“How you doing with your….” The postman started before tilting his head down towards Curt’s wheelchair and lack of legs while Curt signed the postal form for a registered letter.
“Just great.” He handed the clipboard back and stuffed the envelope between his hip and the side of the chair.
The postman looked him over a few more times. “The misses’ been bugging me for the past weeks since she saw you and your lady friend … Patty? Yeah, since she saw you two. Damnedest thing, she’s all afire about her legs now.” He muttered something Curt didn’t understand and didn’t ask to hear again. “I wish your lady friend would talk to her. I just don’t know what to tell her.”
Curt looked up at the man, probably in his forties, as he shifted between feet and the large mailbag pulled one shoulder lower than the other, his hand rubbing his chin then tugging at an earlobe.
“What seems to be the problem?”
“Damn if I know … something about not wanting them. Guess she’s seen others at the mall. Almost like a plague. She’s after me all the time ’bout how she’s always wanted them gone. I never knew. Have her talk to Wanda, will ya?”
“Sure. Curt pulled a card out of his wallet and held it up to the man. “Have your wife call and we’ll find a time.”
“Damnedest thing….” He kept shaking his head and muttering as he walked back out to the truck idling in the rutted drive.
Curt watched for a while until the truck turned around then he rolled into the house. “It’s here!” he yelled.
Patty rolled out of the kitchen and towards him. “What?”
“A registered letter from the courthouse.” He handed the envelope to her.”
“About time,” she mumbled as she opened the envelope and unfolded the papers. “The divorce decree,” she said, waving them in the air.
“So, now will you marry me?” The front of their wheelchairs banged together and he leaned forward kissing her.
“Not like this is going to change anything,” she complained backing her chair away.
“No, it won’t … now you won’t be a hussy.” He laughed and rolled down the hall to his study.
Paul stood beside the hospital bed watching Jean sleeping. Jack and Thelma stood at the foot of the bed. “She looks good,” Paul said. The remaining portion of her arm amputated, now both arms were completely gone. “She’ll be happier this way.”
“I don’t think Mom was ever content with the arm ending just above the elbow,” Jack said. “Did you call Amy?”
“Yes. It was too bad your sister couldn’t be here. She’s happy with just the one arm.”
Robert wore his white doctor’s coat, a stethoscope around his neck, and carried a clipboard as he strolled into the room and looked at his nephew. “She did just fine in surgery.”
“You do a good job,” Thelma said, and then scratched at the end of her own leg stump.
Slightly older than Patty, Wanda was, at best, plain. Her hair hung straight down the sides of her face. She wore a dress that hid all of her shape and ended below the knees. Patty guessed she wasn’t overweight, but it was hard to know. There was no makeup, not even lipstick. They sat on the deck facing the woods behind Curt’s house. She thought it strange she still considered it ‘his’ house, but that was changing.
“I always wondered what this looked like,” Wanda said. She stared a moment longer. “I drive past your house all the time … and wonder.” The woman looked at Patty. “I’m not crazy. I went to graduate school to study psychology. I’m even a licensed clinical psychologist. Guess I was trying to find out why I felt the way I did.” She stopped and looked again at the trees, then Patty. “About my legs.”
“Did you ever find out why?”
“No, never did. Then I decided it didn’t matter. What about you?”
“I didn’t like my legs, the way the looked … knobby knees and other things.”
“How about Curt?”
“Pretty much the same thing. I don’t think that is common amongst ‘us’.” It was clear to both women she meant all the people that desired to have amputations.
“I used to bind them up at night and try to stop the circulation. It was always too painful. It eventually got all tangled up in my sexuality. I was almost frigid without them bound. I had only one boyfriend back then. Told him ’bout it. He thought I was a bit of a freak. Back then; everyone was a bit of a freak, so it was okay to him. We screwed like bunnies … for about a year. There wasn’t anyone else, not until I met Grant. By then, I was too scared to tell him. Then I saw you and Curt at the market. It all came unraveled for me.”
“What do you want?”
“To be like you. Oh, maybe longer stumps would be okay. I don’t want to walk with prosthetics. Being in a chair is a dream … without legs.”
“Grant doesn’t seem to understand,” Patty said.
“Nope, he doesn’t at all. I’ve tried to explain it isn’t about him, … that it’s something in me that’s been there forever. I studied this and I just don’t believe there’s a way to cure myself without the surgery.” Her mouth now moved without a sound. Tears began to drip along her face and she wiped at them. “If he left me, I’d understand. I’d still go ahead. It’s that important. I’m surprised I’ve lasted this long.”
