The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's
consent. Comments are appreciated at...
Ken spread a blanket on the sand and stretched out full length. He closed his eyes to avoid seeing the curious looks he felt sure his footless left leg would bring, and tried to relax. It had taken a month of argument with himself to book his room at a small out-of-the-way motel and appear in public without the prosthetic foot that replaced the one he had lost at the end of winter. His first attempt at walking in the soft sand with crutches had been so difficult that he was tempted to wear the foot despite the technician's warning that sand and salt water could damage it.
He became aware of the shadow that had fallen across his face and opened his eyes, looking up into the cheerful smile of guy no older than himself. He saw the narrow jagged scar down one cheek that made the smile lop-sided.
"Hi, guy. I'm Tony. Want to join us?"
Ken sat up and noticed the crutches supporting Tony, for his right leg ended just above the knee. He pulled himself up on his crutches and held out his hand. "Thanks, I'm Ken. Where are you?"
Tony jerked his head toward two other guys on a blanket not far away. "Over there."
Ken picked up his blanket and followed. His eyes widened for the other two guys were amputees as well.
"This is Ken, guys." He pointed to one of them. "That's Mike." Mike held up his one hand in welcome. "And that's Rob." Rob brushed white-blond hair out of his face and smiled. Both of his legs ended below the knees.
Tony helped Ken spread his blanket beside theirs and flopped down, Ken beside him. Rob opened the cooler and handed Ken a beer. "You gotta be a new amp."
"How'd you know?"
"We saw the way you looked around until you found a place without too many people. We all felt be the same after our amputations, but then we decided anybody didn't like the scenery could move on."
"You guys knew each other before?"
Mike grinned. "We got to know each other a couple of years ago at school. We were all studying architecture, so we decided to room together. The school has a few four-man suites and we got one of 'em."
"How'd you lose your foot?" Tony asked.
Ken grimaced. "Working on my car. Just got the wheel off when it slipped off the jack. Brake drum crushed my foot. Wasn't anything they could do but cut it off. What about you guys?"
"We were all out together on a field trip gathering material for our senior theses. It was tough work, so on the way back to school we stopped and had a few beers to relax. Tom, our other roommate, was driving. I had my foot up on the dashboard." He pointed to Rob, "Dumb-ass there had his feet sticking out one back window, and Mike had his hand resting on the other. I guess Tom dozed off for a minute, because he ran off the road and rolled the car. Top collapsed and nipped off Mike's hand and Rob's legs neat as could be. My leg went thru the windshield and the glass did the rest. None of us remember much, but the cops said several cars stopped to help us get out. Luckily one of the drivers was a doctor, so all we lost was what you see. Tom didn't make it."
Ken shook his head. "Sorry, guys. Makes me ashamed I was feeling sorry for myself. I couldn't believe it when I looked up and saw Tony."
"Figured you might be feeling that way," Mike said. "You didn't look exactly thrilled to be on the beach."
"I felt conspicuous as hell. You guys finished school?"
"Graduated a few weeks ago. This is our last fling before we go to work. We're pooling the money we got from the insurance settlement and starting our own firm." Rob grinned at Ken. "Been thinking about a name for it. I wanted to call it Three Amps, with our slogan to be 'high powered architecture'. You know, using the word amps like in electricity, but those two voted me down."
"You finished school?" Mike asked.
"Just got my MBA, but I haven't found a job yet. Decided I deserved a vacation after all that work." He saw the three of them look at each other.
"You staying in that ratty motel?" Rob asked.
"Only place I could find wasn't filled up. I'd like to stay a week or longer, but they only had a room free for two days. I'll be moving on tomorrow." He saw Rob and Mike look at Tony, then three heads nodded in agreement.
"Tell you what, Ken. Why don't you move in with us and we can split the rent four ways for the rest of the time we're here. We only got two bedrooms, so if you don't mind doubling up with me you can join us. Be cheaper than that motel."
"Great! Thanks, guys."
"One thing," Tony added quickly, "We all pitch in with the cooking. When Rob's in his chair he can't reach the stove too well, so he gets all the fun of preparing the veggies and fixing salads. You cook any?"
"Some. Sure be cheaper than eating out all the time."
"Hey, you guys gotta get me in," Rob said. "If my stumps get sunburned I'll be stuck in that damned chair again."
"Okay, sport. Piggy back time." Mike dropped to his knees in front of him. Rob put his arms around Mike's neck and his stumps under his arms. With a fluid ripple of muscles Mike stood and started across the sand towards the small shingled cottage on the top of the dune.
Tony picked up their blanket and the cooler, motioning for Ken to follow. When they reached the cottage, water was running beneath the boards enclosing the outdoor shower.
"Damn, that's cold!" Ken heard Rob's deep voice rumble.
"Oh, shut up. You're always bitching about something." Mike's voice answered.
Tony grinned at Ken. "Don't let 'em bother you. They go on like this all the time." Then his grin vanished and he looked at Ken questioningly. "One more thing I didn't tell you, so listen up. Rob and Mike are partners. Tom was mine, but I haven't found another since he died. I liked the look of you, so that's why we asked you to join us. Like I said, you'll be bunking in with me. If things work out between us, maybe we can make it permanent like it was with Tom and me."
"You mean you want me to join the firm you're starting?"
Tony shook his head. "It might come to that if we're all compatible, but hell, guy, after seeing Rob and Mike together, haven't you tumbled to the fact the three of us are gay?"
Ken smiled broadly. "That's why you came over to me. And I thought it was because I'm an amp."
Tony hugged him. "That, too. The scar on my face bother you any?"
Ken's finger traced its length. "I like it. Gives you character and keeps you from being just another pretty boy."
"Looks like I read you right, buddy."
"You sure did."
At the beginning of September, the four of them opened an architectural firm with the name: Innovators, and a slogan suggested by Ken: The future begins today.