Matched Pair

By: Jess Mercer
( 2011 by the author)

  The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent. Comments are appreciated at...

Terry looked down at his right arm, the thin bandage taped neatly just above where his wrist and hand should have been. Tears sprang to his eyes. Damn it! Why did it have to be his right hand? He was right handed, or had been. It was hard learning to write and do everything with his left one. He looked at his watch. He'd have to hurry and change to get to the doctor's office on time. This was his last appointment. The bandage would be taken off and he'd get to see the end of his arm for the first time. He dreaded going back home, because his mom and dad would want to see it, and his mom would cry again.

"There you go, young man. Looks good. No reason why you can't begin to use it now."

"For what? What good is it without a hand?" Terry said bitterly.

The doctor patted him on the back. "Be glad you've still got the whole arm. You can do a lot with it. Specially after you get a prosthesis."

"Yeah." No way his dad could afford a prosthesis. A man wearing one had visited him in the hospital and talked about all he could do with it. Terry had not been able to tear his eyes from the hook, the control cable, and the harness he'd have to wear. How can he like anything that repulsive looking was all he could think of during the visit.

He didn't look at his stump until he was back in his room at home, seeing the red puckered scar across the end. Oh, god, it's ugly. It won't ever look any better. I don't care if the doctor does say the redness will go away and the end smooth out after a few weeks. He put on his old jeans and ran the end of his arm in the pocket. I ain't letting nobody see it. Having the other guys see the bandage and ask questions was bad enough. No telling what they'll say if they see it like this.

At school the next morning he joined a few of the other seniors in excited talk of graduation, until he remembered what would take place. How could he take his diploma and then shake hands with the principal with only one hand? The left one at that. He walked away feeling the same depression he'd felt when he came out of the anesthetic and saw the bandaged stump. He'd prayed his hand was only hurt, but when he asked, the nurse told him it was gone.

During classes his attention was centered on his own thoughts, so much so that he received reprimands from two different teachers for his inattention. Yeah, he thought, as he left his last class with his mind made up, it would work fine. He cleaned out his locker, cramming everything in his new backpack.

When he got home, he went to his room and changed in to his old jeans and sneakers, feeling a lot better. His mother was busy in the kitchen, so she wouldn't notice. He sneaked into his parents' bedroom and eased open the top dresser drawer so it wouldn't squeak and it sometimes did. He held the small plastic container with his stump and popped the cap on the bottle of sleeping pills his mother sometimes used when her arthritis was bad. Yeah, six left and thirty more if he could get the prescription refilled. That would be enough.

"I'm going to the market, Terry," his mother called. "Want to come with me?"

"No, thanks. I'm going to meet a few of the guys downtown."

"I'm glad you're getting out with your friends again. Have a good time."

Soon as he heard the car back out of the drive, he got the bottle, poured the six pills into a dish in his room, and slipped it in his pocket, then walked purposefully toward the drugstore.

Might as well give myself one last treat, he thought after the filled prescription was in his pocket. He walked alone to a soda shop and bought a cherry coke, fumbling awkwardly for the change in his right pants pocket. I should keep change and stuff in my left pocket, he told himself, but what the heck, after Sunday it won't make any difference. He paid and carried the drink to a small park, sitting on a bench. The Coke didn't taste as good as it always had before. His idea didn't seem so good now, but there was no way he could hide his arm, and the friends he had didn't seem as friendly now, especially the girls. Even keeping the end of his stump in his pocket didn't keep them from looking at his arm and turning away. Who wanted a guy with one arm?

"Hi. Can I sit with you?" A cheerful voice asked.

He looked up to see a guy about his age he had never seen before and mumbled, "I don't care."

"I'm Tory. What's your name?"

"Terry."

Tory laughed. "Hey, that's good. Terry and Tory. Our names sound great together."

Terry just looked at him sadly.

"You lived here long?"

"Yeah." Terry mumbled, wishing this cheerful guy would leave him alone.

"I just graduated from my old school before we moved here. I guess we got out earlier than you guys. This looks like a nice town, but it's gonna be hard for me to make any friends."

When Terry didn't speak, he put his right hand on Terry's shoulder. "Okay, guy, tell me about it."

"About what?"

"Whatever's wrong. You're a cool looking guy, so nothing can be as bad as you're thinking. It helps to talk to a stranger sometimes."

Anger surged in Terry. He pulled his arm out of his pocket and waved the end in Tory's face. "Take a look at this and tell me you'd feel so good if it was you!"

Tory reached up and seized the arm to look at it. "This all that's bothering you? You're not the only guy to lose a hand."

"Maybe not, but " Despite himself, Terry felt tears in his eyes again, then felt himself being hugged.

