Friday, October 1, 1999

Just a Little Scratch

This story originally appeared on the Secret Garden website and is archived here at the request of author Doug Rogers.

Jamie ought to wake up soon. I've been sitting here next to his bed for the last four hours, waiting for him to come out from under the anaesthetic. I wanted to be here for him. After all, I was there at the beginning of this, just a week ago...

"You certainly look smug," I told Jamie as he came in from work. "Did you discover the cure to cancer today?"
My lover raised one eyebrow and gave me a crooked smile. The blue eyes peered out from beneath the blond locks that he cared for so attentively. "I found a way to do it!" he said, bursting with excitement.
"Do what?" I asked, totally left out.
"I figured out a way to get them to take my leg off!" he said cheerily.
Dear God, I thought. Not this again. Jamie was what is called a "wantabe". He's always wanted to be an amputee. To be exact, he wants his left leg removed half way up his thigh.
"Well, Gil," he asks, "are you just going to sit there, or are you going to hug me or what?"
"You know how I feel about this," I told him. "I think you're a fruit loop."
"You not going to love me with one leg?" he vamped.
"You know I'd love you regardless," I started. "I told you that a long time ago. But I still think this is nuts. Is pretending not good enough any more? I mean, I must admit I get entertained seeing you strap your leg up some weekends, but come on! For real? You know you won't go through with it!"
Again, he raised one of those eyebrows at me. "Really?" he asked slyly.
"Really," I returned confidently.

"What would you say if I told you the wheels were already in motion?" he asked.
"I'd say you were nuts. But let's hear it. What's the idea this time?"
"It occurred to me today," he began. "Doctor Thomas sent another set of cultures down to the lab for me to check. They were from the boy with the Streptococcus pyogenes infection in his leg. You know, the 'flesh-eating bacteria'? They weren't able to touch it with any of the antibiotics, and the doc finally gave in today and took the kid's leg off."
"God! How terrible."
"Yeah," he agreed. "It always happens to the people who don't want it." He cheered a bit. "Until now."
A sinking feeling started somewhere just above my stomach. "Go on," I said, worry creeping into my voice.
"Well, let's just say I had a little accident in the lab today," he said innocently.
"For God's sake! What did you do, Jamie!"
He broke out laughing and pulled up his pant leg. There was a very innocent looking little scratch there. "I just scratched myself accidentally," he answered.
I knew the answer before I asked the question. "With what?"
"The culture slide. From the kid. With the bacteria on it." He beamed. "All that's left to do is wait!"
I sat there, wondering if I should call 911 and have this lunatic I live with committed. "Please tell me you're teasing!"
"Not a bit."
"You're going to kill yourself! That stuff could go everywhere! Let's get you to the hospital, Jamie! Tell them it was an accident! Let's get this taken care of."
"Not on your sweet life, Gil! This is the first workable plan I've come up with. We've talked about it. You know how I feel... how it consumes my every waking thought. Having one leg... I want this, Gil! If you try to do anything about it, I'll just disappear until things are far enough along. Now, you're either going to help me, or I'm going to do it alone. You always said you'd help me if I thought of a way that would really work. You promised!"
This was all tumbling out far too fast for me to absorb it. Yes, I had idly made the pledge because it seemed so important to him when we made love while he was pretending. But, damn! This wasn't just him strapping a leg up and wrapping it in an ace bandage! This was for real. Did I dare help him?
"You promised," he pleaded.
I walked to the bar and poured myself a long scotch on the rocks. I drained it, then poured another.
"You're gonna get drunk doing that," he pointed out.
"Drunk is about the only way I can live with myself if you insist on this," I snapped. I took another pull at the drink. It gave me a little time to think.
Surely the infection would begin to hurt as it started to do damage to his leg. Perhaps that was the safety valve in this mess I found myself in. Perhaps when the pain began, Jamie would sober up, and there would still be time to get him taken care of. I nodded internally and said to him, "Okay. I'll help you."
Jamie just beamed.
The next morning the scratch had turned an ugly red color. Jamie didn't say anything, but I could tell it was sore to the touch. He put a fairly large bandage on it and went on to work.
I thought about him all day as I did my own job, my mind not on the classes I was teaching. When I arrived home, he was already there, his leg propped up on a stool as he watched TV from the ottoman.
"You okay?" I asked.
"Yeah. Fine," he said a little weakly.
"Your leg hurting?"
"Some," he said.
"Let me take a look," I said, bending down.
Jamie stopped me. "No, it's okay. Don't bother it."
I straightened up, shrugged my shoulders and went to prepare dinner. I could have saved my time and trouble. Jamie just picked at his, and I was becoming worried enough that I couldn't finish my own.
The next morning, Jamie called in sick.
"This has gone far enough!" I told him. "I'm calling the doctor."
"No need," he said. "I've made an appointment myself today. I'm going to go in and have it looked at." He looked at me a little sheepishly. "I didn't know this was going to hurt so much."
I felt better that day at school. Somehow the knowledge that Jamie was going to be all right made it easier to deal with the disinterest of the modern college student. False hope is a terrible thing.
When I arrived home, I found Jamie still in bed. It was obvious that he hadn't moved all day. Worse yet, he was only semi-conscious. "Time for you to call the ambulance, ole buddy," he finally said weakly when I got him to come around. "Sorry I lied to you..." He rolled his head. "...had to give it one more day... time to get above the knee..."
I pulled the covers back. The lower part of the leg had turned a number of colors, none of them in the range of healthy flesh. The angry red color was well above the knee joint. The lower part of the leg was beginning to smell. I reached for the phone.
Of course I didn't tell the doctor exactly what was going on. I figured that Jamie was in deep enough shit just with the consequences of his actions. The doctor kept mumbling things about wishing he'd seen him sooner before the infection had spread so far. I didn't understand until late last night just what he had meant by those generalities.
I sit here next to Jamie's bed, waiting for him to awaken. He has told me as long as we have been together how he's always wanted to have his left leg gone, half way above the knee. And now he has his wish. I'm just not sure how well he's going to deal with the other three stumps, all nearly identical to the one he wanted, that he got in the package.

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