writing: told - paul lisson

Incorruptible Tales
published by PRISM International, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Honourable Mention
Summer Fiction Issue 36:4
© Paul Lisson

Incorruptible Tales

A hanging mobile of pink plastic hands and forearms clicked and clacked in the breeze. The air was salty and fresh. "A beautiful morning" thought Christiaan, stretching his arms up to touch the fingers and knuckles, palms and elbows, swaying over the bed. Some people know whether a morning is beautiful when they first awaken, without the benefit of coffee or cigarettes or other unhealthy pick-me-ups. Christiaan was one of those people. He got out of bed quickly, without being the least bit dizzy, brushed his teeth for a full five minutes, remarked happily on the absence of colour in his urine, and took a cold shower. An orange hued arm sat on the twin stacks of white towels.

Breakfast always consisted of two hard boiled eggs, three glasses of water, orange juice, and toast. Within this framework lay endless possible variations. The eggs could be small, medium, or large in size. White or brown in colour. A multitude of breads were available for toasting, the number of pumpernickels alone was startling. Condiments might include salt, pepper, a dash of paprika, mayonnaise, or what have you. "Paprika." The word fell clumsily to the floor and stayed there. Lost. The eggs were medium in size, white in colour. The bread was plain, white, and utilitarian. Nothing ever changed.

By keeping the meal simple, Christiaan was able to concentrate on another arm that was sitting on the table. This one was an almost perfect Mediterranean flesh tone with an olive tint. It was a good arm. A handsome arm. As fine an arm as any in the world.

Christiaan Ostergaard was employed by the smallest prosthetics manufacturing company in Denmark. They had been in business since the Napoleonic Wars. He was an arm and hand specialist and took great pride in crafting each limb to match the amputated or crushed original in every detail. It was satisfying work.

The company was really little more than a workshop, with twenty-four employees, not counting the few clerks in the office, and Mr. Mavrinoer the boss. Of those twenty-four, Christiaan was the youngest, so it was a surprise and an honour to be chosen to attend the big convention in New York. Mr. Mavrinoer had said great things were happening with artificial limbs and he didn't want the company to be left behind. He would have made the journey himself if he could get away, but was confident that he was sending his best employee.

The second and third glasses of water were gulped down quickly. The arm from the kitchen table was gently placed in a special felt-lined suitcase. The other suitcase, containing clothes, toiletries, and a hand, was already by the front door. The airline tickets were paperclipped to the inside pocket of the brown tweed jacket. Good weather was a blessing.

This was Christiaan's first trip abroad and his heart skipped a beat when the aircraft seemed to fall into the sky. The flight was long and uneventful. Christiaan drank so many glasses of water that the stewardesses finally brought him a carafe and snickered behind a curtain. Frequent trips to the washroom showed no yellowing of the urine.

At the airport in New York an old woman dressed in black fainted when the customs officials....

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