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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
An otherwise beautiful young woman was born with a withered arm.
Circumstances now force her to make a decision whether to amputate or not.

Submitted: October 10, 2016

A A A | A A A

Submitted: October 10, 2016




A Short Story in Two Chapters

Nicholas Cochra

Chapter One


“Do you want the surgeon to remove your left arm or not; that’s the only question now, Mary; plain and simple?”

“Oh, Jack, do we have to talk about that now?”

“Yes we do, MM.  And again; I really think you should see some other attorney—or attorneys.”

“Well, you’re the only one I trust, Jack. I think you’ll do wonders for me.”

“But MM, how the hell can I do wonders if I”ve never had aninjury case before?  "Yours is the first one, I reall . . .”

Mary, smiling, “Oh, that’s okay Jack; it’s pretty open and shut. Some new business for you. “You can cut your teeth on this one,” producing her unique laugh that had served her well over her twenty-eight years,” I’m serious, Jack. "You always seem to come up with some great ideas, and I’m just positive that you’ll come up with at least one in my case.”

Jack Koch lowered his eyes and gently laughed along with her.

“Ah, Mary, you do me too much honor, I fear.”


Mary Morrison was a tall woman of sophisticated beauty.

She was attractively slim and wore her height in an elegant fashion. Her wide-set deep brown eyes appeared to dance with each other when she smiled; or laughed. Her mouth was perhaps a touch small but this was rarely noticeable because Mary was constantly smiling, laughing, and, on occasion, giggling.

It was very difficult to remain dour whenever Mary was around.

Mary was possessed of a superlative intellect and had developed a rollicking sense of humor. 

She worked in the county’s Public Defender Office where all the other PDs appreciated her quasi mother-hen attribute. Lost causes and lost cases were not rare in the PD office and thus Mary, by necessity, was continually up and comforting with both words and assistance.

As Public Defenders, Mary Morrison—MM, as most called her—and Jack Koch had shared the same office-room of a converted house.

They had exchanged many laughs, many tin cups of Daviess County, and a few sad moments when a death of one of their clients or witnesses lay heavy on their hearts, especially the murder of Rick Ragsdale—Rags.

Today, she was enjoying her meeting with Jack and almost asked him if he had a bottle of Daviess County in his bottom drawer.

She had not seen him for at least a couple of months.

Jack had left for private practice after a few years of days, nights, and most weekends as a P.D. in the county. He and two ex-DAs opened a couple of offices at opposite ends of the county where private referrals, along with an overwhelming number of court appointments, rapidly swamped them.


From birth, Mary Morrison bore the curse of a withered and unsightly left arm. Most thought that Thalidomide had done the damage. However, the true etiology of her bane was unknown.

Beginning at an early age, Mary and her mother devised various means of concealing this ill fortune, if only to diminish the ridicule heaped upon Mary for not being like all the other kids.

Very wisely, her parents dug deep or borrowed the funds to sign up Mary at the premier girls’ school in the city beginning in grade seven.

From that relieving beginning, Mary had blossomed.

The other girls felt that they too had some personal or mental handicap—even a physical awkwardness—that they kept hidden from the other girls.  These conditions served to afford Mary the quiet and stability in which to grow and improve.

As a result of removing the disproportionate amount of time spent in tears, despair, and torment, Mary quickly reached the top of her class, even in most things athletic, despite her obvious physical disadvantage.

In college as well as through law school, Mary covered her arm with a variety of tasteful and elegant scarves.


Mary Morrison’s injury case arose when a hardware delivery truck broadsided her in an intersection where she had the green light.

Fortunately, her seatbelt saved her life but she had three broken ribs and a broken collarbone, as well as several cuts and one large bruise.

Her withered left arm was not broken but the muscles and tendons had severely stretched. 

Veins that had previously been only somewhat noticeable now extended the length of her arm in a violent red spider’s web pattern. In addition, the only continuing pain that Mary now endured resided solely in her unsightly arm.


“Okay MM,” Jack sighed appreciatively, “tell you what I’ll do. If you want to have your arm removed, I’ll get Dr. Lionel Johnson to interview and examine you before your surgery; and then I’ll have him document all your emotions and reactions after you have the arm amputated.

