PRIME CUT - MARY ANN BACK
A woman with five legs sat next to me on the Chicago “L”. Two of the legs were hers. The other three were prosthetics, banging, clanging and tumbling their way out of a canvas tote she carried. I tried not to stare, but it was impossible. My eyes kept darting back to those legs - sun-kissed, shapely and life-like. They were fascinating. Concerned that I was beginning to look like Sling Blade, or a serial killer, I stopped the eye darting and smiled.
“They’re broken,” she said, as if that explained everything.
“So you cut them off?”
“Well, that’s a relief.”
She giggled. “I’m a prosthetics technician.”
“Aah, of course. Let’s put your bag over here.”
I moved my tool bag to the floor and placed her tote next to me. She’d handed it to me with no hesitation – so submissive, so trusting.
“There, that’s better, isn’t it?” I asked, peering into her eyes.
She was sexy in that I-have-no-idea-I’m-hot kind of way. Good Me wanted to leave her alone. But her eyes smiled back, flashing gratitude and maybe a hint of something more. I turned him off like a switch. Sometimes I wondered about Good Me.
“Yes, that’s much better. You didn’t have to move your bag. Thank you, Sir.”
“Sir? You’re killing me. My father is sir. Just call me Jack.”
“Then thank you, Jack. I’m Amber.”
She extended her hand to me, fragile and delicate; mine swallowed it whole. I tried to focus on her face, but my eyes drifted to her legs. They were svelte and flawless, tawny like the legs in the tote. My free hand drifted to the bag and found itself brushing against the cool smooth surface of one of those legs. A shiver swept my spine.
“The pleasure’s mine, Amber. Besides, my tool bag doesn’t have anything cool in it like spare legs, so your tote gets the seat.”
“What kind of tools do you have?”
“They’re for carving.”
“Like wood carving? Sweet - maybe I’ve seen your work in town?”
Chit-chat had served its purpose. It was time to close the deal. “So which station’s yours?”
“Ashland and 163rd.”
“There’s a coincidence; that’s my stop. What street did you say you live on?”
Her voice was flat; the silence that followed absolute.
I’d pushed too hard - time to regroup.
“Jesus, I’m sorry. That sounded like a come on, didn’t it? I’m so embarrassed. Look, I’m old enough to be your father. All I could think about was how late it is, and how I wouldn’t want my daughter trying to make her way home at this hour by herself, lugging a bag of body parts through the south side. There are a lot of creeps out there, Amber. I was just trying to look out for you. No hard feelings, right? Tell you what. How about you let me pay cab fare to make sure you get home, okay?”
“It’s alright. I’ll be fine. I’m not parked that far from the station. I can drive home from there.”
“Do an old man a favor, huh? Let me walk you to your car. I’ll sleep better knowing I got you there in one piece. Your dad would want you to be safe. Do it for him. Please?”
She flashed me that sweet hot little smile. All was forgiven. Ying and yang were back in balance.
When the train pulled into the station, I swung her bag-o-legs over my shoulder. We walked out into the night toward her car. Good Me had stepped up his game – he was on a mission to get her there in one piece. But Bad Me wasn’t giving up. He made sure to grab my carving tools as we left the train.
It was anybody’s guess which Me would win.
BIO: Ms. Back, of Mason, Ohio, was awarded the 2009 Bilbo Award for creative writing by Thomas More College. Her writing has appeared in many publications, including: Short Story America, Every Day Fiction, Bete Noir, Eclectic Flash, The Loyalhanna Review, Flashes in the Dark, and Flash Shot.