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written by: Crusis

(Another writing class excercise)

He was projected out of sleep like a shot. This time the nightmare was fresh in his mind, the rending collision of steel combined with someone's scream. From the look on his frightened wife's face it was obvious the cry had been his own. He lay back on his sweat soaked pillow and turned to her. She tried to smile but it was forced.

"Same dream?"


She reached over and patted his hand then turned onto her side and sighed softly. He wondered if it was from relief that he was awake and no longer tossing and turning.

He was weary but he swung his leg over the bed side and reached for his prosthetic. He secured it to the stump that was his left leg, forgetting the padding he normally placed in the cup.

The leg was a Transfemoral Prosthesis which he had worn for nearly a year. It started about halfway down his thigh, a sleek monstrosity of plastic, joints, and wires. He remembered the doctors telling him how much he would love the leg, how he would be mobile again although he would need to be careful of the energy it took. In general, it was about 80% more difficult to use than a real leg due to the work that the knee joint does for a person.

The hallway was lit by a tiny amber light. He walked past Amanda's closed door, temped to peek inside. He stood in front of it for a few seconds before ambling down two short flights of stairs. In the kitchen he moves slowly, taking ingredients out of the refrigerator. On her 8th birthday she deserves her favorite breakfast, blueberry pancakes.

He heats up the pan while mixing ingredients from scratch. No Bisquick for his little girl. He drops the blueberries into a strainer and runs cold water over them. He runs his hand through them, tossing out any that seem shriveled or any way undesirable.

"Daddy, why do you always run upstairs and brush your teeth after you eat blue-berries?" he imagines her standing by his side, eyes of that are light green to the point of being gray stare up at him.

"Because they will stain my teeth." he doesn't add that most of his front teeth are dental implants.

He pours a small amount of oil into the pan, then leans over and is greeted by a gaunt grey face. The oil starts to ripple under the heat distorting his face to reflect the condition of his soul.

He turns up the heat a notch and pours the first pancake then studies it silently, watching the bubbles form.

"Why can't you just mix those in with the big mixer daddy?" he imagines her asking as he slowly folds the fruit and batter together. Her long blonde ringlets of hair messy ('mussy' as she would sat) so early in the morning.

"Because the fruit will get crushed. Don't you like it better when you bite into one and it blows up in your mouth?" He would purse his cheeks and make a popping noise to demonstrate.

He remembers few years ago when Amanda turned 6. They took her to a Disney animated movie with several friends from school. Although harmless fun, something in the movie scared her enough to warrant a small light in her room at night. Then they had taken turns staying with her until she was sound asleep. His wife would read from the Hobbit while he spun tales off the top of his head, usually involving fast cars and faster escapes from crazed teddy bears, all to her constant little girl giggles.

These are among his favorite memories.

The smell tells him that he left the pancake on one side for too long. The other side has almost turned black. He lets it finish then sets it aside for the family Beagle.

The next pancake goes in and he keeps a close eye on it. He shifts back and forth, feeling the unpadded cup grind against the cursed stump that is his leg. He should have placed the padding in it. Rather than go upstairs and remedy the problem he keeps flipping pancakes for her.

"Why do you make a funny face sometimes when you are standing?" he imagines her asking.

"From the accident Pumpkin, do you remember the accident?" he may have spoken aloud that time.

He has several pancakes layered on the plate he pours enough syrup so that it puddles around the edge. The smell of artificial maple makes him realize how hungry he is. But it's her birthday so he will wait a little bit longer to eat. He puts a knife and fork on the plate and then takes the plate in hand and begins the task of walking up the stairs. Each one brings a stab from below; sometimes it feels like the runs along the length of his phantom limb. The Doctors assure him the sensation will go away, but he isn't sure he is ready for that.

At the top of the first set of stairs he makes the slight turn and moves up the second short flight. As he places his weight on the first stair the prosthetic shifts and he loses his balance. He swings around, trying to control the fall as he sits down hard on the second stair. Syrup splashes of the plate and runs down his hand and arm.

He sighs heavily and heaves himself onto his foot. The cup is biting down into his leg again, a painful burn that makes him focus his full attention of the task of just standing up.

He reaches her room and thinks about knocking then shakes his head and opens the door.

He walks into the roomwhich is decorated not with the items you would find in a little girls room, instead it has 7an exercise machine next to the bed. All of her toys are boxed up and stacked in the closet. Even the pink wallpaper that ran along the top of the room is gone.

He moves to her bed8 and sets the pancakes down. It is empty of course; she has been dead for almost a year.

The accident that took his leg also took his little girl. His sweet and precious little Amanda whose only mistake in life had been to get into the car with a drunk.

A drunken father.

His hands shake as he remembers clutching her lifeless body to his chest, feeling the stickiness of the syrup, a not so subtle reminder of her blood and his vomit pressed into his clothes. He thinks she is ok but he will soon blow a .23 on the officer's breathalyzer so likely anything he knows at this point is purely moot.

He cuts of a triangle of pancake and puts it in his mouth. He chews mechanically, then finishes the plate in silence. As he leaves he flips of the light and mutters a happy birthday to his daughter.


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