From - Sat Dec 26 11:32:43 1998 Path: unlisys!news.snafu.de!newscore.ipf.de!newsfeed.wirehub.nl!xs4all!not-for-mail From: Steeph Newsgroups: alt.binaries.pictures.disabled-devo Subject: Xmas: foothold1.html (95Kb) Date: Fri, 25 Dec 1998 23:49:10 +0100 Organization: XS4ALL, networking for the masses Lines: 1481 Message-ID: <36841666.5A7F8B1B@xs4all.nl> Reply-To: steeph_nopsam@xs4all.nl NNTP-Posting-Host: dc2-modem1256.dial.xs4all.nl Mime-Version: 1.0 Content-Type: multipart/mixed; boundary="------------3E42A183F24D7D5C2D6DCE31" X-NNTP-Posting-Host: dc2-modem1256.dial.xs4all.nl [194.109.132.232] X-XS4ALL-Date: Fri, 25 Dec 1998 23:49:31 CET X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.5 [en] (Win95; I) X-Accept-Language: en Xref: unlisys alt.binaries.pictures.disabled-devo:8383 This is a multi-part message in MIME format. --------------3E42A183F24D7D5C2D6DCE31 Content-Type: text/html; charset=us-ascii Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit Sorry, lost original threads.
Continuation of stories:

Foothold1.html

Regards Steeph
 
  --------------3E42A183F24D7D5C2D6DCE31 Content-Type: text/html; charset=us-ascii; name="foothold1.html" Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit Content-Disposition: inline; filename="foothold1.html" A Foothold on Life

A Foothold on Life

Anon


We were so busy talking, stretched out on the grass there on the hill, that neither Sally nor I noticed the sky darken. We were reminiscing about the school year just past and the senior year ahead as 17 year old girls will, most of our conversation centering about the boys at school rather than the curriculum.

Then we felt the chill of the breeze and looked up to see that we were in for a storm. We jumped up, grabbed the blankets and the remnants of our picnic lunch and ran down the hill as fast as we could.

"Let’s cut across the Martin place, Melissa," Sally said, "We’ll get home a lot quicker." The Martin estate was ringed by a low iron fence. Sally climbed over and I handed her the things I was carrying. I had just put my hands on the top bar to swing myself over when the lightening bolt hit. I remember a brilliant flash and then nothing.

When I came to I was completely disoriented. For several moments I was aware only of… well… awareness. There were no thoughts, no consciousness of my body, just a vague notion of being alive. My mind was suspended above reality. Then my eyes opened and I saw that I was in a room, obviously a hospital room, but I had no knowledge of why I was there. For a long minute I was puzzled and then slowly my whole body seemed to come awake and my mind began to function. I remembered being at the fence and the flash, and strangely, I think I knew I had been electrocuted. I moved my head a little and saw the nurse by my bed who smiled at me but said nothing. Suddenly alarm went through me. Was I all right? I wondered.

I was far too weak to move but I began focusing my attention on different parts of my body. I could feel the sheets pressing down on my toes and feel my legs against the bed. I didn’t have the strength to move them but they didn’t hurt. My body felt all right and I didn’t seem sick. I wanted to raise my head to see myself but all my muscles seemed limp and exhausted. I guess maybe I tried to move my arms because then I realized something was strange… I had no awareness of my arms or hands at all. I couldn’t feel them against my body or against the bed. They must be asleep, I thought, and I tried to remember how to move them. With a feeling of dread I turned my head and looked sideways at my right shoulder. Horrified at what I saw I jerked my head over and looked at the left shoulder.

The nurse had seen my head move and she stood up and leaned over and stroked my hair. I looked at her unable to speak. I wanted to say it but the words wouldn’t come out. I realized I felt ashamed. To speak of how I was now would be like finding myself naked in the street and then shouting to everyone to look. But the nurse said it for me. "Yes, Melissa, I’m sorry but… your arms are gone."

A wave of numbness went through me and everything swam in front of my eyes. I felt a sting in my leg and I guess the nurse must have given me a shot because everything faded away.

When I came to the second time consciousness rushed back. My parents were by the bed, their eyes sad, but a look of "we must be brave" around their mouths. I whispered, "Mama." Then my mother fell across me sobbing. It was then I felt that indescribable sensation of wanting and trying to use the arms I no longer had. The impulse to throw my arms around my mother was there but nothing happened. Even with my mother’s face against mine I felt cut off from her. I wanted to hold her to me but I could only lie there helpless. When my father lifted her to her feet I wanted to reach out a hand to her and I guess I involuntarily tried because I felt a dart of pain in my right shoulder. I must have moved it under the bandages.

Dad said, "Now don’t you worry, honey, everything will… work out. We’ll get you some… arms, the best there are." He turned to the doctor who I noticed now for the first time. "They do wonderful things with… arti… artificial arms now, don’t they, doctor?" The word "artificial" was as painful for Dad to say as it was for me to hear. The doctor nodded.

I whispered hoarsely, "I’ll be all right, Dad… Mom. Don’t worry about me." I couldn’t have sounded very confident because I didn’t feel confident, but I had to say something and there was nothing else to say. I still couldn’t speak of my missing arms. I couldn’t think about the future or artificial arms or anything except the shame, the embarrassment and the helplessness I felt. I wished I could pull the covers higher over my empty shoulders so no one could see them.

The doctor took my parents out then, my mother still crying. Then for the first time, I cried. The tears poured down my cheeks and my body shook with sobs. My shoulders began to ache and the shudders made them hurt worse. I cried until there were no more tears and then the nurse wiped my face with a damp cloth. I hated to have her do it. That was something I should do for myself but I couldn’t.

The doctor came back into the room and sat on the edge of my bed. "Melissa, I think we should have a little talk… feel up to it?" I tried to nod and he went on. "I’m going to tell you just where we stand now, and where we go from here. I think you are a brave girl and want to know the truth and I know you will help us to help you. The lightning bolt striking the fence burned your arms, Melissa, so badly that we had to amputate them. We had no choice. We had to take them off at the shoulders. We… well, we couldn’t leave any stumps at all. That will mean that it will be pretty tough to learn to use artificial arms and, frankly, there will be lots of things you won’t be able to do with them. But we’ll all work hard, and if you do, too, I think we can promise you’ll be able to do lots of things that now probably seem impossible. Are there any questions you would like to ask?"

There were millions of them but none seemed like the right one to ask then. They were going through my mind so fast they didn’t even get fully formed. Finally I asked, "When will I get… them?"

"Well, not for awhile. First we have to get you strong again and especially strengthen the muscles of your shoulders and back. You’ll use them to operate the arms." I didn’t understand just what he meant but I said nothing, just nodded. He brushed my hair back tenderly and left.

From that point on hardly an hour passed when my helplessness wasn’t impressed on me more and more. The nurse fed me, wiped my chin, brushed the hair from my eyes and tended to my toilet needs. Even shifting my position in the bed was difficult not having arms with which to lift myself. When it hurt most was when I had to ask to have some personal chore done for me like holding a glass of water to my lips.

When they changed the bandages on my shoulders they carefully screened the operation so I never got a good look at them. But on the second day after the amputations the nurse said I was to sit up. She slipped a hand behind my neck and lifted me to a sitting position and helped me swing my legs over the side of the bed. For a minute I felt precariously poised as though I might fall over. I had never realized how important arms are to balance. I had been naked before under the covers so they could have easy access to my shoulders but now she put a hospital gown on me. Before she pulled it over my head, though, I looked down at myself and shuddered at the sight. I had always been proud of my body. My figure was slender but well-developed. My breasts were full and firm and I had a deep suntan. But now I looked… how to describe it. Now my breasts looked larger than ever before. Without my arms my body looked impossibly narrow. The white bandages at my shoulders contrasted with the tanned skin seemed to accentuate the slimness of my torso and call attention to the absence of my arms. When the gown was in place the sleeves hung flatter at my sides and I hated the sight of their emptiness. I was glad when I got back under the covers.

The same afternoon the nurse said I should get out of bed and walk a little. Again she sat me up, put scuffs on my bare feet and I stood up for the first time without my arms. I really felt armless now. I was unsure of my balance and my upper body felt ridiculously light.

Walking without any arms swinging at my sides was a strange and terrible sensation. I felt like a prisoner in my own body. The nurse opened the door and said, "Let’s walk down the hall a ways." I didn’t want to leave the room but she insisted and propelled me out the door. In the hall I faced the stares of patients and visitors and the more discreet glances of staff members who passed us. The shame and embarrassment of being armless, of having people see my mutilated body with the empty sleeves dangling from my armless shoulders swept over me now worse than ever.

From then on I was up more than in bed. I was so incredibly helpless, though. I could move about freely, but I could touch nothing and do absolutely nothing for myself. I couldn’t even read until the nurse brought a stick with a rubber tip and put it in my mouth for me to turn the pages of a magazine she propped up in front of me. The word "freak" came to me. Here I was doing a simple thing like reading and I had to do it with a stick in my mouth. I thought wryly that I’d be a sensation in a sideshow.