"As you already know from so many of your cases, he’s the best psychiatrist around—by far.  I realize that he does about ninety percent of his evaluations in criminal cases, but he is widely known—as well as highly respected throughout the Bay Area. I’m convinced that his opinion would be extremely significant in your civil case as well.”

Mary and Jack sat in Jack’s modest office in yet another converted house, a fact that Mary had found both odd and encouraging.

The conversion revealed great skill, to the extent that one would never have guessed that the building had originally been a happy—or not so happy—home. The paneling in Jack’s office, for example, consisted of superior woods. Everywhere in the building were signs of an accomplished artisan.

The large window of Jack’s office looked out upon the comforting scene of huge blooming sunflowers and a hundred year-old apple tree in the fruition phase. Beyond the flora, stretched a soothing stretch of beach along the Pacific Ocean.

Despite the rural aspect of the building’s situation, Jack’s office sat only two blocks from the main courthouse and one block from the PD’s office.

He continued to visit the latter, where he enjoyed a PD Happy Hour that began shortly after noon. There, he could hear the latest on the PD front, as well as share notes on particular DAs, judges, and expert witnesses, who peopled the community of criminal law practice.

“Well, Jack, if I do decide to lose the arm, I’ll tell you right away—and I think the Lionel Johnson idea is just terrific.  See, I told you you’d come up with a great idea,” and she laughed her patented laughter while her eyes danced and her teeth glistened.


Three days later, Mary reached Jack on his cell phone and told him that she had decided to go ahead and have her left arm amputated.

Jack was very pleased that MM had made a decision, but there was no joy in her news. A nagging feeling of doubt bothered him.

Clearly, the removal of an arm would bump up the damages value of her case. However, Jack was constantly nagged by the agonizing thought that removing her arm would be a catastrophe for MM; an insupportable shock to her mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Okay, MM, I’ll call Lionel right away and set up a meeting with him where I can lay out our requests as well as our expectations,” pausing, “however, I don’t think you should attend that meeting, MM. It could severely muddy the waters—and I might end up having to become a witness. And that would be a hell of a mess. So, I’ll meet with Lionel and he can contact you to set up an appointment, okay?”

“Great, Jack, I’ll give it all my thoughts until he interviews me. So, good idea again, Jack; see I told you so.” She laughed once again over her prediction while she disconnected.

Jack immediately called Dr. Johnson. They had a long talk reviewing several of Jack’s criminal cases that Lionel was working on.

As the final case for discussion, Jack told Doctor Johnson aboutMary Morrison’s civil lawsuit. Jack explained in detail all the facts of about Mary’s case, with his greatest emphasis falling on the fact of her damaged arm and her recent desire to have it amputated.

Dr. Johnson was intrigued.  “Yes, Jack. It seems that this factor could be very powerful in her request for damages. You have the total loss of a limb—and of course, heavens, all kinds of things she won’t be able to do; the loss of enjoyment of life—even all the horrors of phantom limb syndrome. Yes, Jack; very interesting indeed.”

Jack considered Lionel’s remarks before speaking. “Losing a limb has to be traumatic. "Then all the explanations to everyone,” shaking his head, “the embarrassment; Jesus; what a terrible prospect,” pausing, “well, I thought you would be interested, Doctor.”

“I certainly am Counselor.  How do you want to handle this?”

Jack sighed with an unlabeled relief, “Well, all right. That’s good, Doctor. I’ll give you Mary’s number—or you can get her at the PD Office and just arrange a time when you two can meet and go over everything.  And please prepare a report for me. Doesn’t have to be public yet,” reflecting, “I tell you what Lionel; maybe just send me a copy of your notes. That way there’s no report and we don’t have to tip our hand just yet; at least not until we get to the point where the other side wants to take your deposition—if we can’t settle the case before that time.”

“Excellent Counselor; always a pleasure. I’ll be in touch.”


Dr. Johnson met with Mary, where he asked her all the deep—and sometimes disturbing questions—about losing her arm.

The substance of the report was extremely depressing as well as very discouraging for Mary. 

Even though Dr. Johnson’s findings were, as expected, excellent ammunition for her lawsuit—particularly the mental aspects and its corollary: a tremendous loss of enjoyment of life until her death, there was now an invisible shroud of malignancy hanging over the whole matter.


End of Chapter One

© Copyright 2018 Nicholas Cochran. All rights reserved.

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