“He’s your husband. You need to work this out. He loves you … right?”
“Yeah-h,” she drawled though the sobs. “He’s a good man, not much of a lover … he was at the start. Maybe I don’t….” She continued to sob and futilely wipe at the tears. “He probably won’t want to sleep in the same bed….” She grew silent and stare at the trees then the clouds. After a few moments of silence, she stood and walked towards the door. Patty followed. “Thanks for your time,” Wanda meekly said. She pushed though the door and out into the driveway before looking back. A hand dragged over her cheek and wiped it dry on her dress.
“Listen Wanda, would you want Curt to talk to him? Maybe a little guy talk would help.”
Wanda spoke though the sobs. “Some nights he hangs out at Max’s saloon … rather than be with me.” Patty could hear the sobs until the car door closed.
Patty sat silently in the doorway of the study and watched Curt typing, his back to her. She was about to roll away when he caught her reflection in the monitor.
“Hey darling.” He noticed her crying and wiping at the tears. “Must have been a rough conversation.”
“I just had to make sure you know how much I love everything about you.” She rolled beside his wheelchair and hugged him. Her tears leaving a growing wet spot on his shirt. He said nothing and just hugged her back for several minutes.
She rolled backwards looking at him, smiling, all the while. “You’re the best husband a gal could ever find … even if we’re not officially married yet.” She giggled. “Never forget….” She rolled towards the door.
“Maybe if I talked to him.”
“Yeah, maybe. They’re not city folks, just remember. She went to graduate school, so she seems to be smart. I don’t know about him though.” In the doorway, she turned back. “She’s says he goes to Max’s. Do you know where that is?” He nodded and she rolled into the hall.
“He heard her say, “Remember … tonight is an early fuck night … just the two of us.” After that, all he heard was her laughter until the door to the deck closed.
Casey sat at the dressing table and removed her high-tech prosthetic leg. As a prosthetist, she was good at working with the C-leg technology. It was something most of her clients wanted and she was happy to build for them. She leaned the leg against the wall by her crutches then massaged her stump. “Feels good,” she said aloud as she continued to rub. “Hmmm,” she hummed.
Her husband, Robert, crutched from the bathroom wearing khaki shorts, a black t-shirt, and no shoe. His knee bent leaving the short stump pointing behind him. “Hey sweetheart,” he said standing not far away. “What a day. Three surgeries, one lasted five hours. Poor bastard, … there was a huge wreck out on the highway. He was the only survivor and maybe he shouldn’t have made it. Makes me want to only do the elective amputations for people like us … or retire.”
“How’s Jean doing?”
“Paul’s with her at the hospital. She’s been talking about having the rest of that arm off for several years. She’s going to be just fine with them both off at the shoulder. Paul’s a good husband.”
Alex walked across the hot white sand grumbling every few steps. Holly followed her not far behind making similar complaints. Twenty feet from where the ocean waves stopped, they dropped their bags. Each with a single arm, they fussed to spread the blanket; eventually getting it laid out without much sand on it.
“Patty’s a doll. Dad loves having her around,” Alex said pulling her trademark white t-shirt off leaving her chest bare. The snap on the stiff Wrangler jeans came undone and the zipper slid down. Soon she sat on the blanket wearing only black boy-cut panties. “Hand me one of the beers … will ya?”
Holly sat besides her wearing the same. “They get along about as well as we do.” She hunched over her knees with a bottle of beer in her hand and watching the surf. “We’re out of college now. Are we going to do anything … or just be beach bums?”
“Beach bums sounds good.” Alex sucked her beer for a while and listened to the pounding surf. She hunched over her knees the same as Holly and drank more beer. A while later, she glanced at Holly. “I love you still.”
“Of course silly. No one could replace you.” She sipped at the bottle and watched the waves.
Alex pointed the top of the bottle up the beach. “Look,” she said, and then sipped from the bottle.
Holly looked for a while until she noticed the black woman in short white pants and a black halter-top crutching along the waterline. The right pants leg filled with a thick thigh stump, but no stump seemed to be exposed. “You think,” she quipped, still watching.
Alex was silent and watched. The woman was smooth and graceful, even in the damp sand. Her leg long and lovely, like the rest of her. “You think she’s with someone.”
