My story “The Land of Phantom Limbs” appeared on Flash Fiction Online in January of 2014.
First line: “After the grenade went off under him, they had no choice but to cut off Jon’s arm.”
Inspiration: In high school I read Johnny Got His Gun. The frantic pace of the narrative moved me to tears, especially in one particular chapter, where Joe remembers his girlfriend, Kareen, and thinks in increasing desperation that he will no longer be able to hold her:
“Joe dear darling Joe hold me closer. Drop your bag and put both of your arms around me and hold me tightly. Put both of your arms around me. Both of them.”
You in both of my arms Kareen goodbye. Both of my arms. Kareen in my arms. Both of them.
Arms arms arms arms. I’m fainting in and out all the time Kareen and I’m not catching on quick.
You are in my arms Kareen. You in both of my arms. Both of my arms. Both of them. Both
I haven’t got any arms Kareen.
My arms are gone.
Both of my arms are gone Kareen both of them.
Kareen Kareen Kareen.
They’ve cut my arms off both of my arms.
Oh Jesus mother god Kareen they’ve cut off both of them.
Oh Jesus mother god Kareen Karee Kareen my arms.
-Dalton Trumbo’s Johnny Got His Gun
I wanted to write a tribute to this scene, which I often return to. But I also wanted to give my character the happy ending I wish Trumbo’s Joe could have had.
Illustration by Richard Ware; he takes commissions at email@example.com.