‘Trumpets’ by Jeanette Sheppard
My arms weren’t supposed to be trumpets. I’d wanted my arms to be flab free, to be more finely tuned. There was an option underneath the ad that I didn’t see. One slip of the mouse click was all it took: ‘Trumpet Arms — Free Painless Connection’. Declan laughed at first, of course — who wouldn’t? I would. And I did. We both did. Declan said it was typical of me — why couldn’t my arms turn into an instrument that could bend? Something like an accordion. He said not only had I ended up with trumpets for arms, I couldn’t even learn to play a tune on them because the horn was joined to my shoulder. I pointed out that even if it was the other way around a tune would be impossible. We were still laughing as we rang the Returns Department.
I’ve had my arms for a week now — I didn’t read the small print: ‘No Returns’. I haven’t been out — I told work I have chicken pox. My new arms have made me more childish, it seems.
Declan feeds me, washes and dresses me, helps me in the bathroom, pulls the duvet over me. He says he doesn’t mind any of it. I say we should get some help in. He says he doesn’t want that, not yet at least. I know he’s embarrassed. He doesn’t want people to know he has a girl with trumpets for arms.
Night-times in bed are the worst — feeling the cold brass against my sides when I roll over or when, in my sleep, I reach out for Declan and his ‘ouch’ wakes me.
Now I sleep in the campervan for the time being, despite Declan’s protests. At night, I can still feel the brass chill my sides, but when I reach out there isn’t an ‘ouch’ anymore. The first night I worried about how I would get out if the van broke into flames until I realised that although I couldn’t bend my trumpets I could push up the lock and push down the handle. Declan leaves the hatch in the roof open so I can see the stars. He lies with me for a while; he can see the stars but he isn’t watching them.
He’s back at work now, so between us we’ve sorted a routine for me. After he’s helped me out of bed and in the bathroom, and after he’s helped me to dress, he leaves soup in a two handled beaker — I can hook my trumpet arms through these, let them rest against the swirl of the instrument, and hold the beaker to my mouth. His first idea was to attach knives and forks with rubber bands, until I pointed out I wouldn’t be able to do anything else with those on the end of my arms. I have worked out ways to do most things when Declan isn’t here.
This morning, as he left for work, I saw him glance at my brass arms and swallow a sigh. As he shut the door I could hear music somewhere. When I was sure he’d gone I pushed up the door lock, pushed down the handle and followed the sound of the trumpets.
Copyright © Jeanette Sheppard, 2015
One of Jeanette’s flash fictions is due to be published online by Litro Magazine this summer (2015) as a #FridayFlash. This flash was also long-listed for the inaugural Bare Fiction Flash Fiction Prize. In 2014 one of her flashes appeared in The National Flash Fiction Day (NFFD) anthology and was also shortlisted for The Fish Flash Fiction Prize. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and her home is in the Midlands. She is working towards a collection of flash fiction. She can be found on twitter @InkLinked.
Banner image copyright © Jo Mazelis, 2015