“Damn-n,” Holly moaned. “She’s beautiful.” She looked farther up the beach where the woman seemed to have come from, then in the direction she was going. “She seems to be alone.”
“Do you want to talk to her?”
Inductively, she replied, “If you want to. Sure couldn’t replace you.” They continued to watch as the woman turned and walked their way. “The parking lot is behind us.”
“Yeah-h. Maybe she’s going to her car.” They both simultaneously sipped from their bottles.
The deep white sand sucked her crutches as she slogged along taking long strides and dragging the crutch tips forward for the next step.
“Hey,” Holly called as the woman neared. She must have been too quiet since there was no reaction. “Hey!” she called more loudly.
The woman walked towards them, her panting now audible. “That sands a bitch to crutch though.”
“Yup … want a beer?”
“Great.” She lowered her crutches as she sat on the corner of the blanket. She wiped at her forehead with the back of one hand and looked at each of the women. “You guys almost match,” she teased. “I’m Katlin.” Holly and Alex introduced themselves and handed her a bottle before taking new ones from the bag. Katlin held the bottle up in a toast. “Here’s to new friends and new stumps.”
Holly sipped and watched Katlin pull her pant leg up slightly and rub the end of the stump. “Had it off a few months ago … got it as a college graduation present.” She laughed. “My parents think I’m crazy and won’t talk to me anymore.”
“You’ve got lovely skin,” Alex commented. “Take your top off. No body will care.”
The ample breasts bobbed as she removed the halter-top. “You two ‘together’?” The she said it made it clear she expected an intimate relationship might exist.
“Yeah,” Holly replied. “We met ’cause I had my arm off.” She shrugged the shoulder without the arm. Then she did her arm. Her Dad and his soon to be wife are both missing both legs … all of both legs.”
“Quite the family. I’ve been holding off settling down until I had my leg off.”
“Guess you can start looking now.” Alex laughed and dropped the empty bottle in the sand. She ran her hand though the boyish cut haircut, tussling some of the longer parts. “Man or woman?” she questioned.
“Guy. My sister bugs me about finding a black guy. I don’t know. What do you two do for work?”
“We were just talking about that before we saw you. Presently, beach bums.” Holly laughed, finished her beer, and tossed it beside the other in the sand. She looked at Katlin, in her mind removing the rest of her clothes.
“What?” Katlin asked, realizing something was going on.
“I was just admiring your lovely skin.”
“Nah. You were stripping me naked.” Katlin laughed. “How come there are most of ‘us’ are of white European heritage? You know, I’ve never heard of another black person wanting this.” She waved her hand over her stump then pointed at each woman’s arm stump.
Curt rolled though the door of Max’s saloon. Half dozen men gathered around a pool table, one shooting, the others tossing paper money on an empty table and shouting. Several women sat at the bar, one watching him as if he was the one she was waiting for. He watched them look at him. They talked to each other then looked back, one with a big smile, the other with a frown.
“Curt!” a voice called. He looked around and saw a hand waving. The man sat alone at a table away from the others.
Curt rolled over. The man had pulled a chair away and Curt parked there and locked the brakes. “Grant?” He questioned, knowing it was the postman.
“Hey man, thanks for all you’re doing for Wanda.
He looked up at the tall older woman trying to look hip with the lip ring and several tattoos. Her tight top dipped low and cut off at the bottom revealing too much of her stomach with a few rolls of flesh. He gave his order then looked at Grant who pointed at his beer bottle and waved her off. She wiped her hand casually over her crotch, grunted her acknowledgment, and then walked away.
“Listen, like it or not, you in the middle of this too. Tonight, I’m here to help you, ole friend. I get my mail just fine and I don’t want to have to deal with a new postman anytime soon.” Curt laughed and leaned back dropping an elbow on the edge of the table.
The server returned and sat the bottle down then stared at Curt. “One of the girls over there said she thinks you’re ‘hot’.” She glanced at the pair he’d seen. The one on the left waved and blew him a kiss. She couldn’t have been a day over twenty-two.
He flashed her the peace sign and looked back at Grant. “It takes all kinds.”
“Tell me,” he groaned. “I have housewives getting the mail without a stitch on.”
“I thought that was an urban legend.”
“Believe you me, sometimes I wish it were. You should see some of these hags.” He sucked on his beer like it was something he’d prefer to forget.” He grinned and held the bottle against his face, thinking about the few that were nice looking.
“So….” Curt started then tilled the bottle up. “So, if Wanda lost her legs because of a car wreck, what would you do?”