After a few days the bandages came off and I got my first look at my empty shoulders. I didn’t want to believe they be-longed to me… that these were the shoulders boys had circled with an arm or rested their head on. They came to a soft of blunt point. Below the tips thin pads of soft flesh covered the empty sockets, and thin horizontal scars where the amputations had been closed. My sides were virtually straight from the ends of my shoulders to below my ribs where my waist narrowed. My "hour-glass" figure was destroyed and I looked impossibly straight and slender.

They started me on an exercise program which from my point of view only exaggerated my feeling of armlessness. I did sit-ups using only my abdominal muscles. They had me twist my armless torso from side to side and had me shrug these ridiculous shoulders up and down and back and forth countless times. The prosthetist came and felt my shoulders, measured me in a variety of ways and added to my embarrassment. I felt like a plucked chicken being examined.

Schoolmates and family friends came to visit but they never stayed long and were obviously as nervous in my presence as I was in theirs. Mom and Dad had gotten over the first shock of having an armless daughter and tried hard to encourage and cheer me. I went through it all in sort of a trance because I felt that any kind of useful or happy life was out of the question now. I didn’t know what to expect of the artificial arms but I couldn’t imagine ever feeling like I had arms again. My self-awareness stopped at the shoulders and I didn’t see how it could be extended to inanimate metal and plastic arms.

This feeling was confirmed when they finally brought them and put them on me. They looked horrible and like anything but arms. There were large plastic caps which fitted over my shoulders and an array of straps which went across my chest and back and down to a wide belt they buckled around my waist. I looked like a Martian in all that apparatus and I hated it from the first day. By shrugging my shoulders in certain ways I could release springs causing the elbows to flex and the hooks to open and close. It certainly didn’t feel like using arms though it was sort of interesting like a new game. I could clumsily catch small objects with the hooks and move them around but I had to twist my whole body to move the hooks to a new location. If a hook was on the wrong angle for a certain job I had to push it against a chair or something to swivel it on the "wrist."

On the day I was to "perform" for my folks the nurse strapped the hooks on me and then dressed me in a skirt and blouse and shoes. Now my shoulders looked as wide as a football player’s and the material of the blouse stretched over them tightly. The blouse had long sleeves and the glittering steel hooks projecting from them made me look grotesque, I thought. My folks exclaimed over me and I picked up pencils and match sticks for them, dutifully, and tried hard to remember which shoulder to shrug which way to open which hook. I felt like I was controlling the action from a great distance. That is what I was doing, of course, because the only body sensations were in my torso and shoulders. There was no touch sensation in the arms or hooks, of course, and I watched them move as you would a machine.

My mother almost immediately asked the prosthetist if I wasn’t to get "hands" that looked like hands. She was repelled by those steel hooks sticking out of my sleeves, I could tell. He told her they would make a pair that would look very natural, but they wouldn’t function as the hooks did, they were strictly for looks.

After more days of training they discharged me from the hospital. The nurse dressed me and when my mother came she insisted that the hands with the plastic gloves that looked like skin and nails be screwed onto the ends of the arms in place of the hooks. Then she stood me in front of a mirror and said no one "would ever know…" I did look quite normal except for the extra-wide shoulders, but when I walked the arms and hands hung stiffly at my sides.

The rest of the summer was a nightmare. A nightmare of learning to live as an armless girl. I thought of myself as armless even with the artificial arms because they never felt like part of me and I could do very little with them. I was embarrassed to have people around to see my helplessness and I soon discovered my mother was, too. With the hooks I could clumsily feed myself except for cutting things and handling glasses and cups. I learned to write legibly though slowly and could shove and lift some things around. But I was still very helpless and if alone could accomplish very little. I read a lot and watched television though the channel selector was too slippery for me to turn and I needed help even with that. The arms were hot and heavy and the straps chafed me so that I welcomed bedtime to get out of them.

Mother would undress me, help me with the toilet, and then tuck me in bed since I couldn’t even manage the covers. If I turned over and got the covers tangled I could sometimes wiggle out but usually ended up either with the covers all twisted or partly off me. I finally persuaded mother to cut the sleeves off my pajamas and close the armholes, She didn’t want to very much, though I couldn’t figure out why, but I insisted because the empty sleeves got so twisted around me in the night.

In the mornings I waited helplessly until mother came to bathe me, brush my teeth, fix my hair, put on my lipstick and then strap on the arms and dress me. I hated being handled like a baby, unable to do the simplest personal chore, and having no privacy of person at all.

I preferred to wear the hooks because they permitted me to do a few things, gave me some contact with the world around me, but my mother didn’t like them. They were ugly and unnatural looking to her and most days she would put the dead looking, useless hands on the arms. I was helpless to do anything about it so she had her way most of the time. Especially if anyone was coming she would insist that I wear the hands. Some days I asked to go without arms entirely because they were so uncomfortable and of such little use. Rarely would mother agree. She didn’t like the looks of my armless figure, I knew, and that pained me worse than the helplessness.

My social life had come practically to a halt. Occasionally we went to a movie and most people failed to notice my arms weren’t real. One night, though, my mother left me in the lobby while she went to the restroom. A man was passing out free boxes of popcorn and he came up to me and said, "Here—on the house," with a smile. I said, "No, thanks."

"But you like popcorn, don’t you? especially if it’s free?"

"Yes, but…"

"Then here, take it." He grabbed my arm to press the box into my hand and when he touched the hard plastic and the arm didn’t bend the strangest look of shock came over him. He looked at the other hand then and then saw the truth. He muttered, "Gee, I’m sorry," and hurried off. I nearly cried.

Sometimes Sally invited me to her place and she did every-thing for me and somehow it was easier to accept help from her than from my mother. Once I went to a party at Sally’s but it was horrible for me and I think for everyone. Mother always made me wear the hands when I went out so I was completely helpless and had to be fed and everything.

More and more I hated being armless. Instead of getting used to it every new day seemed to bring new frustrations and embarrassment. Going back to school in the fall was the worst. Mother conceded that I would have to wear the hooks to school and then I began to feel about them almost as she did. Kids and teachers alike didn’t seem to be able to avoid staring at them when they thought I wouldn’t notice. The other kids were very helpful, carrying my books, helping me eat and go to the restroom.

 


The big change in my life as an armless girl came one Saturday afternoon. Our back yard sloped down to a little ravine through which a small stream ran. There were bushes and trees along the stream bank and I liked to go there and sit by myself on nice days. That day I was sitting on the grass wishing I could throw twigs into the water when suddenly a boy stepped out of the bushes on the other side. A young man, I should say, and a very good-looking one. He saw me and smiled.

"Hi," he called, and the leaped across the stream and walked up to me. I knew he hadn’t noticed my arms. I was wearing the hands because mother was expecting a friend for lunch and I had on a long sleeved blouse with capri pants.

"I’m Steve Carter. I just moved in that little place over there."

"I’m Melissa Logan," I said, nervously. Steve dropped down on the grass next to me in a very casual manner and began telling me about how he was fixing up his place and other chitchat and I tried to respond to his friendliness. It was almost impossible not to, he was so warm and pleasant. I knew he would discover my arms and I dreaded the moment of "exposure" as I thought of it. It came in an unexpected way. Steve reached into the pocket of his jacket and took out a candy bar. He peeled the wrapper back and then held it out to me.

"Here, I’ll split it with you. Break off half."

"No, thanks," I said, almost hysterically.

"Come on," he urged, "It’s a long time till lunch."

"No, really… I… ." And then I saw him looking at the stiff, motionless "hands" in my lap. He looked up at me, the smile gone, and said softly, "Artificial, huh?"

"Yes," I whispered. I wanted to run then, knowing that those pleasant minutes when I had been accepted as a normal pretty girl, were gone. But Steve surprised me.

"Well, we can get around that difficulty." The smile was back and he broke off a piece of candy and held it out saying, "Open up."

I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time and I think tears did come to my eyes but I opened my mouth and bit off a bite of the candy. No one had ever treated me like that. He acted as though my armlessness was just a nuisance to be circumvented. As he fed me the candy he asked, "Can you use those things at all, Melissa?" His manner was so casual I didn’t mind talking to him about my arms—or lack of arms.

"I have some hooks I wear sometimes that I can use some, but these "hands" don’t work at all. I… I can’t do much even with the hooks. I guess they do for some people but you see… both my arms were amputated at the shoulders so I don’t even have stumps and that makes a big difference."

"Yeah, it would… I can see that. Say, did you ever try using your feet?"

"Using my feet?" I was incredulous. "Don’t be silly. What could I do with my feet. I push doors shut with them but that’s about all they’re good for."

"No, seriously. I’ve read about armless people who are real clever with them."

I winced at the word "armless", I guess simply because no one had ever said it in my presence. Steve was chattering on.

"They feed and dress themselves, do housework, write… nearly everything, and very efficiently, too."

"I don’t believe it," I scoffed, "and even if it were true I wouldn’t try it. I am enough of a freak as it is without doing things with my feet!"

"You are not a freak!" Steve said angrily, "and what’s freakish about doing things differently so long as you get them done? And believe me, Melissa, you could do a lot more than you can with these artificial arms."

