The Plumpening Leg

Accidents happen. That’s what they say. But somewhere deep down, Devon knew that what had befallen him was no mistake. Fate had decided to intervene in the revelry he nightly took pleasure in. And that revelry always, without fail, included massive amounts of alcohol. Who could say if it was his Anglican heritage or a need to stamp out the dark thoughts of his past? Whatever the driving force, Devon needed to drink. Especially so ever since he had moved to Staten Island to escape Westchester, where he had lived with his mother, Hattie, a depressive woman in her mid-50s with the according emaciation to match her withering mind. She had been irreparably morose ever since 1995, when Devon’s father, Desmond, disappeared in the middle of the night without a trace. Devon was fourteen at the time, and still naive enough to tell her that she should file a police report, but Hattie knew. He didn’t love her anymore. So within a week she was changing her last name from Clark back to O’Neill, and beginning the very distinct Irish reparative process of total denial. If Devon even deigned to mention the name Desmond, Hattie would go visibly deaf. She refused to speak of him, but it was evident she thought of him every day.

Even her job as a teacher to special ed students at the fourth grade level wasn’t time-consuming enough to distract her, in fact probably spurred her own issues with the drink. This was, in large part, why Devon was hesitant to move back in. But at age twenty-seven, in the economy-tanking year of 2008, he was struck by a drunk driver while himself drunk, riding his bike in Staten Island, where he saw fit to sequester his habits in one compact area. One of his friends, a burly, bearded thirty-four year old named Steve, owned the bar Devon frequented, called simply Vice (this was, remember, before the word could only signify overly sensationalized, overly editorialized news reporting). And though Steve had cautioned him against riding his bike home, had even offered him the use of the sofa bed in his office, Devon was adamant about leaving. So it was that at approximately 4:08 a.m. on the morning of a Saturday in September, Devon temporarily lost use of his right leg. The left side, on most people, always manages to get out unscathed in that, in most cases, it is the “lesser” side (of course, you can’t tell left-handed people that).

When he awoke to the sight of his wailing mother in the hospital, Devon could foresee dark times ahead. He couldn’t have intuited just how dark. For who could predict that it would take a seemingly infinite number of procedures to get his leg to the “final stage” healing point? It was roughly six months after his initial hospitalization that a system of, more or less, pulleys and levers were putting him back together again in a way that Humpty Dumpty never could be. It was, essentially, like having the medieval torture device they called the rack attached to his leg, cranking out the bones so that they would mend more rapidly. It was enough to make Devon become a full-fledged stoner during his segregation from the outside world. Before, he had only been a casual smoker of weed, but now, it was his lifeblood–the only thing that made the time pass in a manner that didn’t cause his mind to unravel. And, naturally, it also prompted him to take up writing poetry. He had inherited an old typewriter from his grandmother–the one on his father’s side, parenthetically. It was this “hobby” as many a condescending person would call it, that took up most of his time, apart from experimenting with different high person-based recipes like pizza omelets and masturbating to various porn “narratives.” It was the former diversion that began to cause him unexpected consequences.

He noticed it only slightly after the first week of returning home with the rack on his leg. Whenever he took a bite out of the cuisine he had made, he would feel a slight pang–like his leg was churning inwardly. Over the next month, however, he couldn’t deny the correlation between his eating and the plumpening of his leg. It was as though all the fat was being concentrated solely into the below-the-knee part of his right pin, as the British would call it. And because of his mother’s perpetual state of denial, it wasn’t like he could receive authentication from a second party about what was happening to him.

She was there, but not there. A phantom source of comfort during his recovery in that the presence of another body was intended to assure him that he wasn’t alone in this world, that it mattered to some other being whether or not he regenerated. But Hattie was herself not mentally regenerated from the trauma of her abandonment. So it was that Devon basically took care of her in his preparation of his ornate and well-presented meals that she barely touched. He was becoming skilled enough at it that he began toying with the notion of enrolling in culinary school when this was all over so that he could perfect his art. It didn’t occur to him that, subconsciously, he wanted to do something that would force him to stand for the majority of the day, something that would really allow him to capitalize on the full use of his legs.

But Devon would not, at this rate, be bequeathed by the gods of destiny with this gratification. For every time he ate, the leg would grow, getting to the point where it was completely burgeoning outside the confines of the metal, which pressed and dug into his skin with such a fierceness that he wondered if anyone had ever truly experienced such physical agony other than an actual prisoner in medieval Europe. Hattie even had to notice as the skin bled from the metal cutting into the plump flesh. Taking a sip from her glass of whiskey as she walked past him sitting in the easy chair in the corner of the living room, Hattie remarked, “I think we ought to take that off of you.” Devon regarded her with fear in his eyes, as the only thing he dreaded more than keeping the mechanism on was removing it.

“It’s fine, Mom. It’s fine.”

She tsked at him, setting her glass down on the coffee table as she approached. “No, it’s not. You got your renouncement of reality from me. I should know you’re not fine.” She took a deep breath. “I don’t know what’s happening to you, but we’ve got to get that removed from your body.”

“Then take me to the doctor.”

“It’s eight at night on a Saturday. Your leg is going to be destroyed by the time we get professional help. Do you trust me or don’t you?”

Devon wasn’t sure anymore. This had been the most animated he had seen Hattie in over a decade, and he wasn’t sure if he should be relieved or terrified. The latter emotion pervaded him as she returned with a hacksaw from the shed in the backyard that he never knew they had.

Before Devon could protest, Hattie was cutting away at the metal with the intensity of a blacksmith, her brow furrowed and lip bitten as she did so. But as she drew to one end of the other side, the leg siphoned open, emitting a bevy of cakes, pastries, vegetables, meats, potatoes and every other imaginable side dish or main course food option. The food assaulted Hattie, bombarding her in a continuous burst that knocked her to the floor, hacksaw still in hand. Frozen from the shock of seeing his leg act as some sort of mutant grocery store, Devon screamed, “Eat it, eat it!” Hattie, whose aforementioned skeletal figure had only further worn away since Devon moved in, obeyed the barking order, shoving whatever food item she could into her mouth. The stream of sustenance went on for what felt to Devon like hours, but was, in actuality, a mere seventeen minutes. And when Hattie had finished consuming everything ejected from the now normal sized leg, she herself was in possession of a Marilyn Monroe-esque hourglass figure and the healthy glow that people usually only attribute to pregnant women. Furthermore, now that Devon’s leg was reconstituted, he rattled the brace off seamlessly in its new oversized state.

When Hattie took Devon to the doctor on Monday morning, he couldn’t scientifically explain to them what had happened, and himself seemed unwanting of delving in too deeply into the mechanics of the explosion, for lack of a better word. All that was known for certain is that the plumpening leg of Devon had not only secured him with a certain amount of “pain and suffering” money, but had managed to awaken Hattie from her coma. She was even signed up for a dating website in the weeks that followed, while Devon himself started to take a much less vested interest in eating, his enthusiasm for cooking now repurposed into promoting his self-published book of poetry with the finances from the accident that was not, at its core, an accident.

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