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Saturday, 25 October 2014

I have nothing against your left leg

"Well done - you're mobile already," Susan says, entering my room in the University Hospital, Leipzig on the second day after surgery, and admiring my moving legs briefly, before frowning.

"Why are you walking like that?" she says.

"You noticed?" I say, coming to a halt with a slight wobble and a list to the left, which I'm coming to think of already as my good side.

"Couldn't help it," she says. "Sticks out a mile. Almost literally. Why's your right leg flying out to the side like that?"

"Dunno," I say. "Seems to have a mind of its own since the op. Other one's fine though - look." I take a perfectly straight step with my left leg.

"Now do the right," she says. "Bloody hell! That was almost backwards."

"I know. I think it's all coming from the foot. Seems to get its signals scrambled, pick up a random direction, anywhere from straight back to full ahead, then does that flying out thing and the leg has to follow."

Her frown grows deeper. "You know I said I'd stick by you, no matter what?" she says. "Incontinence, impotence, turning into a vegetable?"

"I do. And it's fantastic that you took time off work to come here with me. It would have been a long hard week without you."

"There is a get-out clause," she says and my heart sinks.


"It doesn't include us walking up the street, back home, with you looking like the Ministry of Silly Walks. It's too embarrassing. Folk will go 'What's a good-looking chick like her doing with a man with a daft leg? She could have done so much better."

"You'd dump me because I have a bad leg?" 

"It's not a bad leg," she says. "It's a mad leg."

"Couldn't you ignore it?" I say.

"No," she says. "What about the flight back? You'll be walking up the aisle and your foot will fly off and put somebody's eye out. Can't you fix it? You're the engineer."

"How?" I say.

"I dunno," she says. "Tie your knees together with a piece of string?"

"Could work," I say, scratching my chin. "Large elastic band would be even better. I'll get onto it."

"How do you think it happened?" she says.

"I'm guessing the surgeon nicked one of the big nerves with his knife when he was rootling around my prostate. It'll take time to settle."

"Just so it's not too long a time," she says.

"Good thing is I think this right foot is going to be famous one day," I say, and she starts shaking her head.

"Go on," she says.

"It's already a leg-end in its own knife time," I say and she rolls her eyes.

"You have to stop talking to Gregor Steele," she says. "He's a bad influence. What can I bring you from the shops today?"

"Salt," I say. "You can't get it in here."

"That's because it's bad for you," she says. 

"Nonsense, boy, as my old Latin teacher used to say, every time I spoke. 'Nonsense, drivel, rubbish and other similar expressions.' We evolved from the sea. Every single cell in our bodies needs salt. Our bloodstream is a wee salty sea we carry around from ancient times, when we were fish."

"I wonder if that's what's wrong with your foot," she says. 


"You're not getting enough salt. So you've started to de-evolve. Your foot is turning into a flipper and searching for the sea."

I waggle it and watch how it moves. "You know I think you're right," I say. 

"I'll be back soon, gimme a cuddle," she says and I try. I really do. But the flipper shoots off backwards and forces me to follow it towards the window. 

"See you later," she says and I give her a cheery wave over my shoulder, study the student cyclists on Stephanstrasse and wonder if it is a long way from here to the ocean.

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