Coq au Vin and a Missing Arm

A short story by CT Liotta

“He looks like a Gucci sunglass model!” Kathy said to her friend, as her friend applied blue eye-shadow in the mirror of the women’s room.

Photo by JeffreyW, Flickr

“How did you meet?”

“Online,” said the woman. “On an online dating app called Embr. Tonight, we’re meeting at last!”

The two women went outside.

“You’ll have to tell me about your date in the morning,” said Kathy’s friend. “Tonight I’m lecturing, and I won’t be finished until eleven.”

“What are you lecturing about?”

“The role of women in fiction, and the application of the Bechdel test.”

“How does a work of fiction pass the Bechdel test? Like, if I were writing about the last fifteen minutes, verbatim, would it pass, Lisa?”

“Now it would. I’ll have to explain it all later. You have a big night ahead with an attractive man!”

“I hope he looks as dreamy in real life as he does in his pictures,” said Kathy. “I really hope he likes me!”

Later that night, in her apartment, Kathy dimmed the lights and lit candles. Coq au vin simmered on the stove. There was a knock. Kathy checked her lipstick in the hallway mirror, and opened the door.

Carlton Ringgold stood handsomely at the entrance, with an ear-to-ear smile. “Kathy?” he asked.

She smiled back. “May I take your coat?”

As he removed his seersucker blazer, Kathy noticed something not immediately apparent in Carlton’s dating profile. Carlton Ringgold had a tiny nub in place of his left arm.

“I have a tiny nub in place of my left arm,” he said, waving the nub up and down. “It was trapped in an escalator when I was three.”

“What part?” asked Kathy, not sure what else to ask.

He swung his nub toward her and pointed with the finger of his right hand. “This part, above the elbow.”

“I mean, what part of the escalator?”

“The part where the stairs go back into the floor. It tore it to pieces like a woodchipper. It smells wonderful in here. Shall we eat?”

Kathy dished out portions of chicken and they sat at a candlelit table.

Carlton said, “it isn’t easy living with one arm. I have a prosthetic that I sometimes use, but it doesn’t function well, and I shouldn’t have to wear it simply to conform to society and make everybody else feel more at ease.”

Carlton continued for another several minutes about his missing arm, and Kathy listened attentively, but at some point she was ready to change the subject. He continued to talk about his arm, however, and she felt that interrupting him might be rude.

Through three courses of dinner, he talked about his missing arm- what childhood was like, what activities he could and could not easily accomplish, and the daily challenges of a world ill-equipped to accommodate him.

By the time she served ice cream, Kathy was bored of hearing of his arm, and tired. Her makeup was melting and her hair had started to frizz. There was considerable cleanup ahead, and Carlton said that he would help to carry the dishes to the sink, but for his missing arm.

When he would not leave, Kathy at last told him that she had to make a night of it, and that it was a pleasure meeting him. He felt the chill in her voice.

“Have I said something offensive to you?” he asked.

“No,” she replied, “But when, over the course of this night, were you going to ask about ME?”

She removed her prosthetic leg, placed it beside her on the sofa, and told him to show himself out because she was drunk and did not want to move.