Sometimes I get inspired by an opening line, and jump into writing a scene, only to come up blank half way through it. I wish I knew what happened next!
When I Discovered the Leg I Knew I was in for a Really Bad Day
When I discovered the leg I knew I was in for a really bad day. I had just stepped into the back pantry to fetch a sack of rice for Uncle Larry when I tripped over something on the floor. The pantry was dark and disorganised so I did not think anything of it at first, being more concerned with not dropping the rice, but when I went back to have a look and move the object I saw it was a leg.
A human leg. A woman’s left leg, to be precise, with a stocking but no shoe.
“Uncle Larry,” I whispered, when I was back in the kitchen, “there’s a leg in the pantry.”
“I know,” he whispered back, “I put it there this morning.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because the food inspector is coming today, and I can’t have a leg lying around in the middle of the restaurant.”
I could see the logic in this argument.
“Whose leg is it?” I asked, “And why do you have a leg in your restaurant?”
“It’s Joe Bolger’s. He left it here last night. He was so drunk he could hardly stand and was in no fit state to be taking his leg home.”
I forbore to inquire as to why Joe Bolger needed a leg when he had two perfectly good ones of his own and suggested to Uncle Larry that any decent food inspector would want to see in the pantry as well as the restaurant.
“Well then,” he said, “you’ll have to take the leg back to Joe.”
“Me? You want me to take a leg to Joe Bolger? I asked incredulously.
“Sure, that’s the best idea. Here, put it in this rice bag, then nobody will see it.”
Uncle Larry dumped the rice into a large, metal bowl, sending little white grains skittering around the floor. I wondered briefly if the food inspector would crunch the rice grains underfoot during his tour of the kitchen then Uncle Larry thrust the empty rice sack in my hand and pushed me out of the kitchen into the panty.
There it was, still, lying on the ground. At least it was not dripping blood, but it was a fairly unpleasant colour all the same. I pinched my nose as a precaution.
I slid the rice sack under the leg and jiggled the offending limb into the sack without touching it then slipped out the side door and headed towards my truck.
“Well hello, Sammy!”
A large hand clamped on my shoulder heralded the arrival of the Sherriff.
“Uh, Hi, Pete,” I said, shifting the sack slightly to keep it out of sight.
“What’ve you got there? A dead body?”
I could feel the sweat running down my back as I forced my face into a smile.
“Oh no, Pete, only a leg,” I replied in a hearty a voice as I could muster, although it sounded more like a squeak.
“Well, see you on Tuesday!”
Pete clapped me on the back again and turned into the restaurant. Sometimes it was good to have the Sheriff as your best friend but today was not one of them. I threw the sack into the back of the truck and roared out of the parking lot so fast I could smell the burning rubber from the tires and I swear there was a black mark on the road behind me. I slowed right down then because I did not want Pete coming after me. Friend or no, he would be obliged to pull me over if he caught me driving dangerously.
Joe’s place was not far; one of those busy complexes where you park out front and walk through miles of paths to get to the apartment, only I didn’t know which was his apartment so I figured I had better ask.
I pulled into the visitor parking and walked over to a group of women talking by a door. Some kids were playing tag in the courtyard and a couple of men were lounging against a wall, cigarettes dangling out of the sides of their mouths. I had just asked the women where Joe Bolger lived when there was a commotion behind me. A young boy came rushing round the corner, followed closely by gang of kids slightly bigger than him. He dodged behind the cars then clambered into my truck and seized the sack with the leg in it. As his pursuers advanced he twirled the sack over his head and walloped the closest assailants.
“Oi!” I shouted, “Put that down!”
The boy, momentarily distracted, looked my way and in that instant another of the pursuers grabbed the sack and took off with it.
At this point I should have just driven away and forgotten the whole thing but I felt responsible to Uncle Larry and poor old Joe, so I followed, chasing the boy with the sack. The place was like a warren, with paths and stairs all over the place and the youngsters had the advantage not only of being on familiar ground but of being much fitter than I so before long I had fallen behind them and was completely lost.
Now I was really worried. By chasing the boys I had identified myself publicly with that sack and its dreadful contents, so any minute now my old friend Pete would be turning up to arrest me. There was only one thing to do; find Joe Bolger, apologise and make sure he took on the responsibility for that severed limb.
It took three doors before somebody opened to my knock and grudgingly told me which apartment was Joe’s. I suppose by this time I must have looked a sight: panting, eyes wild from worry, shirt flapping loose. Following the directions I went two floors up and along to the end where I found a dark, grimy door with the name plate Bolger stuck on at an angle. I hurriedly adjusted my clothes then banged on the door of Joe’s apartment.
A thump and a shuffle announced the arrival of the occupant. Would he be angry, I wondered?
“I’m sorry, but your leg is gone,” I gabbled as soon as the door opened.
Standing in front of me was an old woman holding a cane. Beneath her flower print dress I could see her right leg in a thick brown stocking and slipper. The left leg was no more than a wooden peg.