A heart in a resting adult body beats seventy times a minute. Cordell's beat twice that, at one hundred and forty, as the other boys beat him with sticks and fists. He was sprawled out of his wheelchair, and face down on the sidewalk, his arms crumpled under him, and the withered legs he could not control exposed completely to the assault.
Minutes before, Cordell was happy and thinking of home. The evening air was filled with lazily floating insects and golden light. The path that Cordell took was a paved shortcut through the subdivision between the park and his street. It was closed in on both sides with fences covered in climbing morning glories and intrepid colonizing grasses. The path was trafficked most frequently by children and the odd jogger, but even then, it didn't carry many passersby. Cordell was easily cornered and cut off, and before it started, before the taunts, he hoped they would let him pass. He'd had trouble from them before, but they always pulled their bluff.
But this time their words turned into a feedback loop of action as it soaked into them how defenseless Cordell was. They circled in like wolves. Cordell screamed, briefly, before they wrapped their hands around his neck. They laughed, joyful, reveling in the athleticism of the moment. Their muscles pumped as they swung. Their stances were wide and strong. They began to sweat and their faces glistened. Their expressions blended together in a blur, one was another was another and no one paused, no one thought until Cordell was motionless.
They left him on the ground and he as undiscovered for another three hours. A rich pool of blood had collected from his mouth and had dried enough to be sticky. He was found shivering in it, his legs pulverized, his face scraped and bruised. Three ribs were broken. As he was lifted onto a stabilization board and then onto a gurney by gentle hands, he asked, "Why?" in a quiet voice. No one had an answer.