Legs

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I’m never going to forgive u.

She hit Send, and as a second thought, quickly typed Hope ur happy.

Then, before she could receive a response, she turned her phone off and set it on the bedside table. She closed her eyes and let her head droop for a moment, just one moment to feel angry with him, and then she took a deep breath and called out, “Mom! Come here!”

Her mother yelled back from the living room, “Ok, I’ll be right there!”

But she didn’t come right away. Callie arched her back and squirmed in her chair. She could hear the detectives on the TV muttering to each other in serious voices, and then a car commercial bellowed in loud flamboyant tones. Finally she heard her mother’s heavy footsteps as she jogged down the hall.

“Way to prioritize the TV over your daughter!” Callie spat at her when she finally opened the door. “I need to use the bathroom!”

“I’m sorry,” her mother huffed as she caught her breath. “It was just a minute.”

Callie glared at her but said nothing. Her eyes roamed over her mother’s thick thighs and calves, every curve of her meaty legs accentuated by her yoga pants. Callie clenched her jaw and began to wheel herself into the en-suite. Although the door had been removed, the opening was still not quite wide enough and she banged her wheel against the frame and became stuck.

“Hold on a minute,” her mother grunted as she grabbed Callie’s push handles and backed her up.

“Stop it, Mom! I can do it,” Callie said and reached over her shoulder to slap her mother’s hands away. She rolled herself forward again, scraping the back of her hand on the doorframe as she squeezed through.  

“Your father said he’d come by some time next week to widen this,” her mother said as she followed her into the tiny bathroom. “I don’t know why it’s taken that man a whole month to get his butt over here and–”

“We should move,” Callie interrupted. “Sell this place and get a one-story. I hate staying down here with you. I want my own room again. We should get rid of this place and move to Austin or something.”

“Aw, Callie,” her mother said, “It won’t be this way forever. We’ll move you back upstairs again…someday. Besides, you want to graduate with all your friends, don’t you?”

“That’s not going to happen.”

“Sure it could! If you just–”

“Stop it. I don’t want to talk about it tonight. I just want to pee, ok?”

Her mother sighed as she lifted the armrest, then guided Callie’s arm over her shoulders. Callie braced her free hand on the toilet seat and whispered, “One…two…three.” On three, her mother half-lifted, half-dragged Callie onto the toilet. Callie landed slumped to one side and her mother’s forehead knocked her in the chin, rattling her teeth.

“Watch it!” she shouted and used the handhold on the wall to hold herself up while her mother slipped her panties down.

“Sorry, Sweetie,” her mother replied as she wiped her forehead with the heel of her palm. She studied Callie for a second and then said, “You good? Need anything?”

Callie shook her head.

“Ok, just ring the bell when you’re done.”

She turned to leave, but Callie stopped her. “Wait! I want my phone.”

Her mother retrieved it for her and handed it over, saying, “A ‘please’ would be nice.

Callie snatched it out of her palm and didn’t reply.

The stream of urine started before her mother had left the room. Callie tried to cut it off every two seconds, exercising her Kegal muscles like the therapist had told her to do. Deep breath in, squeeze, hold, release, deep breath out. After the second rep, she gave up. She’d held it in until she was on the toilet. That was better than last week. She slumped against the wall, closed her eyes, and finished voiding.

Voiding.

She hadn’t known void could be used as a verb, but once she woke up in the hospital, that’s all the nurses seemed to talk about.

Do you feel a sensation when you need to void?

How many times have you voided today?

Once we remove your catheter, you’ll need to retrain your bladder and sphincter muscles to void properly.

The last thing she remembered before the accident was seeing the Void.

The great, black Void, framed by Mick’s windshield.

His headlights had cast a Venn Diagram onto the single-lane county road. For twenty minutes, they had been staring at open pastures, speculating about the repetitive, meaningless lives the people who owned them must live. Putty-colored single-wides randomly dotted the country side like the featureless houses of an abandoned Monopoly game. Rusted mailboxes with their lower lips hanging open flashed in their headlights as they raced by.

“Why would anyone choose to live this way?” Mick said.

“Who knows?” Callie said as she snuggled closer, tucking her legs up beneath her on the seat. “Come on, speed up a little. Get us out of here. I want to get back on the highway.”

Mick obliged and the old Buick charged through the night. “I’m getting depressed looking at all this nothing,” he said. “It reminds me of the foster home I lived in when I was four. It was like living at the end of the world.” He shook his head and frowned. “I’m never going to live in a place like that again.”

Carrie nodded against his rib cage and muttered, “My dad keeps telling me to come visit him in his trailer, but I won’t do it. There’s too many spiders.” She shivered. “I’d rather die than live in a trailer home.”

Mick kissed the top of her head. “Don’t ever worry about that, Cal. Because I promise, as soon as we graduate–”

But Callie never found out what promise he was making, because in the next second, his car was airborne.

The star-filled night completely filled the windshield and Callie’s only thought was, Should I put my feet back on the floor?

She woke up five weeks later on a Monday. On Friday she could talk again. Her first words were, “Where’s Mick?”

Her mother gently took her hand and told her.

Mick was in Oklahoma, beating inside a 14-year old boy.

Mick was in Dallas, filtering blood for a 32-year old woman.

Mick was in Louisiana, giving new sight to a 61-year old man.

Mick was everywhere and nowhere.

Callie pushed herself away from the wall and looked down at her legs. Legs that had atrophied into string cheese, legs that longed to jerk away from her mother every time she bent down to lace up Callie’s shoes, legs that could only dangle and wait to be posed, like flowers wilting away in a vase.

She looked past her legs to her feet and saw, nonchalantly creeping along the linoleum, a small, brown spider.

Callie gasped and her brain immediately sent a message to her foot: Kill it! Callie’s foot twitched, but she could not muster the strength needed to move her leg. The spider crawled onto her bare foot. Her lips formed the word Mom, but for a reason she did not understand, her throat did not make a sound.

She felt the slightest tickle as the spider’s eight legs grazed the fine hairs on her swollen toes. In contrast to her shriveled legs, her feet were puffy and red. “Pig feet,” she called them. The blood that was supposed to be circulating through her legs often pooled in her feet instead, and as a result, her feet were always hot and sweaty.

The spider must have been looking for such a warm, moist place, for it slipped between Callie’s first and second toes and came to a rest, with only its two foremost legs poking out from the darkness. It stared up at Callie, and Callie stared down at it.

“It’s not fair,” she whispered down to the spider.

She drew a deep breath and switched her phone back on, then winced when it immediately buzzed with two text messages, each with the same message: Error. Message failed to send. This number is no longer valid.

Callie swiped them away and tried to ignore them as she typed a new message.

How could u leave me? I’m not going to forgive u for that. Ever.

The screen grew blurry as she typed faster.

I’m sorry, Mick. I’m really, really sorry. It’s all my fault.

If ur reading this, pls forgive me.

She switched the phone off again before she could receive a reply. The spider stretched its legs and crawled away.