Tuesday, November 30, 1999

Closure

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


Constance Parring saw the boat coming long before she could hear the cries from the occupants. She had spent the greater part of the day sitting on the shaded porch of her thatched cabana, reading one of the many gothic romance novels she had brought with her to this far-away little island more than three years before. Kusta had crutched by a few minutes before, asking if she wanted anything to drink. He was in the kitchen area now, she was sure, squeezing fruits for a large pitcher of the local variant on planter's punch.
At the thought of the smouldering Kusta she shuddered, an erotic thrill sneaking from the base of her innie navel down the smooth tight line of her flat tummy to nestle warmly deep into the recesses of her most female part. Just thinking about this young bronze god made her vagina ache with desire! He was, indeed, her dream man in every sense of the word. His tall, Polynesian good looks were nothing short of classic. Black hair framed a squared face with exotically high cheekbones. His golden skin covered broad shoulders and a hard smooth chest that she never tired of stroking and caressing. His long left leg was sharply chiseled flesh and the play of the opposing muscle groups as he would hop or crutch from place to place made her marvel at his controlled strength.

She closed her eyes, remembering. Was it really three years ago? Yes, three years to the month.
At first it had upset her that she'd been forced to flee the States. Goddamn that ethics board at the hospital! And the cops! They all should rot in hell! If things had gone differently no one would ever have known about any of it. After all of that searching she'd found the perfect girl to pair with the handsome amputee boy her husband had been casting in his porno movies, the perfect girl in every way! All Connie needed to do was cut her right leg off at mid-thigh and she'd have been the mirror image of the guy! What incredible hardcore those two could have made together! But then those meddling fools, the hospital and the police, had screwed it all up! She'd just barely managed to get away by the skin of her teeth, not to mention the close call in getting her money out of the country. Idiot bankers! He'd finally cut the check for her, but it had almost been the glitch that had snared her! What the hell. Ferris had plenty of his own money, porn paid fantastically well. Her husband would just have to take his own chances. She seldom thought about him any more.
The choice of this island had been a whim, really. When deciding where to hide, she had remembered the name of the island chain from a late-night viewing of an old film from the 1960's. "Mondo Cane" it had been called. "A Dog's World." Literally. The island was the home of a south sea native band of shark hunters. They captured and killed the ugly devils both for their meat and to sell the fins and teeth to the Chinese traders who often visited the shallow bay of the village. It was the way the island economy had supported itself for hundreds of years. But shark hunting, especially from primitive outrigger canoes is a vocation not without its risks. The high percentage of the islanders who had paid the price for their careers was mute testimony to the power of the beasts. Fully 1/3 of the men on the island and a somewhat lesser percentage of the women were missing at least one limb.
That statistic, of course, had drawn Connie Parring to this paradise like iron to a magnet. An entire island where missing limbs proliferated! The thought of a culture like this was Nirvana to her. She had arrived via chartered seaplane with her belongings and enough black market medical supplies to start a free clinic here on the island. The plane had dumped her stuff on the tawny beach and promptly departed. For a few moments Doctor Parring thought she'd made the worst mistake of her life! She was alone! A stranger in a strange land where she knew exactly no one. She had considered flagging the plane down as it taxied away, but then the charming small boy had sauntered up to her on the beach, his eyes full of mischief and inquisitive fearlessness, his smile enchanting her. Then she looked at the young lad's missing left hand, and she knew she had found her new home. And there were no authorities here! No one to whom she need answer!
Kusta single crutched back to the veranda, the top of the device held in his armpit, and smiled as he handed her a coconut shell cup filled with the libation he had just prepared. She took the offered vessel, kissed his full lips as he bent down, and sipped. The fruit juices mingled with the local coconut wine to make a refreshing, if intoxicating mixture.
Her eyes caressed the lightly scarred curve of the ten-inch nub protruding from his loincloth. It was all that remained of his right leg. She knew the shape so very well, after all she had created it. Kusta had been the first injured patient brought to her from the fishing fleet. After she had made the natives understand that she was a doctor and planned to build a hospital to help them through sickness and injury, they had embraced both the idea and her warmly. When Kusta had gotten his foot tangled in one of the fishing ropes and had been pulled into the water in the middle of a frenzied kill. The other hunters had finally bagged the 12 foot monster, but not before it had taken a half-moon plug all the way to the bone from the back of his calf, just below the knee. His family had insisted on bringing him to the new doktora instead of the village medicine man wanting the best for him.
