Kit is a hero. He's lost limbs in the line of service. When he takes his clothes off Rose can see where he ends and his prostheses begin. In bed Rose traces her fingers along the seams. They are faint but Rose can tell the difference. The temperature, the give of the skin. She pushes against Kit's belly, springy and warm. Rose traces her fingers to his calf. She squeezes. When Kit walks, no difference. When he kicks a ball, no difference. When he laces up his boots or takes Rose dancing.
Rose listens for the mail each day. It's not that she doesn't have a life. She goes to Pilates and hot yoga. She is on a softball team. She works part-time for a nonprofit doing computer stuff. She savors her time alone. She thinks in silence. She listens to the radio and catches up on housework, though Kit is a powerhouse and never lets her do more than her share. Like I said, he's a hero. God he's her man.
One day Kit comes home from work in pain. Rose asks what's wrong. Kit lifts his leg onto a chair and pulls back his pants. Rose takes his leg in her lap and massages. What's wrong with it?
It hurts, Kit says. It shouldn't hurt. It shouldn't ever hurt.
It's all in your head, Rose says. Your brain thinks it's still there.
It has every right, says Kit. Rose kneads the false shank.
Rose walks to her hot yoga class. It's sunny out. She smells the beach on the breeze. People stroll past and Rose spots their fake parts. The woman with the poodle across the street is obvious, Rose thinks, old and tan and too buxom. Fake teeth don't fit. People tongue them, press their lips together, smile toothlessly like muppets. Nearer the beach false skin is pale, suspect.
Rose enters the yoga studio and puts on stretch clothes. Rose watches the other women in the changing room. She wonders about their tan lines. One woman has a distinct mid-thigh tan line. A cyclist or a double amputee. A lover would know the instant he pulled off her jeans and underwear and grabbed her thighs. There would be a split second of realization and misgiving. The woman yanks on knickers. Rose looks away.
In her wad of clothes in the changing room Rose's cell phone vibrates. It's the department. Kit's in surgery. He's been hit in the shoulder. He's been awarded a medal. Rose doesn't get the message until she is back home. She grabs her keys to rush out again, but then she hears the front door open. Kit walks in. They embrace. Rose feels the new part. She lets go and steps back. Kit's pale and shaken. Rose doesn't say anything. They hug again. Kit sways a little as he holds her. The swaying is a nonverbal lullaby. He wants to go to bed.
Fresh sutures rise against the skin. In bed Rose asks Kit about pain. I'm full of drugs, he says, there is no pain. Rose and Kit make love but Rose is constantly aware of Kit's prosthetic limb. When it grabs her, it's like someone else in the room is grabbing her leg, her hip, squeezing her breast or running fingers through her hair.
Rose stays in bed until she hears the mailman's footsteps on the driveway. She goes downstairs. The last piece of mail catches her eye. A check from the insurance company. Kit's premium had been prorated. The check represents the percentage of his body no longer requiring coverage, the percentage of his body now under warranty.
Kit and Rose attend a police banquet. The department and their wives and children mill around. The adults sip champagne. Kit wears all three of his medals. Other policemen wear their medals. A couple of young-looking officers have no medals. With a shock, Rose realizes that one very old officer standing at the bar has a prosthetic head. The man glances at her. His gaze is icy. The man sports seven medals. Rose tries to guess what other parts of him are false. Rose looks at the man's wife. The man with the prosthetic head turns to her and whispers something. The woman tips back her flute of champagne.
At two in the morning Rose awakes. Kit is shaking in bed and gesticulating wildly with his prosthetic arm. Rose nudges him awake. It feels like my arm is being slashed by a thousand razors, Kit says. Can I get you something? Rose offers. She climbs out of bed. Kit begins to sob because the pain is so bad. Look in the left-hand drawer, the underwear drawer, he says. Rose tosses wads of underwear aside. There is a bottle at the bottom. Rose takes it out. Those, Kit says. She hands the bottle to Kit. He swallows five.
