A Woman with No Arms
A.A. Balaskovits

There is a woman in my orchard. My first thought is to load my rifle and shoot her for trespassing, but I notice she has stumps where she should have elbows and hands. Poor thing must have birthed weird, or been hurt before, and there is nothing my gun could to do her that hasn't already been done, except end it, which might be a kindness.

She stares at my lemons for hours, and I understand her obsession. I've won awards all across the county for their plumpness, their shade and their sour bite. No one grows them better than I do because no one knows my secret: my wife and daughter shit into a bowl under the sink, and I save it until there is enough to spread with fish heads and mulch. There's love in the process, and no one has yet been able to replicate it, because they haven't got women who can discharge like I do.

When night falls, and she makes no attempt to leave, I go to her and tell her I'll pick a lemon for her if she wants, free of charge, beautiful and bright and yellow. I pluck a fat one and hold it up to her mouth, but she only looks at me like I have offended, bares her teeth and walks away.

That, I think, is the end of the armless woman.

But she is there the next day, staring at the same tree, her mouth open like split fruit, tongue protruding from her lips. I go out to her and offer her another lemon, but she responds as she did the day before, and leaves.

My daughter, curious and eight, tells me that the woman reminds her of what sorrow must look like, and that should be her name. I tell her that's a rude thing to call a person, and she makes to argue with me, but instead she grabs her belly and runs to the bathroom. Save every bit, I tell her, your output hasn't been great lately.

When the armless woman is there in the morning, I tell her she better leave, after all she is on my property, and she ought to take what is kindly offered and be on her way. If she liked what she tasted she could buy her own in the market, only the first is freely offered. She looks at me like I am some unfathomable, rotten thing.

Smiling stretches her neck, and it continues to lengthen far beyond what a human neck should, the skin moving and expanding but not tearing, lifting her head up towards my lemons. Her neck is as long as what is left of her arms, those odd stumps, and she stops her growing once her lips touch the skin of my lemon, and she bites into it with a little growl and rips it from the branch. She squeezes it between her teeth and sucks. Some lemon-wet dribbles down her chin, but her eyes are all daring. She spits the rind at my feet when she finishes, nothing left but yellow skin and bites.

A.A. Balaskovits has work in or coming from Booth, Gargoyle, The Madison Review and others.

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