The idea appalled me but strangely I didn’t resent Steve for suggesting it. I guess it was a relief to talk to someone about my condition even if nothing came of it. "I’d die of embarrassment. Just imagine sitting at a table and feeding myself with a bare foot!"

"Would it be any worse than being fed… or feeding your-self with a steel hook?" Steve’s bluntness was a shock but his words made sense in a way. "Besides," he went on, "I’ll bet you have very pretty feet. Let’s see." He reached for my left foot and I quickly pulled it back under me almost upsetting myself.

"No, I shouted. I have to… to go in now." I started to get up but Steve calmly put his hands on my shoulders, against the stiff plastic shoulder cap, and held me down. His voice was gentle.

"Melissa, I wouldn’t embarrass you for the world, but I honestly think you’re passing up a chance to… well, achieve real independence for yourself."

He sounded so kind, I relaxed. "But Steve," I protested, "I can’t make my toes work like fingers, and besides, I’d feel terrible going around barefoot and having people see me doing things with my feet, even if I could."

"At first, perhaps, but I think it would be easier to get used to than being helpless. And once you got good at using your toes I think people would accept it as natural, for you… and not feel as sorry for you as I’m sure they do now. Won’t you just try? Let me take off your shoes. After all, you go barefoot when you go swimming, don’t you?"

"I used to swim. I don’t now, of course."

"Then you weren’t born without arms?"

"No, I lost them about four months ago." I tried to smile.

"I’m still quite a novice at being armless." There… I had used the word out loud myself. I extended my legs in front of me and Steve pulled the slippers from my feet.

"They are pretty feet," he said softly.

I have quite small, slender feet, smooth and soft with straight, regular toes. I wiggled my toes in embarrassment and said, "Well, don’t just stare at them!"

Steve laughed and looked up at me. "Now, it won’t be easy to learn to use them, Melissa. The people I’ve read about were all born armless and used their feet right from the start, but I’m positive you can learn to do many things with them if you stick to it and practice hard."

"I think it’s pointless… even if I tried my mother would never stand for it. She is ashamed of me now for being armless and would never tolerate my using my feet."

"Well, you’ll just have to stand up to your mother. Good grief, does she want to keep you helpless? Maybe you can practice on the Q.T. until you learn a little and then when she sees what you can do she might change her mind. Now here, let’s try it."

Steve broke a long twig in half and tossed it on the grass by my bare feet. "Pick that up with your toes."

I must have been red with embarrassment but I pawed at the twig with the toes of my right foot and succeeded only in pushing it around. I could spread my first and second toes, but when I tried to bring them together around the stick they would cross over each other. A couple of times I did get the stick between them but when I tried to squeeze it enough to pick it up my toes wouldn’t behave right and it would flip out. I was about to give up when suddenly my toes seemed to coordinate and I got a good grip on the twig.

"Swell!" Steve shouted, his eyes glued on my bare foot. "Now position it as though it were a fork and bring it up to your mouth."

I was engrossed in the challenge now and by pushing the twig with my other foot I maneuvered it so that it was positioned properly. But in trying to raise it up I couldn’t get my foot very high off the ground.

"Cross your ankle over your other knee and then lean down to your foot." I did as he suggested, twisting my foot and ankle so the sole was turned toward my face. By leaning way forward I still could not touch my lips to the twig.

"These darned arms get in the way," I complained. Steve bent each arm at the shoulder back enough to get the forearms out of my lap. I had no control over the shoulder joints myself. They swiveled on friction plates and whenever I wanted to reposition them I had to push the arms against something. I tried again and this time could touch my nose with my toes. Suddenly I felt very silly, sitting there with my bare foot up by my face, a twig held between my toes.

"Steve, if I did learn to use my feet I would always feel ridiculous."

"No, you won’t. I’m sure you won’t once you get accustomed to it. It’ll seem like a perfectly natural way of doing things." I had to admit it was a triumph to pick up something and be able to feel it. That was a sensation I hadn’t felt in the four months my arms had been gone. When I did things with the hooks I didn’t feel so much like I was doing it as like the hooks were doing it by themselves. The absence of feeling and the shrugging and twisting motions of my body which I used to control the hooks made every action seem remote and disconnected from me. Steve seemed to be reading my mind.

"Melissa, rub your feet against the grass." I did, looking at him in puzzlement. "Now reach out and touch my hand." I surprised myself then. I looked at his upturned palm resting on the grass and wanted very much to touch him. Almost without realizing what I was doing I dropped the twig from my toes and put my foot in his hand. As his hand closed around it I curled my toes in an effort to return his grasp… and for the first time the sensation of being cut off from human contact, of being a spectator instead of a participant, was gone. Again I was feeling the warm, wonderful contact of another person. Not the contact of being handled, as when my mother bathed and dressed me, but a contact that was mutual in which I was returning the touch.

But the touch of Steve’s hand on my bare foot was even more than I realized. It was an intimacy between a boy and a girl. Steve looked into my eyes and smiled that gentle smile and his hand tightened its grip on my foot. I was drawn to him as I had never been to anyone else. I loved the warmth of his touch. I think that at that moment I fell in love.

But then sanity returned and the moment was gone, and it seemed like a ludicrous mockery of romance to sit there with a boy I hardly knew with my bare foot in his hand and pretending that this was normal, that I was normal or could ever expect anything like a normal romance with a boy. A fine picture, I thought, if you can’t hold hands because your arms have been cut off, why just hold foot and hand. Everyone will smile and say ‘aren’t they a sweet couple’ and the boy will accept it as perfectly natural to sit in a movie and hold his girl’s foot, and… I shuddered to think how my armlessness had warped my emotions to the point where I was desperate enough to see normalcy even for a second in such a preposterous situation.

Again Steve seemed to divine my thoughts. He spoke softly, "Melissa, don’t distrust your feelings. Don’t think there can be only one way… that there is only one standard. You are different from other girls only in that you don’t have arms. Your needs and feelings are the same. But because you are as you are, you must fulfill your needs in somewhat different ways. Try to accept your difference and not go on cutting yourself off or suppressing your feelings because you refuse to behave differently. Naturally, doing things with your feet seems strange to you but you can’t alter the fact of your lack of arms, so you have to adjust your thinking and your actions accordingly. Otherwise, you’ll cripple your personality and kill your chances for a normal life."

"Is it normal to pick up things with your toes or feed yourself with your feet?" I asked pointedly.

"Is it normal to pick up things with hooks, or worse, to have things done for you by someone else? I think it’s far more normal to do things with your toes than to make a bunch of complex motions of shoulders and body in order to set some mechanism in motion to do things." His voice grew more gentle. "Melissa, I know a woman who is so short she stands on a stool to reach the sink. That isn’t ‘normal’ either, in the sense that not everyone does it. But for her it is quite normal. She gets the dishes done. Would you have her stand around in frustration until someone takes pity on her and does them for her? Using your feet may not look as ‘natural’ to other people but to you it will soon seem a lot more natural than using the hooks ever would. And in time the people around you will accept it as normal for you, too."

"Using your feet will come to look and feel so easy and casual and ordinary that others will not only get accustomed to seeing you do things that way but they will forget about pitying you, which won’t happen so long as you are struggling awkwardly to do things with the hooks."

Steve fell silent then, and smiled sheepishly as though he realized he had been lecturing. Much of what he said, though, expressed my own feelings more clearly than I had ever formed them in my own mind. Everyone had talked of how "natural" I looked in the arms but I always felt as though the real me stopped at the shoulders.

Maybe I could learn to accept my armless body as complete in itself, just different from others. My feet, if I could learn to use them, certainly put me in more direct contact with things. They had nerves and muscles and the sensation of touch just as hands did and if they could do many of the things that hands did it probably would seem natural.

I realized then that I had been staring at my bare feet and wiggling the toes in the grass, enjoying the sensual pleasure of the touch. Steve was watching me, an amused smile on his face. "Any of that make sense?"

"Yes, a great deal of sense. I have a lot to learn though, and I’ll probably get awfully frustrated in the process."

"I’d like to help, if I can. Maybe we can sort of work on your lessons together."

I thrilled at his words. My embarrassment had gone and I was excited at the prospect of perhaps becoming more self-sufficient and less helpless. I was equally thrilled to know I would see more of Steve. His wisdom and gentleness were unlike anything in my experience. His desire to help without giving any impression of pity was wonderful. He seemed to accept me as a person… a person with a problem, but at least one with a right to self-respect. I guess that what it was more than anything… I felt more whole with Steve. Besides, he was a very attractive fellow and I wanted to believe that maybe he found me attractive… even though I was armless.

We agreed to meet the next afternoon at the same place. When I got there Steve was waiting and he had brought a number of things with him. He had a fork, some small empty bottles, a pencil and a pad of paper, and even a large safety pin. I lowered myself to the grass and extended my feet for him to remove the saddle shoes and bobby socks my mother had put on me that morning.

"Oh, lesson number one is to take off your own shoes."

"But they have laces and besides, I have socks on," I protested.

"Well, use your ingenuity."

I propped my right foot on my left knee and started to maneuver a hook into position to grip the lace. My mother had put the hooks on my arms that morning for school and because no one was expected that day, hadn’t thought to change them. She still didn’t like me to wear them, but she was getting more weary of tending to me and my equipment.