"Didn't you notice?" Tory sat back and held out his left arm. His stump was an inch or so shorter than Terry's. "Once you get used to people looking at it, it isn't so bad. We're lucky, we've got a lot of stump we can use, not like those poor guys with a real short one."

Terry scrubbed at his tears with his fist and tried to smile at Tory. "I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It takes a while to get used to it."

"Are you?"

"Yeah. It's been about five years now. You going to get a hook?" Tory saw him cringe at the word.

"I don't think so. You got one?"

"Yeah, but I don't use it much. I can do most anything I want without it. Besides, it's hot in weather like this. I like to feel the air on my stump. That's why I wear short sleeve shirts all the time." He lifted his stump and pulled Terry's up beside it, then grinned. "Looks like we're a matched pair. You don't have your right hand and I don't have my left. Between us we can do anything a guy with two hands can. If you don't have something else to do, why don't you come home with me. I'll let you try my hook if you want."

"I'd like know how it feels. I won't be getting one any time soon, cause they cost too much. Think yours will fit me?"

"I can loosen the straps a little and it might. At least you can find out what one feels like on your stump."

They walked along together, Tory swinging his arm and stump, with Terry doing the same for the first time. Why should he care with this great looking one-handed guy beside him.

Tory took down the hook hanging on his closet door in his room. "Hold out your stump." He slipped the hook in place on Terry's arm. "Hurt?"

Terry shook his head, staring at the hook.

"Good." Tory strapped the control cable to Terry's upper arm and loosened the harness enough to slip it around Terry's shoulder and buckle it in place. "There you go. Not too bad a fit. See if you can open the hook."

"How?"

"It'll be easier for you if you reach out with the hook. I move my shoulder a little to do it."

Terry pushed his arm out, seeing the hook begin to open, then quickly dropped it to his side.

"What's the matter?"

"Hurts my arm."

Tory nodded. "Guess your stump isn't healed up enough. This is made for my mine anyway, so it won't fit you right. Hold still and I'll take it off. What you think of it?" He asked when they were sitting on his bed.

"I guess it might help, but it's so damn ugly I don't want one. I'd rather just use my arm like it is." Not that it'll be for much longer, he thought as he rubbed the end gently.

Tory's hand pushed his away and began to run the end of Terry's stump. "Why don't you rub mine? It feels better when someone else is doing it."

"Okay."

"You doing anything tonight?"

Terry shook his head. "Can I ask you something?"

"Sure."

"Did your friends act any different after You know."

"A few. Mostly they were just curious. The only thing really got me down was older people. I was only twelve, then, and they made a big deal out of how bad it was, you know, poor little boy and all that sort of stuff."

"Yeah. I got some of it, too. Damn it! I'm still me. Why do things have to change?"

"Hey, that's life. You like science fiction?"

Terry grinned. "Sure do. Why?"

"There's a great new flick at the Cinema I want to see. Let's go tonight."

"Great."

After the movie, they stopped at the soda shop again. This time the cherry Coke tasted better than any he'd ever had before. When he left Tory's house, he was grinning. What a great guy! Fun to be with. And he was coming over tomorrow. Then he remembered that not once had he hidden his stump while they were together, even in the bright lights of the soda shop. Why should he, when Tory didn't. And then Tory had pulled up those pictures on his computer. The two swimmers and the soccer player were great looking guys. He looked at his stump and, remembering two or three pictures of guys with both arms gone, was suddenly glad he had all of his left arm.

 

The next afternoon, Tory picked up the prescription bottle from Terry's bedside table and looked at it. "What are you doing with this stuff? It's dangerous."

"It's my mom's. She has arthritis. I got it filled for her yesterday and forgot to put it back in her room."

Tory frowned. "You sure?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"I thought you might be thinking of doing something stupid." He set the bottle down and put his arm around Terry's shoulders. "Truth, guy."

Terry hung his head rather than meet Tory's eyes. "I guess I was, but when I saw you didn't have but one hand and the way it doesn't seem to bother you, I started to think." He looked into Tory's eyes. "You're a great guy and I like being with you. After the fun we had at the movie and all, I guess I started to think of what I might be missing if . You know."

Tory hugged him. "I know it's hard to get used to. I had a hard time of it for a while myself, but I found out my real friends didn't care how many hands I had. Give it time, guy. We'd both have missed a lot if we hadn't met. I like you, Terry, and I want you around for a long time."

"Thanks, Tory. Say, will you come to my graduation?"

"For sure. You going to college?"

"Yeah."

"Good. If we go to the same one I'd really like to room with you. Like I said, between the two of us we can do anything guys with two hands can. Let's talk about it."

The End

Posted: 06/10/11