Sketch from a work in progress
People with a Mortensen leg prosthesis often speak of finding the sweet spot. When you’re walking in the sweet spot it feels so natural that no one would ever guess you’re not a hundred percent USDA flesh and bone. Dr. David Cornelius learned that the sweet spot was in truth highly dependent upon a number of variables, including: 1) velocity, of course; 2) the surface of ambulation (i.e., parking lot, field, beach); 3) the gradient of the surface, a slight upwards slope being for some reason the easiest; and; 4) the condition of the stump. If his stump had gotten inflamed after a long shift in the emergency room, he might need to struggle to hit the sweet spot, catching it on the rebound only as he tried this and that, which was the case this August morning, the air already baking oven hot as he left the ED and cut across a grassy courtyard that was hemmed in on three sides by very old buildings and still deep in morning shadow. There was also an attitude factor that was hard to pin down. A general sense of well-being and the finding of the sweet spot clearly went hand in hand. But, what was cause and what was effect? It was like trying to hold water in your hands or hang on to dreams.
Whether it was the concentration on walking or the sudden descent from harsh light into shadow or the blindness of his left eye or a combination of factors, he failed to appreciate the height or simply did not see the limb of a Crimson King maple tree that long ago was either planted in the middle of the courtyard or had been there as a sapling when the building was built and that jutted out on a nearly horizontal plane about six feet above the ground. In any case, it caught the top of his head like an eight-inch diameter club of unyielding hardwood with a rough surface traveling at approximately three miles an hour. The world erupted in sparkles then turned a sickening shade of white. He dropped his briefcase and the next thing he knew the hard packed ground was pressing against this back while a hazy blue morning sky filtered down through the leaves with a roaring noise.
The leaves were motionless, utterly static in the still air. Their undersides were pale and obscenely veined. High in the tree a few of them swayed on their little stems ever so slightly, pathetically. Then he smelled dry grass and parched dirt and became aware of the sound of traffic beyond the buildings.
Reaching up, his fingers came away bloody. It was only an abrasion, but it burned and wanted to bleed. After an intense wave of self-loathing passed, he rose to his feet, brushed off his clothes and picked up his briefcase. Handkerchief pressed to the wound, he limped toward a set of deeply worn granite steps on the other side of the courtyard.