"No, no. No using the arms, remember?" said Steve. I sat back, frustrated. Then an inspiration hit me. I shifted the arms out of the way, shoving them with my knees, and leaned down and caught the end of a single lace in my teeth. I gave a pull and it came undone. Smiling triumphantly, I repeated the operation on the other shoe and then by pushing at a heel with the opposite toe I managed to force the shoes from my feet. With the socks on it was hard to get my big toe in the elastic top, but after several attempts I succeeded and tossed the sock off my foot. With one bare foot it was easy to take off the other sock. When my feet were bare I laughed happily and said, "Gee, that’s one job I could have taken off Mom’s hands and I didn’t even realize it."

"You’ll be taking lots of jobs off her hands before long," Steve answered confidently.

"Take them off her hands with my feet, huh?" I felt good at being able to make even bad jokes about the situation.

We set right to work. First Steve had me pick up twigs with one foot and snap pieces off with the other. Then I picked up the pencil with my toes and laid it down again endless times. I was so clumsy and slow I think I would have given up if Steve hadn’t been so patient and encouraging. He kept me at it for a couple of hours and my ties did begin to cooperate a little better. I got so I could pick up the pencil and maneuver it into writing position with only one try. I failed completely, though, when it came to unscrewing the bottle caps, even the smallest one. From forcing them into such unnatural positions and actions the muscles of my feet cramped several times and finally Steve agreed to call a halt. Then he took my feet in his hands and massaged them. Somehow it now seemed quite normal to have him holding my feet and the touch of his hands sent an electric tingle through me.

When dinner time came Steve pulled my shoes and socks on for me and I went into the house with a ravenous appetite. So ravenous my clumsy fumbling with my hooks to feed myself made me even more exasperated than usual. At bedtime I asked my mother to get me a glass of milk and while she was out of the room I succeeded in taking off my shoes and socks.

"Melissa" she exclaimed, when she came back, "You’re bare-footed. How did you manage that?"

"Oh, with my feet," I said casually.

"With your feet? You didn’t use your hooks?" Mom was incredulous.

The next day was Monday and a school day, but as soon as I got home I hurried out to the stream bank and Steve was waiting. This time he had brought a kitchen chair, explaining that it would be easier to work sitting on it than on the ground. This time my feet and toes seemed to cramp even sooner but Steve assured me that was to be expected until my muscles got adjusted. When we finished the "lesson" he began massaging my feet again. As he did he looked up at me and very casually asked, "How about going to a show with me tonight, Melissa?"

I was so surprised and excited I stammered for a few seconds before I was finally able to say, "I’d like that very much." I think Mom and Dad were even more surprised than I was. They had so avoided the subject of boys since I lost my arms that I knew they felt no boy would ever show an interest in me. When I told them he was a neighbor and 23 years old they were a little shocked, I think. I explained how I met him but said nothing of our "foot training lessons," as we now called them.

In his gruff way Dad said, "Well, we’ll look this young man over when he calls. I was nervously hoping Steve would win their approval and could hardly stand still as Mom bathed me and dressed me in an organdy party dress with long sleeves. She had taken off my hooks and as I stood before the mirror while she fixed my hair I had a sinking feeling when I looked at the sleeves with nothing projecting from them. The rigid, unmoving hooks filled them but the appearance of handlessness made me look disgusting to myself.

I stepped into high heels and Mom said, "You look lovely, honey… Oh, I forgot your hands." She got them and I thought again how corpselike they seemed, severed and lifeless. When she had screwed them in place and the sleeves covered the ends of the gloves that looked like skin I looked very much like any other girl… if you didn’t look too closely.

My fears about Steve’s acceptance by the family proved groundless because he turned out to be the cashier at the bank where Dad did business and they knew each other casually. I tried to look poised and graceful as we walked out to the car but I was very conscious of the rigid motionlessness of my useless plastic arms.

With the proper shrugs I flexed the elbows, cringing at the mechanical sound of them clicking into place, and slid into the seat, my skirt twisting under me as it always did, but Steve, so full of surprises, casually slid in opposite me and asked me to raise up so he could straighten my skirt as though he had done it a thousand times. At the movie he fed me popcorn and whispered comments about the picture and made me feel that there was nothing strange about being out on a date with an armless girl.

On the way home he stopped at a drive-in over my weak protests, and fed me a hamburger and a malt. Somehow with him I quickly got over my self-consciousness in each new situation because he seemed to accept my being armless so easily and casually.

The thrilling moment came when we stood at the door and tilted my chin up to him and kissed me. I leaned into him his arms went around me in an embrace I wanted so badly to return. The stiff, unyielding arms kept me from closer contact with him and his hands must have felt the straps of the harness through my dress. I wished I could make the arms vanish and press my armless body against his and be held close, so close that I wouldn’t mind not having arms to throw around him. But his lips were soft and warm against mine and that was enough. I knew then that I was desirable to Steve, even as an armless girl. His kiss assured me of that.

 


There were many kisses and many dates after that and I savored every minute with Steve, not permitting myself to think beyond, to what it might lead to or how it might end. I never questioned the genuineness of Steve’s affection but I didn’t dare imagine that even he would some day ask an armless girl like me to marry him.

We continued educating my feet and toes to do the work my amputated hands had once done and though it was slow and difficult I did make progress. Once my feet seemed to learn what was expected of them my skill increased at an accelerated rate. After about three weeks I was able to write with a pencil between my toes at least as well as I could with the hooks. It was then that I told my folks that Steve was helping me train my feet.

"Your feet?" Mother was aghast. "Why what can you do with your feet?" I told her it was beginning to look like I could do a lot with them and it was much better than using the hooks. Both Mom and Dad seemed to think it was nothing more than a game but if it kept me amused I might as well go on with it. I think I realized I was happier than I had ever been since my arms were amputated. They liked Steve and respected him and I suppose thought he was just keeping me entertained by helping me develop skill with my toes. I began kicking off my shoes and practicing writing and opening bottles, etc., in the evening, as I sat barefoot trying to manipulate a pair of scissors with my toes Mom came into the room and sat down with a serious look on her face.

"Melissa, honey, you are taking all this business of using your feet too seriously. Oh, I admit you are getting quite clever with them… your writing is almost perfect, but darling, frankly I think it’s a little… disgusting. Feet weren’t intended to be used as hands."

Tears came into my eyes and I wanted to hide my bare feet which so disgusted her. I screamed, "Neither were steel hooks! I don’t want to be helpless all my life and if I can learn to use my feet then I’m going to… unless you can tell me how to grow new arms and hands out of these shoulders." My violent gesture released the elbow lock on one of the arms and it flew up almost to my face, the bright steel hook poking out in an eloquent, if somewhat macabre, testimonial to my words. Mom came over and patted my shoulder, but as her fingers thumped loudly against the plastic she raised her hand and rested it on my head.

"Honey, baby, I didn’t mean to hurt you. I know how terrible it must be for you but daddy and I look after you, don’t we? And you must admit you couldn’t very well go around barefoot in public, doing things with your toes."

I sobbed, "Sure you take care of me… but don’t you think I’d like to be able to take care of myself? Right now I’d die if I had to use my feet in public, but I think I can get used to it. I hate using these hooks in public too, and worse yet they can’t do much and I’m awkward. With my feet I’m getting so I can do some things much easier… and it’s more natural, to me, at least. "

I’m sure Mom didn’t understand but she felt so bad about my armlessness she hated to see me more upset so she adopted a "let’s let nature take its course" attitude. Part of her feeling was genuine sympathy for me but much of it was sympathy for herself, I knew, for having an armless daughter… a freak. I confided my feelings to Steve and he was as always, wonderfully understanding. He hoped my folks would come around but encouraged me to insist on my right to do as I felt right in this matter. We started having lessons in his little bungalow. My folks knew I went there but so long as the neighbors couldn’t see me go the back way they didn’t mind.

I got more and more capable in the passing weeks. At Steve’s I practiced feeding myself, putting on makeup, washing my face and even combing my hair, though we both laughed at the contortions I went through to get my foot that high. I dusted furniture, ran the vacuum, holding the handle between my chin and shoulder, and by sitting on the drainboard with my feet in the sink, even washed the dishes, practicing first with plastic ones.

As I got more and more skilled and tried more and more things the artificial arms became more and more of a nuisance. I complained about then several times and finally Steve said, "Why don’t we take them off, Melissa?"

"Oh, no," I gasped. I wasn’t embarrassed about having him see me in just a bra, but I didn’t want him to see my armless shoulders. "I… I don’t want you to see… my shoulders are… ugly." I stammered.

"Honey, they couldn’t be ugly to me. Haven’t I told you that you are a very lovely girl? And I know what they must look like. Believe me, I won’t be shocked or think you any less beautiful… in fact, I think you would be more beautiful just as you are and without all that apparatus." His voice was so gentle and sincere that I wanted to believe him. After a long moment I whispered, "all right."

