But They’ll Grow Back

It started out as being an incredibly decent thing, what Magahet did for all of us. We were mostly strangers to one another, and it wasn’t like we were about to go out of our ways in making introducciones and what-have-you, getting to know each other or anything like that. It wasn’t that we didn’t care, really, just that we didn’t have an in. We didn’t know where to start. Magahet knew everybody, which is what made it so convenient for him. The dinner was to be a kind of casual thing, “drop by if you want, not if you don’t” was essentially what he told everybody, of course tailoring the invitation to people’s personal tastes and so forth.

The general sense of things was, dinner at 8, entertainment afterwards. It wasn’t clear what kind of entertainment, but no one worried about a pitiful minor detail like that; we figured Magahet’d have something up his sleeve. I won’t say I exactly anticipated the dinner with bated breath, but I didn’t dread it, either. Walking home the night before I calculated in my head the exact sequence of events prior to the dinner, figuring out to the second what moment I’d like to arrive at the manor; figuring that 8:00pm on the nose would be too exactingly precise, as would 7:59:00 and 8:01:00 and even 8:05:00. I eventually settled on 8:02:45 as an ideal entry-time, not too late, not too precise, and probably not too early.

But my whole schedule was thrown into disarray when I got distracted watching a spider spinning a web in the lowlands, only beginning to realize what time it was as the sun set, reddening the capillaries in my face. Intentional lateness I didn’t mind as much as accidental lateness, which, whether anyone knew it or not, was going to be the spirit of my own late entry.

But no sense in not going.

Running and stumbling up the walkway to Magahet’s place, I realized how truly late I was, and how everyone else (doubtless) had already arrived. What was fortunate was that there was one seat left for me. Not the seat I’d had in mind, but an empty seat and so I took it. I was situated across the table from Yserone, whose name I didn’t know was Yserone until picking up on some cross-talk, intersecting conversations that sallied up and down the table.

I apologized for being late (to everyone in general but to Magahet in particular), and then commended Magahet for doing such an incredibly decent thing, having this dinner. Everyone agreed, yes, it was an incredibly decent thing of him to do. We didn’t quite do three cheers or anything, but did probably the equivalent for our group, all of us agreeing how decent it was of Magahet.

My major ulterior motive in this, naturally, was to distract from my lateness by introducing something so ostensibly selfless. My other ulterior motive being to make a positive impression on Yserone, who I’d immediately taken a liking to. She maybe wasn’t anything particularly special as looks went, but had an uncannily lambent expression. I thought: this is a face you can read by; this is a face you can use to look for things under sofas and tables. She was quiet, mostly, but had a deft way of using her fork to point at whomever she happened to be talking to, when she happened to be talking, rotating the utensil without any obvious effort (or even movement on her own part). One time she splattered Oubastet with a bit of sauce, but mostly she kept her indications clean.

What everybody else knew but which took a while for me to realize was that Yserone had no legs. More accurately, she’d had legs at one point in time but lost them, though not in the simple unemotional matter that you might lose, say, a pair of keys. This I didn’t initially know, but as details went it was a relatively minor one in my mind, Yserone’s lack of legs not mattering much to me.

“By the way, Havelock,” Magahet said down the table in my direction, “did you know that Yserone has no legs?”

I admitted that I did not, though I couldn’t see why he’d singled me out in particular.

“Well,” Magahet said, “everyone else was here when Yserone came in. They saw her wheeled in here, disfigured and legless.”

I couldn’t see what the big deal was, I said.

“Well,” Magahet said, maybe well on his way to becoming besotted though who could say, “don’t you think it’s funny?”

Silence broke out like the plague. People set down their silverware and turned uneasily to face Magahet. It was an awkward moment. One person managed a forced laugh, cutting it off when she realize that no one else was going to jump on and make it any less awkward. Which only made things more awkward generally.

“No,” I said, taking issue with Magahet’s treatment of the matter.

All of a sudden—it certainly wasn’t gradual—Magahut’s act of graciousness dissolved away into a cheap spectacle, and for no reason in particular. It was disheartening: the food was without question very good; the company was decent, every one more or less pleased to be making acquaintance with the various strangers around the table; and the table-setting, if not exactly out of this world, was at least competent and, taking the stuffed armadillo into account, at least mildly humorous—all of this and yet Magahet breaks the magic by taking a quick jab at one of his guests, at her expense. The least he could have done, you figured, was refer to Yserone indirectly via a supposedly anonymous anecdote so that everyone could go on pretending it didn’t pertain to anyone present at the table.

And here’s Magahet, saying don’t you think it’s funny that Yserone doesn’t have any legs?

There was simply no salvaging the night. We all left. Because it seemed like the right thing to do—on many different levels—I wheeled Yserone to her house, both of us silent for most of the walk.

“I’m sorry about that back there,” I offered.
“That’s okay,” she shrugged mildly. “There’s something, I feel like maybe I should tell you. Not because it matters, really, but I just feel like it’s something— well, something I should tell you. I don’t even know why.”
“It’s about my legs.”
“You don’t have to say this now, if you don’t want to.”
“No, I think I should.”
“Okay, then.”
“I lost my legs in an accident,” she said.

“At an amusement park,” she said, looking down at the ground bashfully.
“It’s… It’s not something I tell most people.”

“It was two months ago. But—” she trailed off, giving off a faint but definitely discernible glow from her face, readily apparent under the suffocating blanket of the night sky.
“It’s not the first time.”
“Not the first time what?”
“It’s not the first time I lost my legs.”

“They grow back, you see.”

“The problem is, I’m forever losing them.”

“I always forget they’re there, when I have them.”

“And I do stupid things with them.”
“I see.”
“They’ll grow back?”
“Does that bother you?”
“For some reason, not as much as it should.”
“Well then.”