“Stay with her. Hell, I love the woman.”
“Well, it seems very simple then. Ignore why she wants to do this and continue to love her. Right?”
“But, … but, why she wants to do this.”
“Yeah. Who cares? No one will know but the two of you. You can decide between you what the story is going to be, then stick with it. Not a soul will give a shit … and they sure won’t know you’re lying. I’ve heard some whoppers too. No one will realize it isn’t the gods’ honest truth.”
“That simple? Really?”
“Yup. Go home and love her like never before.” Curt drank from his bottle, his Adams apple bobbing like crazy. “Listen Grant. Excuse me if this is too personal. Do you two have lots of sex?”
He nodded. “Once or twice a week, sometimes a few times a month.” He frowned.
“Listen to me. Do you want her to be like a fucking porn start and jump your bones several times a night?” Grant listened to Chet, grinning from ear to ear, and nodding like a bobblehead doll. Chet continued. “Let her do this and then you always tell her how glad you are that she was finally able to be this way. Toss in how sexy you think she is and play with where her legs used to be. Hey, go down on her too. Kiss her stumps while you’re at it.”
“She’ll like all that?”
“Good god man, she’ll be like a sex crazed teenager. You’ll have to beg her to give you a nights rest.”
“You’re pulling my leg.”
“No man.” Curt finished the beer and pushed the bottle next to the ashtray. He looked at Grant. “Rain, nor sleet, my man. … Enjoy her.” Curt rolled towards the door and glanced at the two women. One gave him a big toothy smile.
As he was stowing his chair, she suddenly stood by the car door. “I’ll have dreams of you tonight.” He watched as she flashed a breast and grinned. “Will you dream of me? Maybe you’d have dreams if I was missing a leg?”
“You got a name?”
He closed the door and back out of the handicapped parking place. From the rear view mirror, he could see her standing in the same place waving a hand.
Patty rolled her wheelchair out the back door towards the new lap pool surrounded by a wide concrete deck. A black man knelt while taking a water sample. Beside him was a small blue tray. He looked around as he heard her nearby and smiled.
“You’re new,” she said, as she locked the brakes. The late morning was very warm; some might consider it hot. She held a fresh bottle of beer.
“Yes ma’am. The other man quit.” He laughed. “Lucky me. I happened to be filling out an application at the time.” He laughed again and let a drop of testing solution fall into the sample.
She held her bottle up. “Can I get you one?” He nodded and she rolled into the house and returned.
He walked towards her. Dark skin, smooth, even in color, strikingly handsome, she thought. She had dated a man of color in college for a short time. “I’m Patty,” she said holding the bottle up towards him.
“Morgan.” He took the bottle and rubbed it across his forehead before sipping from it. One of his hands rested against his waist, the elbow sticking out. “I just transferred to the university … majoring in history. This just pays some bills.” He sipped from the bottle. “My parents and I moved up along the coast recently.”
“My husband has a PhD in history. He taught at the university for a while, now he’s a novelist … pays better.” She giggled, sat the bottle on the ground. She lowered herself next to the bottle in a single graceful movement. “Have a seat.” Her hand moved over the space in front of her in a gesture as if to offer him a seat. “Maybe the two of you would be interested in talking someday.” She watched him sit several feet away, his legs crossed, a hand over one knee.
“I’d like that.”
“A handsome guy like you probably is having to fight the women off.” She leaned to one side on a single hand as the other brought the bottle to her lips.
“Thank you ma’am.”
“Peggy … please.”
“Yes, I’ll remember … not so good with names at first.” He laughed. They comfortably watched each other in silence for a while.
“My mother had her other leg amputated a few Christmases ago. Dad’s a surgeon and he did the surgery. She tells everyone it was the best Christmas gift he’d ever given her.” He chuckled then sipped. “He did the first leg for their first anniversary.”
“Oh-h,” Peggy drawled.
“Her stumps are like yours. She’s a PhD computer scientist up at Titan….” He stopped before finishing the company name. “They do some secret database research.”
Peggy was still processing the comment about the gift as she listened to him. “I have a close relative that’s a surgeon.” She paused and watched him closely.
Wanda returned from the kitchen and sat on the edge of the bed and removed her robe then slipped naked under the sheet. Grant was asleep. It was late and he had to wake up in a few hours to sort the mail for his route. She loved the warmth of his body next to hers and she couldn’t resist a quick snuggle against his back.