by Kyle Hemmings


They made love with an eerie silence. Greta and Munch. It was in the bedroom of his deceased younger brother, Theo, now a ghost whom Greta imagined wandering through his head. She wondered if the walls could breathe whenever they reached inside the other for something lost or unclaimed. Maybe the act itself could bring Theo or even a part of Munch himself, back to life.

Straddled over him, Greta stared down at Munch’s artificial arm. With eyes closed, his face was turned towards Theo’s old, beaten teddy bears. Their hollow eyes fixated on darkness. Greta stroked the arm. It excited her, this variation of plastic and need.

Carefully, she dislodged the arm. Was Munch dreaming of saving Theo from a hit and run? Or re-visioning the battlefield with its knotty lines of barbed wire and down burning suns, his good arm exploding into the air, landing as a lifeless thing of shorn matter.

She placed the artificial limb in a shopping bag, the one she held on for dear life during lovemaking, the rockets of libido overcoming despair, then changing once again into something inorganic and disconnected. She took a cab to her apartment which was small, tilted, giving the impression of shrinking, always seeming to paralyze complete movement. She kept a collection of artificial arms from the war veterans she dated and loved through new heights. Their plastic arms were the essence of strength, something unyielding in the battlegrounds of love and war.

Her father wanted to be strong, unyielding, but he hung himself from a surplus of sadness. He wasn’t much of a man, she thought, a fake of a father, but she loved him for all his scars. The ones she inherited, that grew inside her.

She never gave anyone her exact address. But over the weeks, there was talk and perhaps Munch asked questions and ran into her ex’s. Perhaps they found a way to track her down or hired a man with good eyes and sensitive ears. A despairing man with a small tense mouth.

And one rainy night, a coterie of such men, including Munch, gathered below her second story window and demanded she give them back their arms. Under umbrellas they seemed small and vulnerable, even pathetic. She opened the window but refused to let them in.

“Give us back what is ours,” they said.

“It was our strongest part,” they said.

At the window, with arms folded, Greta pouted. Always that little girl who took someone’s pet. With a gang of them out there now, it was no use. She couldn’t escape.

She threw bags of artificial limbs out the window. She thought it funny the way the men scrambled and fought over their limbs. They argued and accused each other of taking their parts. The imbroglio caused the neighbors to call the police. In the confusion, Greta fled with a sack of other artificial arms from her best lovers. Running towards the metro station, she remembered how she woke up with her hand over Munch’s artificial one. His was warm, but the throbbing was her own.

It was late and she waited for the last train to take her somewhere, anywhere. She turned suddenly at the blast of Munch’s voice. In the sooty mist of the station, he was alone and distant. She kept squinting. An oncoming train, switching tracks, grated closer.

“You can’t have what is mine now,” she said.

“We can share,” he said. It sounded so hokey. Like love.

“I could never share everything,” she said. Their shadows crisscrossed.

She jumped onto the tracks, the arms spilling into the tiny muddied pools of water. A stupid thing for her to do, she knew. She hit her head and a section of her spine on something hard. She couldn’t move her legs. A part of her felt numb, innocent.

The train whined closer.

She looked up at Munch and raised a hand to him.

A pain radiated through her bones as he studied her from above. He crouched down at the edge of the platform. The sound of the train roared louder. Perhaps, Greta thought, he was trying to calculate if there’d be enough time to jump down and rescue her. After all, he had told her stories about rescuing soldiers, even if most had died later from missing parts.

From a few yards away, the sound of the train’s screeching brakes filled everything.

He reached out his hand.




Kyle Hemmings is a retired health care worker. His latest collections of poetry/prose are  Scream from Scars publications and Split Brain on Amazon Kindle. He loves 50s Sci-Fi movies,  manga comics, and pre-punk garage bands of the 60s.