He stood in front of me and unbuttoned my blouse and drew it down over the arms and tossed it to a chair. Now all the straps and steel and pink plastic of those horrible looking arms was exposed to him for the first time. He gave no reaction but started to unbuckle the waist belt and the other straps. He grasped each arm above the elbow and lifted them away, putting them down on a chair where they looked grotesque to me. He turned back to me and I shrank as his gaze took in my nearly nude torso. My breasts swelled up out of the bra cups and again I thought how heavy they looked for my unnaturally slim body.

There was nothing I could do to hide my naked, armless shoulders or to stop Steve as he put a hand on each of them. His hands covered the amputation scars and pressed gently in on the empty sockets which had once held my arms. For some strange reason it occurred to me that no other girl could be held in just that way—those places on her body could not be touched. Steve bent and kissed the point of each bare shoulder and as he did I pressed my armless body against him and tears came to my eyes. Steve embraced me and then turned my face up and kissed my eyes and my lips.

Then he stepped away and picked up my blouse. Smiling, he turned the sleeves inside out, saying, "We won’t need those dangling," and draped the blouse around me and buttoned it. I had never seen myself like that except in pajamas and I turned to a mirror and stared at myself. Steve stepped up behind me.

"Don’t I look terrible?" I asked.

"Of course you don’t."

"But I’m so narrow. And besides, I look so different than anyone else. When you look at a person you expect to see arms and hands at their sides, but me… I just end at the shoulders."

"Well, honey, you don’t have what everyone else has but what you do have is perfect and lovely. It can be appreciated, you know, without arms added to the picture."

"Not everything that I have is perfect. My shoulders are scarred and bony-looking."

"Now stop that," Steve said impatiently. "Those scars are hardly noticeable and will get fainter all the time. If you had them anywhere else on your body you wouldn’t think them so disfiguring. It’s just because they are associated with the absence of your arms that they seem larger and more vivid than they really are." He smiled and again put his hands on the ends of my shoulders and shook me gently. "I like your little shoulders."

Without the artificial arms I felt so much lighter and freer. I hated having Steve put them back on me when I left. I could do so much more without them being in the way. I told Steve, laughingly, that having them off was like having a great weight lifted from my shoulders. From then on whenever I went to Steve’s the first order of business was taking off my arms and, of course, my shoes and socks. Sometimes we just let the sleeves dangle but most of the time Steve would tuck them inside or pin them to the back of my blouse. We both agreed it looked neater not to have empty sleeves flopping loosely around. Their flat emptiness was more startling looking, I thought, than not having any sleeves visible.

Around home I always wore the arms but I began to use my feet more and more. My mother stopped making a fuss about it unless someone was coming to visit. Finally one morning I told Mom not to bother putting shoes and socks on me. "I’ll just be taking them off right away," I explained. She looked at me with a mixture of dismay and disgust but said nothing so I started the day barefoot and I ended it barefoot. I even walked over to Steve’s in my bare feet and he was pleased. He said being barefoot was a much more natural state for me. From that time on the only time I wore shoes was to go to school or elsewhere out in public. My feet became less sensitive to cold and less sensitive to walking outside. Going barefoot became so customary I no longer felt partly undressed when my feet were bare. Using my toes as fingers had now become completely natural to me and I constantly amazed myself at how much I could do and how easily. When I had shoes on I felt like a person with arms would feel if someone tied them behind his back. I carried things from place to place by holding them between my chin and shoulders when I was at Steve’s and not wearing my hooks. It was difficult with the hooks on.

The principal thing I had not learned was how to dress myself. When I mentioned it to Steve one Saturday afternoon he said very casually, "well, I guess we’d better do something about that."

I looked at him for a long minute and then finally said simply, "Okay." Steve had seen me naked to the waist except for my bra so I felt no embarrassment at the idea of him seeing me in just bra and panties. He took off my blouse as I stood helplessly in front of him, then he unfastened my skirt and let it drop from my hips. I stepped out of it and with my now agile toes picked it up and extended my leg to lay it on a chair. I knew Steve was trying to make this seem like just another of our "foot training" lessons but his eyes drifted up and down my nearly nude body and he said in almost a whisper, "You are fantastically lovely." While his words thrilled me, I no longer was so shy with him about my mutilated figure and I was able to reply with a gay, "Thank you, sir!" and a mock curtsy.

We started in on the task at hand, or at foot, and it proved to be tougher than I had ever imagined. We experimented with a number of different ways of arranging the clothes and several approaches to putting them on but each ended in failure. After nearly an hour of struggling into my skirt I fell back on the divan and with a wave of my leg sent the recalcitrant garment flying across the room Steve was weary too and he dropped to the floor beside me and put one arm around me. He looked at me for several seconds and then pulled me into a kiss that set me shivering with excitement. I still felt my armlessness more strongly at such moments because I wanted to throw arms around him and hold him close. Steve began caressing my waist and hips and his hands quivered warmly against my flesh. He leaned close to my face and said softly, "Perhaps we should start with the basics, honey. Maybe you should learn to put on your bra and panties first."

"Perhaps I should," I answered.

Steve lifted me up and unhooked my bra at the back. I lay back down and he slowly and sensuously drew it off me, freeing my breasts so that they pointed brazenly naked up at him, the pink nipples crowning them. I had no arms to disentangle from the bra straps but as he slipped them off my shoulders his hands caressed those places that were unique to me… those indented, soft surfaces from which arms should have projected but didn’t.

Gently he kissed the nipple of each breast as his hands sought the waistband of my panties. He hooked his fingers in it at each side and drew them down over my hips, his hands caressing me all the way to the tips of my toes. I was completely naked now, more naked than any other girl could be for I was naked of clothes and naked of arms and hands. I lay there, a nude head, torso and long legs with carefully trained feet.

As I lay nude in armless helplessness, Steve’s hands and lips caressed and explored every inch of my body. When both of us were quivering with passion he slipped quickly out of his clothes and stretched out on the divan beside me. I writhed sensuously against him as he held me. It was the only way I had of returning his caresses.

When our passion exploded with a delirious sensation such as I had never known before and again we lay beside each other, exhausted but content, Steve tenderly kissed my eyes and cheeks and lips and we whispered almost simultaneously, "I love you." At that moment nothing mattered, not even my lack of arms, for nothing existed but my love for Steve.

I spent many hours naked with Steve from then on. Some of them were spent in lovemaking, some in the effort to learn to dress my armless body and many for no reason other than the erotic pleasure of being nude in the presence of my lover.

I learned to manage my clothes finally—that is, many of them, but because of the design, or the position of buttons or zippers on some of my things, I would have been forever unable to put them on or take them off by myself.

Secure in Steve’s love and confident of my skill with my feet and toes, I began next the campaign of abandoning the artificial arms completely. When Steve and I went out on dates we would go first to his place where he would take off my hooks and tuck my empty sleeves smoothly inside my dress or blouse. The first time I ventured forth in my "armless loveliness," as Steve called it, I wasn’t sure I could stand the embarrassment of the stares at my unnaturally slim and armless shoulders. But I gritted my teeth and, relying on Steve’s calm and casual manner and trying to emulate it, I survived and gradually became accustomed to it.

I did not, as yet, use my feet in public, but I did go out to dinner, where Steve fed me amongst the open-mouthed astonishment of waiters and other diners.

We even went dancing. Steve would put his right hand on my waist and his left on my armless shoulder. I had difficulty at first moving gracefully to the rhythm of the music because with-out my hooks I felt stiff and uncertain of my balance, but gradually this, too, disappeared and I danced as well as I had before my amputations.

Once I had conquered some of my self-consciousness I began to almost enjoy studying the reactions of people who noticed my lack of arms. Children, in their blunt frankness, would often ask their parents within my hearing, "What happened to that girl’s arms?" Or they would come up to me and look carefully at one armless shoulder and then the other and with puzzlement written all over their faces ask, "Why ain’t you got no arms?" Unless someone snatched them away quickly they would pursue the subject further as various limitations of being without arms occurred to them. "How do you eat?" "You can’t open doors, can you?" and the best one, "How can you scratch when you have an itch?"

I laughed when a little girl asked me that, but actually it was a good question because until I began using my toes for such purposes I had often suffered tortures at having an itch I was helpless to scratch. At home I always ran to a doorway or something and rubbed against it, but at school or in public I still had the problem and such a little thing as that could make me feel very helpless and very armless.

One afternoon during the vacation between semesters my mother had some friends of hers to tea. She dressed me in a party dress and high heels and of course I wore my "hands." She fussed over me and fed me cookies and held my cup to my lips. She preferred that, to having people see me using my hooks. The minute the people left I kicked off my shoes. I knew my bare feet looked incongruous with the frilly party dress but I had to accustom myself to being barefoot on any occasion or with any outfit. Mother didn’t change my clothes because she had to hurry to fix dinner. When I went to the table she noticed I was still wearing the useless hands.

"Oh, my," she exclaimed, "I forgot all about them. I’ll have to get your hooks and put them on you, Melissa."

But I had an idea of my own. "Don’t bother, Mom," I said, and promptly raised one bare foot up to the table, resting my ankle on the edge, and arching my instep sharply to pick up a fork with my toes.

"Melissa," mother cried, "You can’t eat with your feet. I’ve let you run around her barefoot and watched you use your toes for lots of things but, after all, feeding yourself with your feet… it just… isn’t done!"

