Science Fiction flash fiction disability

Road Test

By KJ Kabza
May 5, 2019 · 341 words · 2 minutes


From the author: In their zeal to help combat a public health crisis, the government has passed a law that ties vehicle ownership to performance on a physical fitness test—without taking into account people like Karlee's brother, who uses a wheelchair and can never meet the requirements.


Six months before her sixteenth birthday, my sister started training for her road test. She was more serious about it than most--morning runs, afternoon swims, evenings spent at the roller-rink or racquetball court. Karlee would surely run her mile in under seven minutes.

Mom was thrilled, but Dad was nervous. "If she comes in under seven, she'll be cleared to drive any car on the road," Dad said. "Think about it. Do you really want Karlee cleared for a sports car?"

"Why not?" Mom had said. "She'll have earned it, won't she?"

They didn't have this conversation in front of me, of course. I had to eavesdrop. It made me wish I lived back in 2030, when obesity rates were at their highest and they didn't issue vehicle qualifying scores based on your athletic ability. I'd take living in the past if it meant that I could drive, too. But here in 2068, I was boned. You can't exercise your way out of a wheelchair.

Sure enough, Karlee ran her mile in 6:48. Mom poured her a glass of sparkling grape juice to celebrate and Dad did his best to smile. "Can't you be happy for me?" Karlee asked me.

I did try. And it helped a little that Dad sometimes made Karlee drive me places. Mom bought Karlee a Chevrolet Nighthawk, and those things go fast.

I wasn't riding with Karlee two months later, though, when she got into the wreck.

Karlee's first wheelchair matched mine. Everyone cried, me included, even though a monstrous part of myself felt relieved. For the first time in my life, Karlee couldn't leave me behind anymore.

But I'm only a little bit of a monster, and a few months later, after many late nights online, I said to her, "Let's go somewhere."

Karlee said bitterly: "Where can we possibly go?"

I showed her the feed on my tablet. The national protests against the possible renewal of the road test legislation were in four hours.

I said, "Together, we can go lots of places."

 

This story originally appeared in Daily Science Fiction.