Word Count 500
The Lucky One
By Sam McManus
Ray rolled over in bed, restless, as he tossed, and turned, and tried to get back to sleep, but nothing seemed to work. The sheep danced above his head in what he could only describe as a tango, not remotely interested in jumping meekly over a fence. The warm milk on his nightstand stood sentinel to his languishing, but did nothing to calm his frayed nerves. And damn if his right foot wouldn’t stop itching. It was driving him insane. He reached down to scratch that insufferable itch, but his hand closed in on nothing, his fingers searching for purchase and finding only twisted sheets instead.
His eyes opened suddenly, like a shade rattling up after a quick tug, his mind kicked in, and he sighed. What would it finally take to ease the ache of his phantom limb? How long until his mind caught on to what his body had known the second he woke up in Manhattan General after the car wreck, after the Jaws of Life had to pry his broken body from the twisted metal?
Looking back, only the one amputation was a blessing, as he had suffered numerous breaks, cuts, and contusions from the accident. Shattered glass had lacerated his face, and he’d had to get several cosmetic surgeries, but he was lucky that only his right leg had been beyond salvaging. By the time he was revived after the medically induced coma, everything ached, including his right foot, but, when he looked down, it, and the rest of his leg, was gone. His sister, Winnie, had made the decision in order to save his life, and early returns were that it had worked, but oh how he grieved.
To take his mind off of the insane itching, for which he would never have true relief, he hummed a tune that had soothed him more often than not since childhood: “South Side,” by Moby. The song brought him back to his carefree youth, when a school free day brought with it improvised games of tackle football on the concrete sidewalk that skirted the nearby playground. He and Jeff had always set up the boombox on the short fringe of grass so they could hear the alternative station while they played. He missed Jeff almost as much as his right leg.
The ache returned, despite Ray’s best efforts to press it down deep, as he thought of the last time he had seen his best friend. It was all shadows, though, what happened, Jeff picking him up in the Corvette, obviously wasted, but that was his default setting. It never affected his ability to drive, so Ray hadn’t thought anything of it. If he had smelled the weed in the car, he couldn’t remember it as he climbed in and they took off down 495 headed to the beach. They never arrived. If he could trade his other leg for Jeff, he would.
But it was far too late. Maybe Jeff had been the lucky one.