"Isn’t done!" I flared, "Because other people have arms and hands to feet themselves? I haven’t got any, or haven’t you noticed?" I was embarrassed enough, knowing what a strange picture I made, sitting there with my bare foot propped on the table, my toes holding a fork poised over my plate, and my mother’s attitude made me feel worse… like a freak.

My dad came to my rescue. "Now, Martha, I think we should let Melissa do things in whatever way she can. Let’s see how she does… that looks like quite a trick, handling a fork with those little toes." He reached over and tweaked my toes and patted my naked instep. I could have kissed him. Mom succumbed in silence and nothing more was said but I must have blushed red through the whole meal because they both continually watched my foot as I maneuvered the fork to pick up a bite and then twisted and flexed my foot to turn the sole toward my face while I bent low to the table to take the fork in my mouth.

The rigid, useless mechanical arms, hanging from my shoulders, made using my feet difficult so after my folks had accepted the fact that my feet were going to serve me as hands my Mom offered little protest when I asked her to leave the arms off. I wore them to school but the minute I got home Mom would take them off and I spent every evening and all weekend in what I now regarded as armless and barefoot comfort.

 


I took the final step a month later. I told my principal that I wasn’t going to wear my hooks any more and asked him for permission to wear barefoot thong sandals to school. Normally they were forbidden as not being "proper" for school wear. He couldn’t believe that I could write and do other things with my feet and asked me to demonstrate. It was the first time anyone had seen me use my toes except for the family and Steve. I slipped off my shoes and tugged off my socks with my toes as he watched with fascination, his eyes riveted to my feet. When I was barefoot I asked him to hand me some paper and a pencil. He tore a sheet from the pad on his desk and picked up a pencil but then looked flustered, not knowing how to hand them to me. I leaned back in my chair and extended both legs, my insteps sharply arched. He held the paper and pencil carefully, extending toward my waiting toes. I took them and laid them on the floor and then realized the carpet would not provide a solid background for writing so I looked around quickly and saw several books on a small stand beside me. By twisting around in my chair I was able to raise my feet and pull one of the books free of the stack. I had to position so I could grip it tightly between the soles of my feet in order to lift it down to the floor. I laid the paper on the book and then picked up the pencil with my toes and quickly wrote the first lines of the Gettysburg Address. Then as a final flourish I picked up the paper and held it out to Mr. Cooper who took it from my toes gingerly and studied it.

He was so pleased at my foot-writing and so flabbergasted at the same time he didn’t know what to say. He complimented me finally on my skill and ‘courage’ and then asked how I would manage other things around the school. I convinced him I could dial the combination lock on my hall locker and feed myself in the cafeteria as easily, or more so, with my toes as I could with the hooks. Certain things I would need help with, but I needed the same help when using the hooks.

Mr. Cooper gave his approval and said he would notify all the teachers involved. I left his office feeling proud and happy but as I walked down the hall and passed other students I began to think about the days ahead when I would face them with for the first time as an armless girl, and when they would see me using my feet and toes as hands for the first time. Then my mood was not so gay but I was determined that that day should be the last I would ever wear those hated hooks.

When Mom took them off me that night I felt both apprehension and relief in the realization that they were never going back on. From here on for the rest of my life I would be completely, permanently, absolutely armless.

Mom had abandoned the hope of dissuading me so the next morning she silently turned the sleeves of my blouse inside out and then draped it over my shoulders and buttoned it up, the empty sleeves on the inside against my sides. I slipped my bare feet into the thong sandals and the die was cast.

I got through the day much better than I had expected. Kids and teachers alike stared with fascination as I pushed the books around on my desk with my chin and then raised a bare foot to the desk top to turn pages and hold my place. They were even more enthralled when I laid a sheet of paper on the floor and wrote with a pencil between my toes. The more fearless ones commented with praise and astonishment at how well I could use my feet. I was nervous but my feet, thanks to all the careful training and practice, never failed me and by the time the day was over I knew I would have no regrets about my decision.

After school I ran over to Steve’s and for the first time he didn’t have to take off my hooks because I had none. I told him excitedly about the day and he crushed my armless body against him and kissed me soundly in congratulation. To make the break with the past even more complete and to launch myself completely on my new way of life, that night I ceremoniously gathered up all my socks and shoes that had laces or straps and made up a bundle for the Salvation Army. From that point on my feet would serve as hands and my toes as fingers and, just like people with hands and arms, they must always be free. I still felt somewhat self-conscious about the idea of going through life practically always barefoot, but I was getting more and more used to it and there was some comfort in the knowledge that my feet were small, perfectly formed and quite pretty.

I went completely barefoot all the time at home or at Steve’s place and wore only thong sandals to school and most other places. The only times my feet were ever covered at all was on the more formal occasions when I wore slip-on pumps with high heels.

Mom and I spent many hours altering my wardrobe, removing the sleeves from all my blouses, sweaters, dresses and coats. We closed the useless armholes with the material of the sleeves and they looked quite neat. All new clothes were bought with my armlessness in mind. Everything was made without sleeves and with zippers and buttons arranged so that I could reach them with my toes and my trusty long button hook. I preferred the new things which had obviously been designed just for me and had never had sleeves. But there was a rather odd feeling at first connected with wearing things which were so unique. It made me feel even more conscious of my anatomical strangeness to be wearing something that fit me perfectly and snugly but which no one else could possibly wear. In spite of my awareness of my preternaturally slim torso and narrow shoulders, I had everything made to fit smoothly and form-fitting because I realized it looked neater than having a lot of loose material around my shoulders.

Sometimes when putting on my makeup I would stop and stare at myself in the mirror and think what a strange sight I was sitting there with a bare foot propped up in front of my face, the small toes gripping a lipstick and my armless shoulders hunched forward so their odd, sharp outlines were clearly visible under the material of a sleeveless blouse stretched tautly across their contours.

My feet and toes seemed to learn new things every day. I became so adept at using them that it suddenly dawned on me one day as I was dusting furniture, the dustcloth held by my toes, that I no longer felt like a girl who had lost her arms but like… an armless girl. I no longer felt the urge to reach out with a hand but reached automatically with a bare foot.

I could do homework, wash dishes, and even cook if things were properly arranged. Mother never let me, at home, but at Steve’s I had tried my ‘foot’ at it many times and managed quite well.

I had become so self-confident, in fact, that I raised little protest when Steve asked me to marry him. I was thrilled, of course, but I still had difficulty believing that a man could want an armless girl for a wife. I knew, though, that I could keep a nice home for him and there was no doubt of the love between us. My folks were pleased too, especially when we assured them we were going to wait until I graduated.

I spent nearly every evening and the whole of weekends with Steve, sometimes out on dates, but often just at his place. We played records, danced, ate, and made lots of love. One of my favorite outfits, because it was picked out by Steve, was a pair of snug fitting, high-waisted Toreadors. They clung to my hips and legs and came almost up to my breasts. I wore bright sashes around the waist to set off the black pants and blouses of almost any color. In this outfit and with my feet perpetually bare I looked quite exotic, we both thought. It gave me great freedom to use my feet and toes and as I moved about the house and yard, constantly using my feet for every act and with my armless shoulders outlined under a smooth fitting sleeveless blouse Steve thought me quite exciting.

One Saturday as we sat on the floor playing chess, me with one leg curled under while I moved pieces with the toes of the other, I looked up to see Steve studying me with an odd look on his face.

"Melissa, I was just thinking how delightful you would look in those slinky black Toreadors with the red sash of you were nude to the waist."

"Well," I smiled, looking down at my armless shoulders, "I’m helpless to stop you if you want to take off my blouse."

"No, you do it and I’ll watch." Steve enjoyed watching me use my feet, especially when I was using them to undress myself.

I gave him a coy glance and crossed my right ankle over my left knee. Slowly I unbuttoned my blouse with my toes. I wore no bra. Steve enjoyed the movements of my full breasts as I went through the contortions of my armless activities. When I had the blouse open I took one side of the material between my toes and drew it slowly back, revealing one naked breast for an instant, then repeated the action on the other side, though that required using my other foot. It was a macabre strip tease but I could tell Steve was enjoying it.

Next, I hunched one shoulder and with my chin pushed the blouse off so it fell, disclosing my "bare spot," as we called those surfaces above my rib cage and below the points of my shoulders where my arms had once been attached. One breast was now completely exposed, too. I smiled seductively at Steve as I sat there, my blouse half off and my torso half naked. I shrugged my nude, armless shoulders toward him in a gesture of invitation and he kissed the scar of the amputation which was now quite faint. It always gave me a strange thrill, a mixture of embarrassment and excitement, when he did that, but it reassured me that my armlessness was not repugnant to him. We repeated the ritual on the other side, then I tugged the blouse free of the waist band with my toes and tossed it aside.

If I had had arms I would have leaned back on them and struck a pose, but I had to settle for throwing my helpless shoulders back and thrusting my bare breasts forward proudly.

"You do the most thrilling strip tease I’ve ever seen, darling… one other thing… do you know how the girls in the burlesques caress their breasts, lift them and wiggle them in such a sexy way? Do that for me, please… ."

"Steve!" I said with exasperation and a little dismay.

