In the story, Christy has cerebral palsy. He can neither talk nor walk. At five years old, Christy could not even mumble. He also could not sit up by himself or walk without assistance. However, Christy's body moved in other ways. His head often lolled to the side, and his fingers would twitch of their own volition. Sometimes, his arms would shoot out in different directions.
Christy had little control over his body. Despite his challenges, his parents refused to commit him to an institution. His mother, particularly, did everything she could to communicate with Christy and to acquaint him with his surroundings.
One cold December afternoon, things changed for Christy. Accordingly, he was watching his brother and sister write upon a slate, when he suddenly felt compelled to act. Christy reached out with his left foot and used it to grab the yellow chalk from his sister's hand. At this point, Christy was unsure of what to do next. Then, Christy's mother noticed that he had the chalk in his left foot.
She walked over and wrote the letter "A" on the floor and asked Christy to copy it. Then, she held the slate in front of Christy and encouraged him to write. For his part, Christy managed to produce only a crooked line during his first try. He felt frustrated and frightened. However, Christy also remembers feeling a strange sense of anticipation.
For her part, Christy's mother encouraged him to try again. Christy responded with determination. He felt compelled to prove to himself and to everyone else that he could accomplish the feat of writing the letter "A." The text tells us that he strained every muscle and concentrated all of his efforts on his goal. In the end, Christy managed to write a wobbly "A." In the face of his accomplishment, he felt great elation and pride. He understood that the ability to write would be a gift to him, freeing him from the mental prison he often found himself in.