Image by Dane VanderLee

Chaaya is everygirl, she wants her arms removed immediately. For when the chief surgeon engineer gives her better-quality arms she will play better, faster, throw the ball higher than the other little girls and make the baseball team when she finds high school in America. Her mother does not approve; she wants a complete daughter with perfect little brown flaws. Says mechanical arms do not age with growing girls.

“But Ji said I will never grow old,” she whines. Chaaya is a perfectgirl, Chaaya is nobody’s burden. The front door is open and she runs towards it, slides sideways onto Siddipet Road where her mother cannot spot her among the one million packed wall to wall walking or carrying a bicycle in every direction. Across the elderly folks’ valley and down by Hickory Creek there is a row of tracks where the old engine runs. She creeps down the concrete wall and splashes through the cold trashed water and sits beside the iron bars, feeling the oil on the planks beneath and wondering why her city has so many old things.

She hears a whistle blowing and lays back and feels the mould and sand shaking beneath her. She passes her arms up to the tracks, closes her eyes and imagines being a gymnast with glowing, platinum arms. The train is coming, slowly but surely. It is meters now, feet now, inches now.

Chaaya remembers her Ji’s favourite bad joke. “I always knew when an old engine came through.”

Chaaya pulled his stomach hair; she had heard the joke many times and did not want him to finish.

“You can see its tracks,” he said. Laughing. Mother smiles. Chaaya is empty. A feeling in her right elbow and her left wrist. Both come off easily and she does not feel the pain. When she awakes there are wooden stumps where her hands should be. Not beautiful sparkling platinum. The rest of her flesh is bruised and black. Her mother is crying, and her Ji has been dead forever.

And when Chaaya is told she cannot go to America because she is not complete, she laughs. One step closer to the beginning of the dream, she thinks. Good arms, good arms.


Garrett Ashley lives in MS and studies English at Southern. His interests are of the moment rather vague but he has been published in over twenty print and online journals including Brain Harvest, Midwest Literary Magazine, Bloody Bridge Review and M-Brane SF.

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