Winston was trying to cross the road at a busy six lane highway in the big city. He looked left and right, but there didn’t seem to be a pause long enough for him to get across. He waited calmly, but after a while he became impatient. He began to calculate how he could dodge through the traffic without a pause. He could dash to the right, then to the left. He thought he could get to the median then probably get across the other direction the same way. He stepped off the curb and dodged the first lane. He ran to the left and got through the second lane. The third lane was the fast lane and he barely got through with a scratch from a red car’s bumper on his ankle. On the median he rested a moment in the grass.
“Hey buddy, you have a death wish?” called a passerby.
He stepped into the fast lane of oncoming traffic and this time an eighteen wheeler with a bull dog hood ornament barreled down heading straight for him. He picked up his pace but couldn’t get across the lane. The truck hit him and he flew into the air.
He felt a ripping and tearing in his arms and legs. His torso contorted and broke in half. When his head hit the pavement it split at his forehead. Winston lay on the pavement in pieces and knew he would die. There was blood everywhere.
Before he knew it, a little man with a pickup truck pulled over on the median. He scooped Winston’s parts and pieces up and put them in the back of his truck. The traffic didn’t stop for the accident and a few fingers and toes were crushed under the wheels of passing cars.
“Never mind” muttered the little man and he got in his truck and sped away.
He took Winston to his laboratory high on a hill in an abandoned observatory. As he backed his truck into the shipping bay, Winston blacked out for a while. When he awoke, the little man was humming a tune. He was lying on a gurney and the little man was stitching away. Winston wondered why he didn’t feel any pain, but since he felt very tired he went back to sleep.
The little man kept stitching. He was in his element. He had dreamed of such a project for years, and now this was his opportunity. He had studied anatomy but the jagged ends of things didn’t always fit together well, so he put them together the best he could. The arms and legs fell into approximate place but the smaller pieces got attached willy-nilly. He figured that when Winston woke up he could learn to move things in new ways.
Winston’s head was another story. The little man pushed the brains back into the skull and sewed up the crack in his forehead. But the head had an unusual shape, more like a box than a ball. The little man worked long into the night. When all the pieces were attached somewhere, he turned out the light and fell into a deep sleep on the shabby settee in the entry hall.
In the morning he couldn’t rouse Winston.
“Wake up my beautiful masterpiece!” the little man shouted. But Winston had died during the night. The little man would not accept this outcome, not after all his hard work. As luck would have it, the sky was turning dark with storm clouds and lightning began to flash in the distance. He strapped Winston to the old telescope and maneuvered it below the opening in the observatory dome. The storm was getting closer and the little man began to hurry.
“Fate is in our favor!” he shouted over the rumble of thunder.
He cranked the telescope up through the dome and continued up and up until it was as far as it would go. Winston was high in the air as if lashed to a mast. The storm was upon them and the lightning was attracted to the telescope. It hit once and again all around Winston. Finally there was a direct hit and the little man danced around with glee.
“I’ve done it, I’ve done it,” he waved his fist into the storm.
Winston woke up. At first he was afraid because he was up high and the rain was pouring down on his head and collecting in his shoes. He tried to get free but he was tied firmly. Then he felt himself being lowered and the inside of the dome came into view. Finally his feet touched the floor and a little man untied him.
“I shall call you Rubinstein,” he said.
“But my name in Winston,” said Winston in a strange voice.
“It speaks!” the little man shrieked with delight.
He clapped a blood pressure cuff on Winston’s arm and even though his arm was attached a little on the low side, he pumped it up with a small bulb.
“One-twenty over eighty! Perfect!” the little man chortled.
He shoved a thermometer into Winston’s mouth.
“Ninety seven point four; good enough. You just need a little sit by the fire and a cup of tea.”
He led Winston to a chair in front of a wood burning stove with a black pipe extending up through the opening in the observatory dome. Winston was conscious of the awkwardness of his walk, but was glad to sit down by the fire. He noted that when he sat, the top half of him was turned a little to the left of the bottom half of him, but he tried to face forward.
The little man poured a cup of tea and handed it to Winston. Winston took it but had some trouble holding it with the fingers that were left on his hands. He sat there sipping tea and letting the warmth of the fire dry out his wet clothes.
“This is a lovely place,” he made conversation. “How long have you lived here?”
“I inherited this place from my Great Uncle when I was a young man and have lived here ever since,” the little man explained. “I am a scientist and I do experiments, make inventions and grow pot mostly for myself mind you.”
Winston tried to hide his surprise and asked more questions. He learned that the little man’s name was Icabod and that he had invented the glue that holds the space capsule together. For that he received royalties on a monthly basis and therefore lived quite comfortably. Icabod had gone on from there to invent several more useful household glues and even a solution to dissolve glue; because “sometimes you make mistakes,” he explained.
There was a lovely clock on the wall and Winston noted that it was very late.
“Well, thank you for the tea and the surgery. I really must be going now. What do I owe you?”
The little man put down his tea cup and helped Winston to stand on his awkward feet.
“Oh my dear man, it was my pleasure and the least I could do. You owe me nothing.”
It was then that Winston saw himself in a full length mirror that stood propped against a cabinet full of jars and bottles of specimens. His head was an odd shape with stitches running up his forehead. His arms were attached randomly not particularly at his shoulders. His torso was twisted to the left and his legs were one shorter than the other. And his feet, well his shoes were facing every which way. But all in all, he thought he didn’t look that bad considering.
Debra Stewart lives in the south west of Washington State near the mouth of the Columbia river with her husband and her Dalmatian puppy Ruby. She graduated with her MFA last August and has been accepted into a PhD program in Creative Writing in Wales. She loves it when the “characters write themselves” and when that happens she rides the wave as far as she can. Her goal is to write a novel that is made into a movie, but until then she likes to make wonky plots with imaginative characters.
(Image: Mark Alvarez)