Connie had been enchanted by the savage beauty of the young man at first sight. It was immediately obvious that the lower part of the leg was going to have to come off; the tissue loss was just too great to repair. Constance was prepping the area to do the knee disarticulation when the thought struck her: why bother? There were no artificial limbs to speak of here. Simple peg legs, crutches, that was it. If she couldn't save the young man's knee, why not go ahead and make him a real beauty? She nodded to herself and smiled as she began to spread the disinfecting solution around the middle of the muscular thigh. He was about to become everything that she had dreamed about in a man, right down to the exact length of his amputated leg!
And three years later he was still here by her side. As he stayed at the clinic recuperating, Kusta had wondered if the doktora would treat all of her patients as personally as she was treating him! Then came the night she had slipped naked next to him on his mat. She had just removed the bandages that morning, pronouncing him healed. The leg was still a little sore, but when she dropped her sarong and lay next to him, he quickly forgot about that. In this culture there is little grieving for lost limbs; it is a part of the way the world operates. Yes, Kusta was still here. He was her helper, her lover, in all ways she had ever dreamed possible her soul mate.
The sun was setting and as it did every evening at about this time, the wind changed bringing a whole new set of sounds with it. They both looked up as the cries or alarm and pain from the boat became clearly audible. Connie grabbed her make-shift crash kit and started hurriedly down to the beach.
The scene that greeted her was one that had been played out at least three dozen times since her arrival on the island. One of the villagers had been hurt on the day's shark hunt. As she came closer to the excited group she recognized the victim. It was L'taw, the chief's son!
"What happened?" She asked in the island language.
"It was a big shark, doktora," one of the older fisherman answered. He shifted his weight back and forth a few times between his good right leg and the peg he wore in place of his left. "The boat was too small. It turned over. A small one bit L'taw before we could pull him into the safe boat."
Connie looked at the teenager. Yes, one of the devils had gotten him pretty well. She was still looking at the wounds near the ankle when Chief Molac arrived. The usually placid and stoic chieftain was obviously beside himself. What both surprised and pissed her off was the fact that Honag, the medicine man was in tow.
Quite predictably the witch doctor had given her a cool reception when she first arrived on the island. She'd spent the first year or so here revising stumps he had created. The island variant of amputation was barbaric to say the least, consisting of the use of a red-hot machete-like knife following the consumption of large quantities of coconut wine. As the villagers showed their improved results to friends, her practice flourished.
Why the hell Molac had brought that old charlatan with him was the source of her anger. She started to say something, but L'taw called out his father's name and distracted her.
"Son!"
"Father," he replied weakly.
"How bad is it?"
The chief asked the question of his son, but it was Doctor Parring who answered. "We won't know until I can get him up to the clinic. There's no time to waste here!"
Molac nodded. During the brief exchange Honag had pushed his way to the other side of the prone boy. He was looking at the wounds, doing a bit of his own pushing and prodding. The boy screamed.
"Enough!" Connie snapped. Then to the others she said: "Get him up to the clinic. Now!"
The plump leader matched the svelte doctor step for step. "You must be sure my son gets the best treatment," he puffed.
"You know I'll do that, Chief," she answered almost casually.
"If his foot can be saved you must do it," the man almost commanded.
"I won't know until I get a good look. I think it's iffy."
The chief started to say something else, but Honag grabbed his left arm and began to mutter into his ear. The chief waved him away with the general air of a man dismissing a flying insect.
Once in her examination room, Connie gave the boy a shot to sedate him and began to carefully look the wounds over, assessing the damage. There were three lacerations that amounted to anything. Two could probably be stitched and would heal nicely. The third appeared to have nicked the nerve that ran down to the outside of the foot. She nodded. He'd probably not get the feeling back there.
She reached for a suture set, and had actually threaded the needle before the tingle hit her groin. She looked down at the almost asleep young man and smiled. It had been weeks and weeks since she had done an amputation. She blushed. She could feel the blood rise. She was in the mood for the almost sexual thrill that doing the surgery gave her. Yes, she would do it, and then tonight Kusta and she..."
Forty-five minutes later she came out the front of the thatched structure and gave Chief Molac the news.
"I should never have let him join the hunt," the man almost sobbed.
"He is a man of the island," Connie answered. "He was simply doing what is expected here."
"But now he is..."
"...truly a man of our island," Connie finished. "And let's look on the good of it," she continued, "he has only lost the lower half of his calf. He'll be a good candidate for a peg when he's healed. It's not going to slow him down!"
