Seamus and the Leg
Eleven-year-old boys have a nasty habit of growing, and Seamus McFiggle was no different. In the past two months he had grown three inches in height and a further two around his waist. His mother, Mrs McFiggle, had grown angry, and then she had grown weak with worry. Finally, she had grown plain sick of the whole growing process when Seamus’ trousers split in three places as he leaned over.
'Seamus! Your good trousers!' she wailed.
'Mum, these are my only trousers,' replied Seamus.
'Never mind that, my boy, just you stop expanding. I would sew these up, but what would be the point if you insist on growing like you do?'
'But I can't help it, Mum. I can't stay 4'9" for ever.'
'Can't or won't?' grumbled Mrs McFiggle, reaching for the flower pot under which she kept her money. She pulled out a couple of notes and handed them to Seamus. 'You buy yourself a new pair of trousers. A pair you can grow into,' she instructed. 'We're not made of money.'
'But Mum, I'll look like a clown,' said Seamus.
'Don't give me that clown routine, my Lad. I'll take up the hem and you can wear your late Father's braces. Now, run along or so help me I'll turn your face white and give you a red nose myself! Clown indeed!'
Seamus made for McTochty's Department Store in the High Street. Like the majority of shops in Newton Drookit, it sold cheap clothing, but not so cheap that they smelled of either mothballs or meatballs. It was the closest the people of Seamus’ hometown came to luxury – and it housed the best café in town.
By the brown water fountain at the end of the street stood a small table with a well turned-out man behind it. He raised his hat to Seamus and pointed to a sign reading 'Lend a hand! Please give generously for those who have lost limbs'.
'Good morning,’ he said. ‘Spare a coin or note for our charity, young man?'
Seamus fished in his pocket. He only had the two notes his mother had given him. The man was very persuasive though and was already showing him pictures of those less fortunate.
'Here’s the young gold prospector Finnegan Flack. Lost his right arm in a freak bear attack.’
‘A bear attack where?’ asked Seamus.
‘Right down the road in Inverminging,’ said the man.
‘But there aren’t any bears in Inverminging, are there?’
‘That’s why it was a freak attack.’
‘But, here,' continued the man. 'Here is kindly old Mrs McClack, with no arms and no legs and no head, front or back.'
Kind Seamus felt sorrow well in his stomach, even though the photograph appeared to be of nobody at all. Choking back tears, he handed over a note to the man.
'Here,' he said. 'There are people who need this more than me. I'm sure I can find trousers somewhere other than McTochty's. There may be a pair in Jock's Flea Market I can get into.'
‘My dear boy,’ said the man. ‘There are few nowadays so kind as to put others before himself. Bless you.’
Despite the man’s gratitude, Seamus felt empty as he walked past McTochty’s and, through the window, saw his rich classmate Bill Shingles parading in front of a mirror in a pair of flash, figure-hugging brown cords. Further down the street he saw Jeannie Piecemeal walking hand in hand with her mother, sucking an ice-lolly. Seamus was not jealous of the sticky treat but of her brand-new, bottle green dungarees that seemed to shine in the midday sun and he wished he’d just ignored the man and kept both notes.
When he reached the alleyway that led to Jock’s Flea Market he spotted something strange propped up against the wall. It appeared to be a false leg wearing half a tweed suit, a single Argyle-pattern sock and a solitary polished brogue. Seamus picked up the leg and inspected it. Someone has lost this, he thought. I can do another good deed today and find its owner. It shouldn’t take me long and I’ll still have time to buy my trousers.
Seamus took the leg to Hooligan Street where old Mr Gibb lived. Seamus knew that Mr Gibb had lost one of his legs during the war and now used a false one. Apparently he went to sleep one night in an Anderson shelter and, when he woke the next morning, one limb had vanished.
Seamus rang the front door and Mrs Gibb answered.
‘Good morning?’ she asked.
‘Can I come in, Mrs Gibb?’ asked Seamus. ‘I think Mr Gibb may have left something in town.’
‘Good morning,’ replied Mrs Gibb and pointed to the back room.
