First Memory.

The ball came at him harder each time. He let it bounce off his chest. When it landed on the ground at his feet, he kicked it to the boy nearest him.

“Catch it,” one of them said.

But, again, he let the ball hit off his chest and fall to the ground. He dribbled it with his feet, toeing it carefully to keep it in front of him, until one of the other boys took the ball from him and set it down a few feet away. “Pick it up with your hands,” he said.

“No,” said Footboy. “I won’t use my hands.”

- - -

The New Doctor.

“From day one he hasn’t used his hands,” his mother told his new doctor. “The nurse brought him to me, put him to my breast, and his feet came up and took hold of me. It was funny. All the other mothers crowded around my bed at feeding time, just to watch. We all laughed.”

The doctor looked at him through his glasses, which were dusty. The look on his face says, “Let’s make friends.”

“He’s getting older,” his mother said. “What kind of life is it to do everything with your feet when God gave you two good hands? Look at his skinny arms, just hanging down. They’re like rope.”

He worked his right foot out of its shoe and brought it to his face, rubbing under his nose. The doctor’s eyes followed the foot back into the shoe.

“Can you believe it,” his mother asked?

- - -

Trying to Sleep.

The weights the doctor fastened to his wrists came off easily. He placed them on the small table beside his bed and lay down to take a nap. He told himself there are no bones in his arms and hands, but he saw the X-rays and now knows otherwise.

He closed his eyes. There’s a dream he had been having lately where he doesn’t have any arms: the sleeves of his shirt are rolled neatly to the shoulder and pinned. He tried to put himself back into that happy dream, but the voice of the new doctor kept him awake.

“You’re really missing out on a lot,” he’d said. “There’s no medical reason why you should not use your hands. You’re only limiting yourself.”

But he was sure he could do with his feet all the things the rest of the world did with their hands: he could peel an orange, sharpen a pencil, put a cassette in his tape deck, open a can of soda, use a telephone — both touchtone and rotary. He could ride a bike, kill flies, and even tie his own shoes, though he always had to tied them before putting them on. His penmanship was legible, he kept his room picked up, he made good grades. What was the problem, finally?

- - -

The New Girl.

In the school cafeteria, the new girl sat down directly across from him. She had on a white sweater, a plaid skirt and glasses. Her name, he knew, was Beth. Smiling at him, she asked, “Is this seat taken?”

He looked up from the book he was reading. “No.”

Beth sat.

As he read, he brought his right foot to the side of his head, tugged at his ear, licked his big toe, and then turned the page of his book. He continued reading for a short time, then looked up to see that Beth was having trouble opening her milk.

“Let me get that for you,” he said, reaching his right foot across the table to take the milk from her hands. He opened the carton and set it back down on the table in front of her.

Beth thanked him, and he said she was welcome.

After a moment his reading was interrupted by a tap on his right foot. Without looking up, he returned the tap and let his foot linger beside Beth’s then move a few inches up the inside of her calf. He gave her a little toe pinch. She bounced in her seat and laughed. “How’d you do that?” she asked.

“What?” he said. He gave her another small pinch, “That?”

She laughed again, then slipped her feet out of their shoes and gave him a toe pinch.

“I didn’t even feel that,” he said. He told her there’s a trick to it. “You have to give it a little twist when you squeeze.”

He watched her face squint in concentration as her toes took hold of the flesh just above his ankle. She gave him a squeeze and then a twist.

“Ouch,” he said. He bounced in his seat and laughed.

“I owe you one,” she said and gave him one more.

“Truce,” he said, pulling his feet away from hers.

She nodded her head and said, “I will if you will.”

Their feet met again under the table. Their toes interlaced and locked. Their soles pressed together, her heels fitting snugly into his arches.

He thought he could do that all day.