"I had such hope," the chief said absently.
"Your hopes for your son need not change," she began.
"No," Molac corrected. "I had hoped you could spare him the curse of our island." The man shook his head and was gone.
Back inside the operating area Connie wrapped the amputated half-calf and foot in waste cloth and called to Kusta. It was almost completely dark outside, time for the village center bonfire.
"Yes?"
"Take this to the bonfire tonight, okay Hon?" she asked.
"You don't want to come?" He seemed disappointed.
"No," she answered. "I'm tired. I want to stay here." She smiled lasciviously at him. "And don't take too long. I'll be waiting for you... here in bed." The erotic flush of the surgery still had the wanton blood in her cheeks.
Kusta smiled back but said nothing as he crutched out.
Connie intended to stay awake waiting for her lover to return, but sleep overtook her. Her dream was strange: she was back in the States. She could see every detail of her modern office suite there. It had not changed an iota since she'd left it. She drifted back to the small operatory that she maintained there and was surprised beyond imagination! There were perhaps a dozen people gathered in a semi-circle around the operating table!
She looked inquiringly from face to face and finally realized who they were. They were all former patients!
"Hello," she smiled. "Why are you all here?"
"We want to thank you," a young woman said.
"For what?"
The girl stuck forward the mid-upper arm stump from her right shoulder. "For this!"
The group began to walk and hobble into a circle around her.
Connie was sitting upright on her sleeping mat when she realized she was awake. Slightly shaken, she walked outside and gazed up at the sky. The stars showed the small hours of the morning. Then it struck her. Where was Kusta?
She donned her sarong and started down the path toward the village. About half way down the 500 yard way there a sound more than a sight that attracted her attention. She stopped, her ears listening for another vestige. There it was again, off to her right.
She almost stumbled over Kusta as he lay there some ten feet from the path. It was hard to tell in the moonlight, but it appeared someone had hit him in the back of the head with a rock; the blood was more or less coagulated, but the wound needed attention.
Connie managed to drag her mate back to the clinic. With him resting there on the operating table she fired up the gasoline generator and turned on the surgical lights.
The damage was not severe. He had a concussion, to be sure, but he would probably sleep that off in just a few hours. The blood was coming from a relatively small wound; a stitch or two would close it.
Connie was cleaning up the area as the sun was coming up. She looked out the window at the placid surface of the sea. The shark hunters would be manning their boats before long. She could already hear the reports of machetes chopping the small fish that had been caught for chum to attract the sharks.
She wheeled Kusta from the operating room to the ward and put him on one of the raised mats there. She bent to kiss his sleeping face then started to leave when her heart stopped! L'taw was missing! She looked all around the room. The boy was, indeed, gone!
Constance Parring would have probably run out of the door to check the village path in the morning light had she been able to, but she was not. Before she could turn strong arms grabbed each of her own and a rough cloth hood was quickly pulled over her head.
"What's going on?" She gasped in fright.
"Justice," came the one-word answer.
"Molac?" She inquired.
"Shut up," another voice snapped.
Then a third instructed: "This way! Move!"
Connie stumbled down the steps that she knew were at the center of the veranda. She could hear the gentle lap of the morning waves growing louder. Yes, they were taking her down toward the beach. What the hell was going on?
"What's this all about?" She asked. He voice had taken on more of an angry edge than one of fear.
"Shut up," came the reply. It was punctuated by a shove in the small of her back that would have caused her to stumble had the strong hands not been almost carrying her.
There was no order for her to get into the boat. She was manually lifted from the sands of the beach and placed on a seat in one of the outrigger canoes. The boat bobbed up and down several times indicating that a number of men had taken their places at either end of the craft. No one said a word.
The breeze picked up a bit. They must be heading out the bay and around to the other side of the island, she reasoned. But why? What was all of this about?
The motion of the sea became more pronounced.
"Here," a voice said. With that, the slap of the paddles against the water ceased. The boat continued to gently ride the waves. No one said a word.
The next sound of which she was aware seemed odd. It was a repeating splash, as if a great many small objects were being thrown overboard at the bow of the craft. Then, again, silence.
"Look!" One of the men said in a loud whisper.
"No," another answered. "It's too big. We need one smaller. Remember, we have to be stronger than it is."
What the hell was going on?
The splat of the paddles against the sea resumed for perhaps another quarter hour before the scene was repeated again. This time as the splashing sound was heard a strong whiff of slightly rotten fish filled her nostrils. Chum! Dear God! Were they going to throw her... No. That was nuts!
