little child who had appeared out of nowhere and held hands out to the man. The man had fallen to the ground with a cry, and the child had petted his legs, lifted the crutch, snapped it in two and fled, giggling, into a mist.
To be fair, the first person she told didn’t believe a word of it, because Rosy the Bag Lady was pretty famous among her set for seeing things. Celine Dion bickering with William Shatner over a poutine, aliens singing French karaoke, Jacques Cartier in a bearskin coat, and talking patchwork cats weren’t the half of it.
But by her twentieth retelling, the story had gained some credence, partly because it was being told in loops all around the streets of Montreal. It had been overheard and retold in a dizzy spiral of rumour and breathless hope from the Parc du Mont-Royal to the coffee houses of Mile End; from the biodome of St Helen’s Island and up and down the banks of the St Lawrence River; whispered in the plain corridors of the underground city and amongst the ripest tomatoes of the Jean-Talon market.
People began to visit the grimy street where the miracle was said to have happened. Flowers were left, and notes thanking god, fate, the stars, the mysteries for kindness given, and begging, of course, for one more, just one, gesture of grace. Someone yarnbombed a nearby lamppost with a colourful offering; graffiti of joy got painted over the corrugated iron and the filthy brick.
And a man came, who limped, and stared down at the pieces of a crutch, painted now with happy acrylic daisies, woven through with plastic ivy and rain-damped wool. Like all the other visitors to this strange holy site of hope, he brought one question and left with new ones, although his new questions were unique.
If that little shit hadn’t tried to mug me, was his question, and broken my bloody crutch, and if I hadn’t finished the job on his thieving skull, would he have staggered off and fallen off the overpass onto the freeway? And does this mean I got away with murder?
Still and all, he gave thanks, and limped away on his newly healed broken ankle, and swore to live a better life.
Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.