The Gimp

Image Source: Thomas Hoepker

It was hard to avoid The Gimp. You wouldn’t believe how good that damn cripple got around town, and hell if I know how he did it. Ain’t seen nothing like it.

He had a little board with roller skates, and he managed to paddle his way around with his change cup. And Lord, did he ever get around! You’d go to Dolly’s in the morning for a cup of coffee and he’d be out front. Later that night you’d go to the pictures and he’d be out front before the show. The Gimp got around better than most people get around with two good legs.

There were lots of stories. The Gimp got hit by a train. He took shrapnel in the war. A jealous wife chopped ‘em off. No one really knew. The Gimp was kind of an outsider, and nobody took the time to get to know him. They clapped when he did a handstand or some other trick, dropped a few coins in his cup and moved on, and that was that.

Well, I wondered about The Gimp, so one day I offered to buy him a cup of coffee and a slice of pie. And wouldn’t you know, he was just a peach of a fella.

His name was Ward Denton, and he came from Cleveland. He found work in the mill, but then he got burned on both legs in an accident on the job. Both legs got infected, and they had to take them. Ward started drinking pretty bad, his wife left and he lost the house.

He didn’t have nothing left, but I never talked to no one more sunny about their prospects. He had cleaned himself up and was doing okay with the spare change. He got by, sleeping with relatives and at the charity hospital occasionally. And he was hopeful about finding some kind of work again, someday, somehow.

Ward Denton didn’t blame nobody for his troubles, and he didn’t spend time moaning about what he had done to himself. He just picked himself up and got back to business. He lost his legs, so he taught himself to crawl. He lost his way to make a living, so he did what he could. He lost his home and family, so he taught himself how to do a handstand and sing for his supper.

Just goes to show: sometimes it’s hard to avoid a fella every day, and you think you know him. But if you take the time to ask, the real story might be even better that all the talk around town.



  1. You brought the definition of “Human Being” to life. I am actually teary eyed, not that the Gimp lost his legs, but that you shared your experience and introduced us all to Ward. Kudos!

    • I guess every town has a Ward, right? I’m so glad this one resonated with you, thank you so much.

  2. Great short story, Brian! There’s an experiment where people are asked to stand in a circle with strangers and approach someone they found interesting to talk to after observing each other for 30 minutes. The experimenters thought that the most attractive people would be chosen, but that was not the case. Everyone was approached by someone, because people took the time to study the little differences in their faces and postures–the characteristics that made them unique and compelling. This Gimp’s story reminds me of that.

    • Awesome, Millie. What a great comment. There’s still hope for humanity, right? *grin*

      • There is always hope, Brian!

  3. I’m the gimp in my town…or the wheelchair girl. I had a lady come up to me the other day and give me a hug saying that she sees me take my daughter to school and go places all the time and she thought it was inspirational. It is good if people talk to me. I think most of us disabled people would rather you ask a question, or try to get to know us, than to give us pity smiles or stares.

    • Thank you so much, Hobbs. I’m always amazed and humbled when I nail my intentions on a piece. Sounds like I did here.

  4. That’s what’s neat about you, you take the time to smell the roses. Who would have thought there were roses in Ward Denton’s garden?

    • Thank you so much, as always, Resa.

  5. He was sleeping with his relatives? What kind of perv was this guy? Are you sure his wife didn’t chop his legs off, cuz if I caught my hubby sleeping with his sister, I’d be cutting something off.

    • Well, he is *transient*…

  6. AgrippingLife said:

    I like that you used the name, Ward Denton. It gave it that nice period touch. This was a great short story. Lots of heart and a great message — never judge a book by it’s cover. Excellent!

    • Yeah, I’m not sure what the period of this piece is, but Ward Denton seemed to fit the period. Thanks!

      • AgrippingLife said:

        Maybe I’m imagining it but it felt a little post depression era… I like “just a peach of a fella” and Dolly’s, etc. There’s Bob Hope playing at the Air conditioned theater, etc. I’m nothing if not observant. And everyone knows that crippled people were more prevalent back then. Hahah!

      • HAH! Correct! Ya couldn’a gone a block without steppin’ on’a cripple back then!

        I just mean that I always try to strip away (most) time and place identifiers so you can plug in your own interpretations. But you may just be on to something *evil grin*….

  7. Nice story Brian (check my most recent blog post please), a little too nice if you ask me. 😉

  8. You’re a fantastic person, Westbye.

    Thanks for sharing this story.

    • You’re making me sniffly, Tonic.

      Thanks for that.

  9. Amazing story and so inspirational, great job

    • Thank you so much, Rebecca. I’m so glad this one has hit so many nerves for the good.

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