"There!" The first voice exclaimed.
"Yes," the second answered flatly.
There was the sound of more chum being thrown overboard, then the boat shifted a bit in the water. From both in front and behind her, rough hands lifted her from the seat to a standing position.
"Dear God!" She screamed. "You're not going to throw me overboard! Why? What's going on?"
A voice that she had not heard in the boat spoke, very near to her. "No, Doktora, we are not going to just throw you overboard," he said quietly, coldly. "We know about L'taw's foot. Honag got a good look at it down at the beach. He kept reassuring the Chief that it wouldn't have to be cut off."
A wave of nausea started deep in Connie's stomach.
"Then you came out an announced the he was a one-foot." There was a pause. "Honag wanted another look at what you had cut off. We got it from your man as he was heading to the bonfire to perform the rights of memory on it."
The nausea was coming in waves that matched those buffeting the small craft.
"Honag looked at the wounds, Doktora. We all did. It would have healed!" The final sentence was yelled.
"You don't understand," Connie began.
"We understand all too well," the voice continued. "There were others. Others who didn't think their injuries were as bad as you said they were. But we didn't know until last night." There was a long pause. "You are an evil person, Doktora."
"I'm not," Connie stammered. "You just don't..."
"Silence!"
The response to the order was deafening. The man said no more but it was obvious that he had given non-verbal orders. Connie felt herself being lifted off the floor of the small boat. Over the edge, in the water, she could hear a churning, thrashing sound that frightened her to the core of her being. She began to scream.
The men had not lied. They did not throw her over the side; they simply held her over the side with her legs dangling below the surface!
The young shark who was gorging on the chum was about five feet in length. He would more than double that size in his adulthood, but the adolescent was aware for the time only that he could never seem to get full. The fragments of fish were good, but he needed more! Then, suddenly, there it was! Those two thrashing sticks of meat being dangled near the surface of the water! Was it the fins of a dolphin? He would taste it and find out.
At the first bite he realized that it was not dolphin. It was something he had never tasted before, but it bled, and that meant it would be good. He took a bite at the other one. The same. Opening his mouth wide to sink the razor shark teeth into his victim, he attacked. A chunk of meat was his reward. He took another, this time farther up where the creature was much thicker.
The leg that was not under attack thrashed even more wildly. The motion drew him like a moth to a flame. He opened wide again and bit as hard as he could. The lower ½ of the thrashing thing disconnected and he swam toward the bottom with it, eager to eat his prize in peace without the larger sharks challenging him for it.
On the surface, the shrieks had subsided to a low moaning sound. The thrashing in the water suddenly stopped. The men nodded to each other and pulled Constance Parring back into the boat.
Connie never did actually pass out. The clinical part of her mind knew that she had been badly hurt, although she would need to look to know how badly. Through her shock, she felt rough ropes being slipped around her upper thighs, followed by pressure there. "Tourniquets," she thought idly. Time had no meaning; only the pain reminded her that she was alive.
In the fullness of that time, she felt the boat ground against the beach and once again had the sensation that she had been lifted into the air. Kusta's voice filtered through the cloth covering over her head: "What has happened? What's going on?"
By the time they had put her down and Kusta had removed the blindfold there was no one in sight except him.
She looked down. The damage was appalling. The right leg was gone at the knee; the devil fish had ripped it completely away. Her left calf was missing a huge chunk, and there was a gaping hole in her left thigh just above the knee. She was a mess.
"Get me a shot of morphine," she whispered painfully to Kusta in english. The young native looked at her, questioningly. "Shot needle," she said in his language. "And the small bottle from the left medicine drawer."
He nodded and hopped off.
"Please hurry, Kusta," she said almost inaudibly. "It hurts..."
Outside the thatched clinic, a small group was standing, talking quietly.
"Do you think she will die?" The Chief asked Honag.
"I doubt it," the medicine man answered. "I was there to see that she didn't bleed herself dry."
"What will happen to her?" A young man with no left arm asked.
"We will see," Honag answered darkly. "We will see if she can heal herself. Or what's left of her." He smiled at the Chief. "Wasn't there something a white missionary told us once? Something about doctors healing themselves?"
Chief Molac nodded gravely, sensing the irony and black humor of the reference.
Then Honag spoke again: "The results of that saying will be most interesting. I think we should come back in the morning." He laughed again, cruelly. "I can hardly wait."

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