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“I can’t kiss him.” She blurted it out. “I’m afraid something might fall off. His lips. His ears.” I asked if she’d ever tried and she said yes, once, but his prosthetic nose got knocked out of alignment and that freaked her out, too. I didn’t know what to say. We were in Maryland now, following the Beltway around the capital, or toward Baltimore, depending on what we did 20 miles further on where I-95 broke off from 495, if we made it that far. I knew I should say comforting things—and supportive things for Larry. But I kept picturing what he had told me about him and her together, and who let the dogs out, and what she had said at that meeting, and the way she had looked at me—not him. And then I did a sorry thing. I said I guessed she had a right to know—that her fears weren’t unfounded. “You mean it really could happen?” “No,” I said, choosing my words carefully. “I mean it has happened. What do you think he was doing when he lost his nose?” “Oh god,” Sarah said. “I think I’m going to be sick.” She didn’t ask for details and I was glad because I didn’t have any to give her since I’d made that up about his nose. Instead I patted her knee. We drove in silence for ten minutes before I thought of some more things to say. It was all a string of clichés, but the best I could do given the situation. “You didn’t make him the way he is,” I said. “It’s not your fault. You have a right to be happy. You shouldn’t have to settle. You’re an attractive woman. I bet you could have just about any guy you wanted.” It wasn’t true, of course, but I was on her good side, the one that represented her angelic nature in that duality of human existence thing, so it was easy to pretend. She really was quite good looking from where I was sitting. “You’re lying,” Sarah said, but she took my hand in hers anyway. I told her no I wasn’t and she said, “Jesus, Bill. Have you not had a good look at me lately? Larry’s probably been telling you he’s worried about bits of me falling off.” I hesitated just for a breath and then added my final cliché. “Not hardly. Anybody would be lucky to have somebody like you. I know I would.” “Well you’re sweet,” Sarah said, still holding my hand. She settled back into her seat and the next thing either of us knew we were taking the I-95 fork toward Baltimore. I sped up to 80 but cars were still passing us easy. They seemed to be pulling us along. At one point I asked her if she knew why they called Baltimore “Charm City” and Sarah said no, but maybe we should drive on over there and find out. It was around that time that the first soldiers from the Iraq War showed up at the Horrible Disfigurement Club—a couple of burn victims and a paraplegic. This threw everything out of balance because right away we realized that no matter how powerful anybody else’s horrible disfigurement narratives were the soldiers’ stories trumped them. Car 5

Fall 2013 Volume 1, Issue 1

bombs, suicides, land mines, snipers, cutthroat insurgents, even friendly fire and fraggers: it was hard to see how cancers and accidents and near-fatal bacterias could hold up very well in comparison, no matter how horrible the disfigurement. One of our own members—Dr. Necrotizing Fascitis, actually, who turned out to be a lot less of a guy than we originally thought—started the rumor that they weren’t actually soldiers but defense contractors doing security work driving visiting politicians back and forth between the airport and the Green Zone in armored Suburbans. We didn’t want the soldiers hearing any of that nonsense, though, so me and Larry and Steve and Condensacion and Sarah, as members of the Executive Committee, revoked Fascitis’s honorary membership. He cried and apologized, said he had nowhere else to go, but we told him all decisions were final. After that we tried very hard to make the soldiers feel at home; Larry and I mentioned our work at Dynatronics, but they weren’t interested in technical discussions about the war. They just wanted to talk about what happened to them and the others in their units, and to complain about the V.A. One of them might have even rolled his eyes when Larry brought up the smart bombs, though that could have been a spasm caused by nerve damage. Sarah took on sponsorship of the first two and we got Hemicorporectomy Steve to pair up with the other guy. Sarah turned into a regular mother hen and I was jealous at first, which of course I couldn’t let on about since we were keeping everything a secret from Larry and everybody else. Steve, we suspected, was mostly just taking his paraplegic over to Muffin’s after hours for drinking. Larry bugged me for awhile at work: Did I know what was going on with Sarah Face? Things had been all Hootchie Mama but now she never wanted to get together any more. She was always busy. Would I talk to her for him? Did I think she was seeing somebody else? Did I think it was one of those soldiers? The e-popping got on my nerves, and even though I was the one Sarah was with, he didn’t know that so I felt justified when I played the tough love card on him. “look, larry, u cant keep going on like this. if she doesn’t want u theres nothing u can do about it but get over it already. im sorry but i have to be honest.” The Post got wind of us not long after that—it might have been from a source in the Veterans’ Administration because we had the soldiers now—and that served as a distraction for everybody. Even Larry seemed to perk up for a while. There was some debate in the club about whether to allow the article—I was against it from the start—but once we found out the reporter had a club foot the majority said they guessed it was OK. Not that there weren’t some grumblers. A club foot! What’s next? Hang nail? I didn’t let them photograph my train-track scars, or my marsupialization either. The others went for it, though:

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FLR the Anthology 2013 - 2014  

A compilation of the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Volumes 1 and 2 (2013-2014)

FLR the Anthology 2013 - 2014  

A compilation of the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Volumes 1 and 2 (2013-2014)

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