"Honey, don’t tell me you’re bashful."

"Well, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten, as I sit here naked to the waist, that I haven’t any hands to do what you ask."

"But you do have feet and you can be more sensuous with those cute little things than other girls can with their hands."

What he suggested was a novel idea but an interesting one. I had always secretly enjoyed admiring my breasts. I was quite proud of them. But that was when I had my hands. Since my arms had been amputated I had never touched them. Now, though, I propped a bare foot on my knee and ran the sensitive sole over the soft fullness of my breast. It was a strange and wonderful sensation and also gave Steve quite a show.

The rest of the day and all that evening I remained naked while my armless shoulders, breasts, and feet remained completely bare for Steve to gaze on and caress. That night I sat on the divan with Steve on the floor in front of me and we watched a movie on TV. Occasionally he reached up to caress my nude torso.

I tended to all his needs as was our custom. When he wanted to smoke I would extract a cigarette from the pack on the coffee table with my toes and put it in his mouth, then with both feet strike the lighter and hold it for him. I also held out pieces of candy to him which he would take from my toes with his lips. When they weren’t busy doing something for him Steve held my feet and caressed them, now and then lifting them to his lips and kissing the curve of the instep, each toe individually, or turning the foot up and pressing the sole against his lips. He held and fondled my feet as most boys handle their girls’ hands. But when I had got accustomed to it I wouldn’t have traded my feet for hands for anything in that respect, because I think we both got more pleasure from his attentions to my feet.

Every action of Steve’s indicated that he never once minded that I was so different from other girls… that I wore blouses without sleeves because I had no arms to fill sleeves, that I constantly went around in bare feet instead of properly shod because I had to use my toes as fingers.

The hardest thing for me to start doing with my feet instead of my missing hands was to undress Steve. Of course I knew it was normal for a girl to undress her lover—to open the zipper of his trousers and caress and manipulate his penis, But I was no normal girl, and the only way I could do it was the way I did everything else, with my toes. But Steve loved it, and in this he encouraged me too and I came to love fondling and caressing him in my unique way.

 


One day after school when I arrived at Steve’s for our dinner date he was quite excited about something, I saw instantly.

"Melissa, we have a date after dinner. I learned today about a girl on the other side of town who has no legs. I spoke to her on the phone and told her about you, and she is just about your age, and she invited us over tonight. She is quite anxious to meet you."

I was anxious to meet her, too. I had never given much thought to other handicaps than my own, but now I wondered what it would be like to be legless instead of armless. I was inclined to think it would be less limiting but now that I was accustomed to my armlessness the idea of being legless constituted the frightening and the unknown.

It was a small, pleasant cottage on the outskirts of town, and as we approached the door I heard a TV set going. When I had slipped my foot from its sandal and raised it to press the bell with a toe (by agreement Steve did almost none of such little chores), we heard a small and very young voice call out, "Come In!"

We looked at each other and shrugged, but I curled my toes over the knob and swung the door open. We stepped into a charming living room to see a sight that caused us both to gasp audibly. An incredibly pretty little girl of about twelve sat on the floor in front of the television. Her light blonde hair was drawn back in a pert pony tail, away from a face of the most perfect and delicate features I had ever seen. She looked like a child from another world, she was so dainty and lovely. But we shuddered when we saw what had happened to her body. She wore a cute little quilted housecoat of pink silk, demurely tied at the neck with a blue ribbon. The way it draped flatly against the floor around her it was obvious that this beautiful little child had no legs.

She smiled radiantly at us and in a voice that was as pretty as she was said, "Oh, you’re the armless girl… I’ve been so wanting to meet you. I’m sorry I didn’t come to the door, but you see, my legs are cut off and I can’t walk." She flipped the flatly betraying bottom of the housecoat with her hands. "Of course I scoot around… real fast, too, but with this long housecoat on it tangles me up sometimes and I didn’t want you to have to wait."

The startling words, spoken with such casualness and frank-ness, caused my mouth to gape, but there was a trace of wistful-ness around the small, smiling lips. In a very ladylike manner she gestured from where she sat in her legless helplessness toward a couch and said, "Sit down, please."

Speechless, Steve and I sat and I unconsciously slipped my bare feet out of the sandals I wore just as I would at home.

Steve recovered his voice first. "But we thought you were somewhat older, Jill."

"Oh, I’m not Jill," the young girl laughed, "that’s my sister. I’m Jackie."

"Well, Jackie," I put in, " we’re delighted to meet you… but you see, we thought it was Jill who had… lost her legs."

"Oh, she did. You see we both had our legs cut off. . I mean, amputated." The word was obviously a new one for her and sounded strange coming from such a small and pretty girl.

She went on, "We were on the roller coaster together when the car went off the track and fell. You know that bar you hold? Well it hit something and came down across our legs and crushed them and they all four had to be… amputated."

The abrupt and blunt way she discussed all this was a little startling, even for me and all I could say was, "I see."

"I’ll go get Jill. She’s in her room and can’t hear the doorbell from there. I’ll have to take this housecoat off."

Her small hands pulled on the ribbons and unhooked the front of her housecoat and took it off. We got our first direct look at her slender young body, so badly mutilated. She wore flowered, flannel pajamas, the legs of which should have had small pink feet projecting from them. Instead their lengths lay flatly, crumpled and empty before her. The way the soft material outlined her stumps we could see they were very tiny—no more than a few inches of each thigh remained, at most.

Jackie raised her legless torso on her hands and swung her-self forward. Her small buttocks plumped softly against the floor with each swing and the empty pajama legs trailed behind her, drawing tightly across the rounded ends of the short, thick stumps of her amputated legs and flopped limply as she swung quickly along on her hands. While the girl moved with an odd grace and quite rapidly across the floor I couldn’t help thinking how tragic it was that she should have to get about in such a fashion instead of flitting about on slim, capable legs and feet.

In a moment she came swinging back, the empty pajama legs now folded up in front and tucked into the waistband. Behind her rolled a bright, obviously new, chrome wheelchair. In it sat an older replica of the smaller girl. Every bit as lovely and delicate appearing, Jill had a fullness of figure and maturity of face that made her a beautiful girl with everything needed to make men pant—except legs. She was 18, we later learned, just a few months younger than I.

She wore a soft, full sleeved blouse of white rayon and a brown linen skirt. The skirt was as flatly empty, draped smoothly over the largely unused seat of the wheelchair, as her sister’s pajama legs. Her stumps were equally short, we could see.

She wheeled over close to us and stopped her chair next to a coffee table, several small maneuvers being necessary to position it facing us. She handled it quite adeptly but still was obviously learning. The younger girl thumped across the room on her little bottom and propped her elbows on the coffee table. When the introductions were over Jill looked down at her sister and said in the manner of a reproving elder, "Jackie, will you please go get in your wheelchair? You’ll catch cold on the floor." I knew it embarrassed her to have her legless sister swinging about on her hands. She went on to us, "I can’t keep her in her chair. She just goes bouncing all over the house like that and the other day she even went into the back yard without her chair."

"Well, it’s big and clumsy," Jackie protested, "I can get around better on my hands. Besides, with two wheelchairs in the house we always have traffic jams." But she dutifully went swinging out of the room, her soft little stumps thrusting forward and jiggling with each swing of her slim body.

"It is a problem, Jill said. "We have to share a room and we are always getting our wheels hooked or wanting to get at the dressing table at the same time. And if we meet in the hall one of us has to back up to let the other by."

Jill went on, "Well, it’s certainly nice to meet you, Melissa. Though you don’t have the same problems we do it is nice to talk with another… amputee. Of course, Jackie and I are in the same boat but it’s not the same as knowing someone new and someone my own age. I don’t really know whether it is easier or harder to accept having no legs because Jackie is that way, too. At the hospital I found out later they debated whether to put us in the same room. On the one hand they thought realizing the same thing had happened to both of us might increase the shock, and on the other hand they thought maybe… well, "misery loves company," you know. Finally they decided to put us in the same room. I guess they figured we would wonder about each other anyway and they couldn’t keep it a secret for long. We were both unconscious from the time of the accident until all the amputations were over with, so… ."

At that point Jackie came wheeling into the room in a wheelchair the mate of her sister’s, though it looked larger holding her small and much abbreviated figure. She picked up the story.

"I came to first and my face was turned toward Jill’s bed. I saw by the way the covers were so flat that her legs were gone. At first it sort of puzzled me but I could tell there couldn’t be any legs there so I knew they must have been cut off." Jill visibly winced at Jackie’s childish bluntness but the younger girl continued. "I felt awful seeing what happened to Jill and then suddenly I wondered about myself. I looked down and… sure enough, no legs on me either. I still couldn’t really believe it and I tried to move my feet and wiggle my toes… but I couldn’t feel anything happen and the covers still lay just as flat. Later my stumps started hurting and I could tell where they ended."

