Title: Permanently Legless
Author: JL Merrow
Cover Artist: Trace Edward Zaber
Publisher: Amber Quill
Length: 30 pages
The Taliban may have taken both of Chris's legs, but he came back from Afghanistan with his sense of humour and his lust for life firmly intact. The one thing that can shake his confidence, however, is meeting Josh, the one-night stand from before his tour of duty he hasn't been able to forget.
It turns out Josh hasn't forgotten Chris, either. But with Chris such a changed man, can they still have a future?
JL Merrow dops us into the middle of the story, beginning as she means to go on, with our narrator rolling over the toes of those too dim to get out of the way. Chris has already had the worst happen, and now he’s ready to go on with his life in the best way he can.
In a wheelchair now because he lost both legs in Afghanistan, Chris has done all the crying he’s willing to admit to, and wants to get back into something approaching his regularly scheduled life. He spends weekend afternoons watching football in the pub with his buddies, who have learned to treat him like one of the guys, because that’s what he is, even minus the limbs. That’s pretty rare—Chris has some tart thoughts about people who can’t manage to look him in the eye or who treat him as stupid or invisible just because he’s an amputee. I think there was a Brit joke right at the beginning that would have been funnier if I’d had the cultural referent, but no matter: Chris’s wry sense of humor carries this piece just fine.
He’s ready to head to what passes for the local gay scene, where he’d had a brief but memorable encounter with a pretty young man named Josh. The hero’s send-off Josh gave him has kept Chris going through his tour, injury, and treatment, but he’s never tried to contact Josh again, though Josh made it clear he hoped for more. And now here he is, across the room being pawed by other men.
Poor Josh has to do everything but bat Chris over the head to assure him of his continued interest: Chris may be using a combination of stiff upper lip and sassiness to keep going but he’s not confident in his appeal. That’s not stopping Josh, and all I can say is “Good for them!”
Chris’s appreciation for Josh is obvious, though it’s harder to see where Josh found the torch he’s been carrying all this time. The talk they’d had after sex before Chris went to war must have been pretty intense, because it’s all they know of each other until they meet again in the club, yet Josh has been thinking of him all this time. There’s no feeling of retroactive attraction because Chris got hurt and should be considered a hero, which is a relief; it’s just not clear why an evening’s pick-up made that big an impression.
The story is a charming quick read and brings a smile, not just from the Brit feel that thankfully was not edited out, but from the feeling of normalcy in a difficult situation. There is not one trace of self-pity here, just a dash of angst, and a very matter of fact look at what life is like for a man newly confined to a wheelchair. It’s easy to want more of this story, but I think the author made a good decision in keeping this short, because maintaining Chris’s upbeat attitude over a longer work might not have been possible. 4.25 marbles