Rose opens her eyes to the sound of running water. Kit comes out of the bathroom. Do my muscles look uneven to you? he asks. Rose sits up in bed. Kit flexes. His real and fake arms move identically. I can't tell the difference, says Rose. Kit goes back into the bathroom. Ten minutes later he comes out dressed and leaves for work. Rose gets up, makes coffee, stretches, and opens the back door to the courtyard. She sits down at her computer to do some work. She phones in her hours, but gets distracted by a story on the internet about a crocodile that was killed in Australia. The locals slit its belly and found human body parts inside. In the photo a woman holds an arm.
The mail slot squeaks open and slams shut. A pile of mail hits the floor. Rose gets up from the kitchen table to thumb through it. A card from her sister, sending her condolences: At least his You-Know-What still works! A bill. Three credit card offers. The final piece of mail poses the question: Have You Ever Considered Adoption? Rose tears the thick envelope in half and tosses it in the trash.
That night she jumps Kit. When he reaches for a condom, she grabs his hand. Are you sure? he asks. Yes, she says. Rose puts Kit's penis inside her and that's that.
Rose fakes sleep until Kit leaves for work, then jumps out of bed and slams the bathroom door behind her. She pees on a stick. Then she drives to the gas station to buy another test. She's in line when the television on the wall reports a calamity in progress. The police are busting up a drug warehouse. A shootout is taking place. The drug gang has lots of guns. They warn the police not to be heroes. Hello? says the cashier. Rose puts the pregnancy test on the counter and the boy rings it up. Rose gets in her car and drives to the police station. A young officer tells her to phone the hospital. It takes twenty minutes for Rose to get through. The hospital doesn't know who they have yet, but they have a lot of cops. They are mostly in intensive care but some are dead.
Rose arrives home exhausted the next day. She drops her purse on the couch, hides the pregnancy test behind the toilet and collapses on her bed. She dreams of babies maturing in fast-forward. Diploid cells cleaving to little blastulas, little gastrulas, somites, somites with notochords, tadpole-things with desperate beating hearts, a recognizable fetus, a noisy baby, a toddler, a child, a pre-teen, a teenager who eats ravenously, a teenager who is moody and won't eat, an adolescent, reticent, a graduation, a diploma, a job, a marriage, a layoff, a divorce. Her eyes snap open. She runs to the bathroom and pees on another stick. She shakes it and sees a blue line. She hears a sound: footsteps coming up the drive. She flushes her pregnancy test, dashes downstairs and waits for the tickle of key inside lock. The mail slot opens and a wad of envelopes spill through. The shadow of the mailman wavers for a moment then recedes.
Rose shoots off an email to her boss about needing an extra couple of days. Her boss responds immediately and with wild sympathy. Rose puts on clothes and drives to the hospital. The nurse has a pile of badges in front of her. She has only just begun to enter the information. Rose sees Kit's name on a badge and stabs a finger at it. That's your husband? asks the nurse. So where is he? Rose asks. If he's in this pile, the nurse says, he's in surgery.
Rose sits in the waiting room. She pulls the day's mail from her purse. A grocery circular. A credit card offer. A bank statement. Another advertisement for adoption. Rose tears it open and peruses it with a practical heart. The last piece of mail is another insurance letter. Her receding man, her decreasing premiums.
Kit can bench press eleven hundred pounds. He no longer wonders about his body symmetry; both appendages come from the same manufacturer. Trying for a baby, Rose requests that he not touch her with either one. It's a weird moment but not too weird. A bigger deal is the sex in general. Rose is vigorous but cursory, which was nice for Kit at first but now confuses him. Kit finishes and Rose rushes to the bathroom to brush her teeth. She comes out of the bathroom and turns out the lights. She collapses on bed and lies there breathing. Her breathing slows but Kit senses she is still awake. He sits in the dark for a long time then lies down. Later in the night, Rose awakes from a dream in which she's standing over a dead crocodile. Fancy that, her dream self thinks, holding two human arms. She sits up. Kit? she says in the dark. I'm awake, Kit says. I'm going to the store, Rose says. I'll come with you, Kit offers. No, says Rose. You stay here.