Jill then took up the story again. "When I came to and saw what had happened to both of us I started crying and so did Jackie and I guess we wanted to hold each other but of course with no legs we couldn’t get to one another. Our folks tried to comfort us but they were as shocked and unhappy as we were. When we left the hospital and people saw us as we were… are… I think we both felt better about not being alone in … such a condition. Dad was even uncertain about how to lift us. He couldn’t put an arm under legs we didn’t have and besides he was afraid of hurting our… stumps. Finally he just lifted us like babies, holding us under the arms, you know, and sat us in the car. At home we were introduced to our wheelchairs and since then we have been learning how to get around and do things without ever standing up or walking."

They were certainly a strange sight, the two pretty, legless young girls, each in her own wheelchair, Jill’s stumps moving nervously under her skirt now and then while Jackie was twisting and folding and tying knots in the long, empty legs of her PJs.

The smaller girl suddenly asked, "Were you born like that… without any arms, I mean, or were they cut off like our legs, Melissa?"

"They were cut off, just a few months ago. So I’m still a newcomer to the "club" myself. But I’ve trained my feet and toes, with Steve’s help, to serve me instead of fingers and hands, and I get along pretty well."

"Gee." Jackie was wide-eyed. "Do something with your toes."

"Jackie!" Jill exclaimed.

"That’s all right," I said quickly. "I do everything that way so I’m not sensitive about it." I looked around for something to pick up when Steve tossed his cigarettes and lighter onto the coffee table. For the first time I realized I had been sitting there with my feet bare. It seemed so natural to me now and somehow even more so in the presence of these crippled girls.

I raised my feet to the coffee table and quickly took a cigarette from the pack, rested my foot on my knee to take it from my toes with my lips and then with both feet struck the lighter and raised it to the cigarette.

Both the girls watched awestruck and made flattering comments. Little Jackie added, "You have very pretty feet, Melissa."

Steve giggled and winked. "I’ve been telling her that all along."

"We used to be quite proud of our feet," Jill put in wistfully. "A photographer saw me at the pool one day and said he had been looking for someone with pretty feet for an ad about Bermuda. He persuaded me to pose for him and he took a picture of just my lower legs and bare feet on some sand in which the words, "Come to Bermuda" were drawn, as though I had just done it with my toe. After that I got quite a few jobs where just bare feet were to be photographed… ads for thong sandals, etc., even grass seed. Then Jackie thought there ought to be some jobs for her so she went to the studio with me one day and took off her shoes and socks when I did, and sure enough, the photographer noticed how nice her little feet looked and she got several jobs after that, too."

"It’s a good thing we did," Jackie said, "because now we have to look in magazines to see our feet." This bizarre thought made both girls chuckle.

"By the way, Melissa," Jill said, "I think my shoes would fit you. We were going to send all our shoes to the Salvation Army now that we can’t wear them, but you are welcome to any you like. Most of them are like new. You see, after we started posing we seldom wore shoes. The photographers said shoes might rub red spots or blisters and so he practically forbade us to wear shoes except when absolutely necessary. So we almost always went bare-foot. All the time at home and on picnics and things. Mom enforced the rule. Jackie didn’t mind much but I felt kind of silly at first, especially when guests came and I had to be barefoot all the time they were here. And of course the subject always came up for discussion, which added to my embarrassment."

"I know just how you feel," I said. "Because in addition to being barefooted nearly all the time, I have to use my feet as hands in front of people and in public… but I’m getting used to it now."

After that first visit I saw a lot of my legless friends. The very next Friday they invited me to come and spend the night. They usually slept in twin beds but that night, since they were both now so short, having no legs, they slept in one bed, one of them at each end, their stumps pointing toward each other, and I took the other bed. I don’t know who was the most fascinated, they watching me undress myself with my toes and putting on my sleeveless pajamas, or me watching them undress, exposing their stumps to me for the first time. All four were very short, blunt and rounded. They made a startling picture, side by side, the emptily hanging pajama legs dangling flatly over the side of the bed.

At breakfast the next morning the whole family hardly ate, they were so fascinated watching me feed myself with my feet. I was proud and a little embarrassed because I had never fed myself in front of strangers before. The girls’ parents left after breakfast and said they would be gone for the weekend so the girls persuaded me to stay. We all dressed in shorts and I stayed barefooted as I would at home. Both girls looked very cute but rather pathetic, I thought, sitting in their wheelchairs with their stumps just barely peeking out of the brief legs of their shorts. I persuaded Jill to abandon her wheelchair so both of them spent the day scooting around on the floor swinging between their hands.

In the afternoon Jill proposed a sunbath. I quickly agreed and then got a shock. "We always sunbathe in the nude, Melissa. Our back yard has a high fence and is completely private." I was somewhat startled and yet the idea appealed to me so we all stripped completely. It was quite a sight to watch the two leg-less girls swing along in absolute nudity through the house, down the steps and across the grass, the sun glinting on their smooth, tanned skin. Jill’s full breasts bounded and joggled as she hitched her legless torso along. Jackie hadn’t quite developed her fullness yet, but I was amused to notice that her pert little nipples were distended and erect as her hormones began to kick in. I knew she would find a boyfriend to help them along. I felt my own bare breasts bobbing sensually as I walked behind them, and I was secretly glad I had someone to appreciate them.

When we stretched out on the grass I noticed both girls were covertly looking at my bare shoulders, my lack of arms being as novel a sight to them as their lack of legs was to me. Reading their thoughts, I said, "Armless shoulders make me look awfully narrow, don’t they?" The subject out in the open, they asked if they could feel my shoulders. Intrigued, I guess, to see what a shoulder felt like with the socket empty and covered with flesh and skin. They alternately touched my shoulders, feeling all the contours and pressing the flesh into the empty sockets. When they were satisfied, Jackie asked, "Would you like to feel our stumps with your toes?"

I said I would and they both obligingly hitched closer so I could explore their stumps of thighs by rubbing the soles of my feet over them. Through the soft flesh I could feel the cut-off ends of bone. It was a strange and novel touch sensation for my feet. I had touched my own shoulders but they were not like stumps. Jackie giggled and said, "Ohh, your toes tickle!" She scratched the blunt end of her stump with her hand.

Just then the phone rang in the house, and shouting, "I’ll get it," the smaller girl went flipping across the lawn as fast as her hands would carry her. Her slim little figure swung in a strangely graceful motion as she propelled herself along on her bare bottom, with pony tail flying.

With her sister gone, Jill got serious. "Melissa, you’re very lucky to have Steve, but I think he is one in a million. One of the hardest things to accept about spending the rest of my life without legs is the certainty that I will spend it alone."

My eyes swept along the reclining figure from the perfectly modeled face, down the slender throat and over the full, up-thrusting breasts with their proud, rose-colored nipples. The flat belly and tiny waist which swelled out to full hips and… and then there was nothing. There the naked figure ended. Just below the hips there was nothing except two abruptly ending stumps. She should have had long, smoothly-curving legs and shapely small feet to complete the perfect picture. But what there was, was lovely. But it ended so shockingly, and the sight of her stumps made its beauty macabre and its helplessness obvious and tragic. Nevertheless I tried to reassure Jill and did have the example of Steve to lend strength to my words.

"I know I’m pretty enough but who will find these pretty," she said, hiking both stumps up in the air in a grotesque gesture. Without thinking I stuck out a foot and pushed the nearest stump down. "Actually, you know, it isn’t impossible that a boy might… find your stumps and your leglessness provocative. Steve and I, well, sort of play love games built around my armlessness. He kisses my shoulders and… well, the right boy will caress your stumps and tease you about the way you do things and you will find yourself loving it." Jill fell into a contemplative mood and in a minute Jackie came out of the house, still completely naked, bringing a tray of lemonade to us. She traveled by setting the tray in front of her as far as she could reach and then swung her legless little body up to it. In this slow and difficult way she came across the lawn, calling, "I thought a cold drink would be nice about now."

In the weeks that followed I saw a lot of my legless friends. Through the influence of Steve and I they adopted new wardrobes tailored to their new, foreshortened figures. Capris and slacks were cut off and the ends closed so the remainder of the legs formed "pockets" to accommodate their stumps. Skirts, too, they shortened so the long lengths of empty material was not in the way. Now they covered their stumps but that was all. They both looked darling in their special outfits, and less like they were wearing someone else’s clothes.

Life for me became full and rich, secure in Steve’s love. I now used my feet for anything, anywhere. In the nicest restaurants I could prop a bare foot on the table and with a fork between my toes feed myself without self-consciousness, in spite of the startled waiters and staring diners.

When I graduated, the best present was an engagement ring from Steve—sized, of course, for the third toe of my left foot.

When my wedding day came I was dressed in a gorgeous white bridal gown, unique only in that it was without sleeves or arm-holes and the smooth satin fitted snugly over my armless shoulders. Jackie and Jill were there, seated in their respective wheelchairs, in front of the first row of seats. At the appropriate point in the ceremony Steve took a tiny ring from his pocket and dropped to one knee in front of me. I raised my bare foot and he slipped the wedding band on my "ring toe." Thereafter, I would have both rings on always.

I had intended at first to wear slip-on pumps but then Steve and I both thought it would be an exotic touch and also symbolic of my new freedom to be married in my bare feet.

Since then we have known all the thrills and happiness of any young couple very much in love. And my armless shoulders and my skilled bare feet and toes have, if anything, only made our life uniquely fascinating and delightful.


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