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...
After two weeks of wallowing in self-pity, snarling at the doctors and nurses to leave him alone, and wishing he were dead, Steve awoke in the middle of the night with the clear awareness that had abandoned him two weeks earlier. He took himself firmly in hand for the first time since he'd become conscious in this bed.
Look, asshole, he told himself, you're getting nowhere. You're not the only guy this has ever happened to, but you've managed to turn everybody in this hospital against you when they're trying to help. What's happened ain't gonna change, so you'd better come to terms with it fast. This is the last semester and your profs have been good enough to send your work to you, but you haven't hit the first lick. Go ahead and piss away the whole semester's work, and see if they care. For sure they won't cut you any slack if you repeat their classes, not after this. You're blowing your GPA right out the window, so kiss any hopes of honors at graduation goodbye. He could see the pile of texts and notebooks on a chair in the dim glow of the nightlight. End of sermon. He closed his eyes.
"God, what a hunk that guy in three-eighteen is," one of the night nurses said to another as she poured a cup of coffee and sank into a chair.
The other nurse laughed quietly. "You'll change your mind after you have to deal with him during the day. Nothing's ever right. He's the most egotistical self-pitying bastard I've ever seen. He's going to leave here thinking the whole world owes him a living just because he's lost a leg. You'd think it never happened to anybody before. I'll be glad to see the back of him."
"He can't be that bad."
"Wanna bet? Just ask Brenda down in rehab. Phil's the only one can get him to do anything."
"Isn't he that cute guy they just hired down there?"
"Yeah. What a doll. If I was your age I'd chase him down and hog tie 'im."
"I hear he doesn't like women very much."
"Just playing hard to get. Guess it's because he's new." A light flashed on the board in front of her. She sighed. "It's three twenty-four again. Go tell her it'll be an hour before she can have another shot for pain. I swear she's as big a pain in the ass as that guy in three eighteen."
The shift changed, and the morning nurse braced herself to face Steve's surly attitude when she carried in his breakfast tray, almost dropping the tray when he greeted her with a smile.
"Thank you. Would you move my books closer so I can reach them, please? I've got some studying to do. I've wasted too much time."
She found Steve deep in study when she returned for the tray. "It's time for you to go to therapy. Ready?"
He laid aside his books. "Good. I've wasted time there, too. If I've got to use crutches, I'd better learn the easy way," he said cheerfully.
"Hi, Phil, sorry I've been such a grouch. I'll be a good boy from now on." He lifted himself to his one leg and took the crutches, swinging himself easily the length of the room and back.
Phil's mouth dropped open in surprise, finding a sudden liking for this guy near his own age. "Here, let me show you a few tricks." He took the crutches and demonstrated, then handed them back to Steve.
When the session ended, Steve dropped back into his wheelchair and wiped the perspiration from his forehead. "That was a real workout."
Phil smiled at him for the first time. "You've got it down perfectly. All you need is practice to build up your arms a little for endurance." He looked at Steve's arms. "You've got the muscles already, but crutches put vertical pressure on your arms." He handed the crutches back to Steve. "Get out of that chair and use these from now on. Oh, yeah," he said as Steve stood, "you gotta remember to roll up your pants leg so you won't trip." He stooped and rolled up the pajama leg to the end of Steve's stump.
"Thanks, Phil. You're a good guy." Steve patted Phil on the shoulder before crutching his way back to the lift.
Phil stared at the retreating figure, thinking, Damn, he's good looking. First time since I've been in this game that a guy with a stump has turned me on. Wish I had gotten to know him better.
By the time he was ready to be discharged, Steve had become a favorite of the third floor hospital staff. He dressed carefully, put his books in his backpack and swung off on his crutches, going by therapy before leaving the hospital.
He found Phil drinking a cup of coffee. "Hi, Phil, I'm leaving. But I wanted to see you again to say thanks. You're a great guy."
"Thanks, buddy. So are you. Once you made up your mind to do it, you learned your crutches faster than anybody I ever tried to teach before." He looked down. "Stand still a minute, that jeans leg is gonna fall down." He opened the belt and top button of Steve's jeans and drew the empty jeans leg snugly against Steve's stump, folding it over the waistband. Subconsciously, he let his hand stroke Steve's stump as he worked. "That's the way to do it, my friend."
Steve's mind whirled, feeling the unexpected response to Phil's touch. I've never liked to be touched by anybody, but that felt great. I can't believe he smiled when he touched it. Why do I have to leave now? "You married, Phil?"
"I still live at home with my mom. I wanted to go to a school to learn prosthetics, but it cost too much, so I apprenticed in therapy and got hired here. What about you?"
"Trying to finish up school. I caught up my work while I was here, so with any luck I'll graduate next month. Now it's back to the classroom and hope I can find a job after graduation." He looked down where his leg had been and shook his head. "I sure hope this won't get in the way."
Phil put his arm around Steve's shoulder. "Don't let it bother you. If you don't get hired because of one leg, the company won't be worth working for anyway. I'm gonna miss you, Steve."
"Yeah. I'm gonna miss you, too." He hugged Phil quickly and started to turn away, but swung back on impulse. "What time you get off?"
"Five, if I don't run over time. Why?"
"If you aren't busy tonight, let's meet somewhere for a drink and maybe dinner."
"I'd like that. What about the Blue Crab down on the docks? They've got great seafood."
"Six, then, or do you have to go home to change?"
Phil smiled, wishing he'd worn something better than jeans to work. "Have to go home first, but six is fine. I don't live too far."
"Got a heavy date, man?" His roommate asked as Steve polished his left loafer.
"Yeah." His roommate was okay, at least he hadn't paid any attention to his missing leg, but Steve was weary of his constant bragging about the women he seduced.
Hope Phil likes my new look. He knew he looked good in his best chinos and the knit shirt he wore.
He was disappointed that the restaurant was dimly lighted. Hell, Phil won't even notice, he thought as he looked around the room for his friend. He spotted the standing figure and crutched smoothly over.
"Hi, Phil. You look great." His friend wore dark blue slacks and a lighter shirt, setting off his blond good looks.
"So do you. How'd you do with the crutches today?"
"No problem. Walked over here from campus."
Phil shook his head. "Didn't think you'd try that far so soon. Bother you any?"
"Feels good to get a real workout. It was a snap with what you showed me."
"All in a day's work, buddy. Bring us a couple of drafts," he told the waitress.
Steve enjoyed himself even more than he had thought he would. "I've got it," he told Phil when the check arrived. "No, it's my way of saying thanks to a great guy who taught me a lot," he said when Phil protested.
"You have to go back and study or you want to do something else?" Phil asked when they were outside.
Steve put his arm around Phil. "I want to spend more time with you, but there's only my dorm room."
"Come home with me for a while. I've got my own apartment in the house with a separate entrance. We can have a beer and watch a video or something. It's not too far."
They walked along together. When Phil switched on the lights, he looked Steve over. "Man, you do look great. What did you do to those pants?"
Steve grinned. "Like 'em this way? I took 'em to the tailor this afternoon and had 'em fixed." The right leg of the chinos had been tailored snugly around the end of his stump. He lifted it so Phil could see the result better.
Phil whistled. "Now that's sharp looking. No leg to mess with, either. Sexy, man."
Steve looked at him with hope. "You mean it?"
Instead of answering, Phil walked over and ran his hand over Steve's stump, then hugged him. He backed away enough to look into Steve's eyes. "You feel so good, Steve. Want to?"
Steve's crutches fell to the floor as he grabbed Phil in a snug embrace. "Like since I first saw you, buddy. You're beautiful."