512 Words

The Woodsman, Weeping

Joseph Lerner

I was taking a nap in the lower branches of a yew tree when a woodsman came by and accidentally sawed off my legs.

Weeping and pleading forgiveness, he rushed me to the hospital. I glanced at my two legs. They lay in the back seat like a pair of blood-soaked boots.

I don't remember what happened next (I'd lapsed into a coma), but was told that a team of specialists had worked around the clock to re-attach my legs, and that the woodsman (also a renowned surgeon) had led the effort.

Afterwards the physical therapist told me how lucky I was. "They couldn't re-attach your limbs, exactly," he said. "But the surgeons achieved something else, ingenious, even miraculous. You have noticed, of course, a magnetically-charged space separating your stumps from the rest of your legs. Between them nerve plugs have been implanted. I'll teach you how to send brain messages so electrical impulses can flow. They will leap the gap, activate your legs. Learning won't be easy, but I'm confident you'll be walking---even running---as well as before."

For weeks such efforts exhausted me. I suffered migraines, and my legs felt like sliding steel weights. Soon, however, I could permabulate without a walker or cane, though my movements remained slow and jerky.

The woodsman/doctor came to see me daily; I refused to see him. The therapist shook his head. "You're being very unfair. And look on the bright side. You're two inches taller!"

Eventually I improved so well I was allowed to walk outside, although always with a single male nurse who followed discretely behind me.

The hospital stood in a valley surrounded by low yellow hills. I could smelled the pungent ocean air, and decided to head for the sea cliffs.

Each step was painful, of course, but I was determined. Glancing about, I saw the hills looked unnaturally barren; I asked the nurse why; he blushed and stammered that the hospital authorities believed the sight of a tree would be so traumatic for me that they had them cut down. But I found the occasional ill-hid stump even more harrowing.

The sea grew louder; eventually we reached the cliffs.

I sat down. My head was hammering. I disattached my legs and set them beside me.

I heard what I first thought was the wind. Then the sound became familiar: an ax whistling through the bush. I turned and saw the woodsman hacking away. He turned to stare at me, his cheeks stained with tears.

I screamed, "I wish you never saved me, that you sawed through my torso instead, so I'd've bled to death!"

"I'm sorry," he said. "If it would help, I'd chop my own legs off."

"Well, do it!"

He paused. Then with a broad sweep of the ax he lopped off toes, feet, arms. They bounced and rolled---into the bush, careening off the cliff. Soon only one hand dangled in mid-air, gripping the ax.

"I'm sorry," said a voice thinning on the wind. "I'm sorry, sorry, sorry!"

Copyright ©1998 Joseph Lerner. All Rights Reserved.

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October, 1998
Issue #30

512 Words