A Short Story
Linda’s ‘thing’ — that lustful weakness that is as unexpected when spoken aloud as it is often as strange — was arms. Big biceps, titillating triceps, all flexing and oiled like a heated pan. Veins popping out of the skin in uneven superhighways that bulged at the inner elbow and burrowed deeper, until disappearing at either end of hands or armpits.
Jerry was less picky; in the past, his ‘thing’ had been women that were somewhat interested in him, irrespective of whether it be because of the size of his arms, the thickness of his hair, or even the sole dimple he had on his left cheek. To him, it didn’t matter. That was until his ‘thing’ became small tattoos tidily tucked behind ears. This only became his ‘thing’ after he met Linda. As perhaps an indicator of what to come, he caught a glance of Linda’s neat tattoo (the word “Vivacious” in cursive script) as she had tilted her head to get a better look at his arms.
After a whirlwind romance that was full of witticisms, unprotected sex and a torrent of texted heart emojis, Jerry proposed just before he discovered Linda was pregnant. They had a hard time convincing people that the proposal hadn’t been made after Linda had announced to him that he was the father of the fruit of her womb, but it was accepted nonetheless. In fact, it became quite a topic of conversation for the wedding. Jerry’s best man, his best mate through school and university, spent so long on it, people were beginning to wonder whether he was going to be the obstetrician in charge of delivering the couple’s child when the time came.
Luckily, a real doctor was present for the birth, and as such, it went smoothly. Linda and Jerry, with little Charlotte, became a family. A happy family, until the accident.
Jerry was walking to work, head down, looking at his phone, as he neared an intersection full of speeding traffic. Usually, he would stop and look up when he arrived at the curbside, spending a few moments gazing at something other than his phone — often the passing cars, or the people waiting on the other side of the road for the same crossing signal he was.
Except this time, Jerry failed to lift his foot a millimetre higher than usual, and with his walking pace already rather brisk, when the front of his shoe knocked the jagged edge of the pavement, he fell forward, onto the road. Arms splayed out in front of him, there was a moment that he and everyone behind him could register what was going on, before a truck ran over his upper arms, crushing them beyond repair.
Jerry would survive, thanks to the truck not also running over his head, and the speed of the nearby pedestrians in calling an ambulance.
Yet despite all of the time and the energy Jerry had spent at the gym building up his arms — arms that had, in no small way, enabled him to meet his wife — the doctors had no choice but to amputate.
After the surgery, as Jerry sat up in his hospital bed with his bandaged arms, he was not altogether angry — lucid was what he’d describe himself, later, after the morphine wore off. But in the post-surgery haze, to see his wife silently sobbing as she looked him him — her maimed husband —
he leaned forward in his bed and beckoned his wife forward with a flick of his head, like he was telling her a secret.
Charlotte was crying, too. She was too young to register the fact her father had lost his arms; Charlotte understood, even at that early age, that when mothers cry, it usually for something worth crying about. A tentative toddler at the time, she held her mother’s hand and walked up the bed to her father. Jerry’s two girls leaned in close, to hear what he had to say.
“There now,” he said, in a hushed tone that suited the slight slur of his words.
He slipped from this repetition into song almost imperceptibly — he sang the song he and Linda had danced to at their wedding. Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’ tumbled from his mouth, and in the pauses between verse and chorus, he raised his face up to kiss the salty tears off his wife’s face, and then his daughter’s. For the entirety of the song, he mopped up their sadness with voice and lips, until the tears dried up and only red cheek blotches remained.
Linda wrapped her own arms around her daughter and her husband; she was not thinking about his arms anymore. Her ‘thing’ had graduated from part of Jerry to the whole thing; that he was alive was the only aphrodisiac she needed now.