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Today's Story by Kenton K. Yee

her eyes drift to where your missing leg would be and snap back to your face. She forces a smile.

Try My Shank

You’ve been one-legged since the lasso trap.  Your personal ad says “Kids: undecided” even though you desperately want two.

When the maître d’ shows you to your blind date’s table, you are pleased with her prominent forehead and symmetric face.   She has potential.

Before you can sit, her eyes drift to where your missing leg would be and snap back to your face.  She forces a smile.

You talk menu.

She likes the braised shank.

You are relieved they have salads.   “I ate barbecue last weekend,” you lie.  “I’m in a tuna salad mood.”

“We don’t do fins or hooves,” the waiter says.  “How about torn hamstring on lettuce topped with blocked arteries?  Or liver simmered in stomach juice?”

“Seahorse salad,” you say and close the menu.  You’ve never had seahorse but you do The Seahorse – a side split by a one-legged dancer – for a living.

“Salad number three,” the waiter says, writing slowly.

She orders the braised shank on garlic spinach.

You sip your wine and give the weather report.  You’re not ready to explain how a fact checker for a weekly tabloid became the warm-up act at Ole Ole six nights a week.  Your specialty is one-legged pole dancing. The tips are fantastic.

“Sooooo, you’re a journalist?” she says.

Uh oh.  She must believe all those lies in your ad.

“I freelance,” you say, spearing a seahorse.  It tastes like black licorice.

“Cool.  My brother consults.”  She cuts a bite of shank and chews.  “How’s your seahorse?”

Reminded of The Seahorse, you twirl the spine of your wine glass.  “Perfect,” you say.  “Try?”

She looks straight through your thick lenses into your eyes.  “I had three dates with a weirdo who wouldn’t admit that he had never eaten human flesh,” she says.  “I hope you’re not one of those.”

You squint.  “I was raised Catholic.  Mom didn’t cook body parts at home.  But I partake now.”

You rummage your brain for suitable conversation.  Ole Ole features midget wrestling, ex-basketball players stripping, and pole dancing.  Your act closes with The Seahorse.  If the crowd is drunk enough, this flourish earns you a shower of coins and bills.  You doubt this would impress.

“Try my shank,” she says.  “The meat is falling off the bone.”

You scrape off a sliver and chew.  To the casual diner, braised shank tastes like the beef pot roast served in high school cafeterias.  But you taste the tang of a single mother who lost her shin when her biker boyfriend sped into a double-parked ice cream truck.  You smile for the first time. “Delicious,” you say.  “I love the dissonance.”

She smiles back.

You notice dimples when she smiles.

She leans forward and spears a seahorse.  “I live for flesh.  My last boyfriend and I tried a new species every weekend.”

You worry that she had a white-bread childhood and would never understand your scars.  When six, you stepped into a lasso trap during a cub scout outing and dangled upside down against an oak tree for two nights before a birdwatcher sighted you in his binoculars.  They amputated your gangrened right leg to save your life.  You refused prosthetics and learned to hop.  In high school, you competed against the best soccer players.  You are as able as any biped.

She doesn’t know any of this.  She saw only that your one leg is thicker than two normal legs.

You clear your throat and lean forward only to hear your voice squeak.  “You up for some something-something next Saturday?”

She reaches for her glass and crinkles the prominent forehead.  Maybe she sees you as a bouncing pogo stick.  Maybe she doesn’t want to dance the yoyo at her wedding.  Maybe she didn’t hear you.

“Oh, I won’t embarrass you,” you say.  “Let me walk you home tonight.”

“Oh no,” she says.  “I wasn’t worried about that!  Not at all.  I’m a physical therapist.  And my brother had his leg blown off in Iraq too.”

Now you worry.  A physical therapist that eats amputated shanks might like your nub a tad too much.  But seahorses have limited opportunities.  So you lean back and point your thick leg between hers.

She doesn’t scream.

“Well, then,” you say, “ever had a Bloody Mary of your own blood?  I know a place.”

And you know that place.  It’s Ole Ole.


Kenton K. Yee has placed poetry and fiction in The Los Angeles Review, Hobart, PANK, Word Riot, elimae, Mud Luscious, Monkeybicycle, Every Day Fiction, Every Day Poets, Brain Harvest, Bartleby Snopes, Apollo’s Lyre, Liquid Imaginations, and Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader, among others. A theoretical physicist working in finance, he is studying in Stanford’s Online Novel Certificate program. He’s working on a hardboiled detective novel involving space travel and cockroaches, and that I eat a scary amount of raw fish.   Tonight’s story, Try My Shank first appeared in PANK Magazine (May 2012).


This piece was read as part of a production of “Action Fiction!”, sponsored by Fiction365 and Omnibucket.   

Read more stories from Action Fiction! productions.


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