‘Seamus, my lad,’ said Mr Gibb. ‘How are tricks?’ Seamus noticed that one of his legs was missing. This was easy. Mr Gibb was sure to reward him.
‘I’m fine, Mr Gibb. But I think I have found something of yours.’
‘My bus pass?’
‘No, your leg.’
‘But it’s under my chair, look.’ And Mr Gibb pulled his false leg out and waved it at Seamus.
‘Bother,’ said Seamus. ‘Then whose is this?’
‘No idea, lad, but it isn’t mine. Look, that’s a left leg, the toes all point to the right. It was my right leg that I lost.’
‘Sorry to bother you, Mr Gibb.’
‘It’s no trouble at all, lad. Why not try Mrs Featherblatt? She has a false left leg.’
‘Thanks, I will.’ Seamus picked up the leg and ran for the door. ‘Goodbye, Mr Gibb. Goodbye, Mrs Gibb.’
Mrs Gibb waved after him as he ran down the street. ‘Good morning!’
Seamus knew that Mrs Featherblatt always went to the art gallery on a Thursday evening so he tried in there. Sure enough, she was sat on a small bench staring at a large portrait of Queen Agnes. Only the Queen was in a tent, so the portrait was really of just that – a large tent.
Mrs Featherblatt smiled and gestured towards the wall. ‘My favourite canvas,’ she said. Seamus noticed that her left leg was missing.
‘Aha,’ said Seamus. ‘Mrs Featherblatt, I think I have something of yours.’
‘My library card?’
‘No, your leg.’
‘Well, what are you doing with that? I left it in the cloakroom, didn’t I? I get in half-price with only one leg. Go put it back.’
‘But somehow it got outside.’
‘Got outside? Got outside? How did it do that, my boy? Did it walk?’
‘I don’t know, but look, it’s right here in my hand.’
Mrs Featherblatt took one look at the leg in Seamus’ hand and screamed. ‘How dare you, boy? How dare you suggest that that leg belongs to me? It isn’t even a woman’s leg. Look at the hairy ankle! Look at the shoe!’
‘To think you’d pair that leg up with me, boy. I’ve never been so offended in my life.’
‘I was just trying to do a good turn.’
‘Then do one and leave me alone.’
Seamus decided the leg was nothing but trouble and he would be best to take it back to Jock’s Flea Market, leave it there and buy the trousers his mother had sent him out for. Just before he arrived back at the alleyway, he met the man he had met earlier who ran the charity stall. When the man saw Seamus he smiled broadly and waved.
‘If it isn’t my number one donor,’ said the man. ‘Tell me, did you manage to purchase your trousers?’
‘No,’ replied Seamus. ‘I’ve been trying to find out who this belongs to.’ He held out the leg for the man to see.
‘But that’s Oleg Odnanoga,’ said the man. ‘What are you doing with him in your hands? Put him down this minute, show him some respect!’ Gently, Seamus put the leg down on the ground. It began to hop angrily on the spot. ‘He’s hopping mad with you,’ said the man. ‘Can’t say I blame him.’
‘I didn’t know,’ said Seamus. ‘I honestly thought he was a lost limb. It’s not as if he can tell me otherwise.’
‘Of course he can,’ said the man. ‘You’re just not listening. See, you’ve heard of having a foot in your mouth? Well, Oleg has a mouth in his foot.’
‘Oh,’ said Seamus and he pressed his ear down to the ground. Sure enough, there were sounds coming from inside Oleg’s shoe but he couldn’t understand them.
‘Odd brogue, isn’t it?’ said the man.
‘Yes,’ said Seamus. ‘Is it Russian?’
‘I think it’s from McTochty’s.’
‘No. I meant his language, not the shoe. Is it Russian?’
‘Ah, yes, I rather think it is. Anyway, give me a second, I’ll explain the misunderstanding to our mutual friend here.’
Seamus was left pondering while the man got down on the ground and spoke gobbledygook to the wrong end of Oleg. He looked up at the clock tower. Jock’s Flea Market would be closing its manky doors in five minutes. No such thing as late night shopping at Jock’s. The man kept nodding; he had a look of sheer understanding on his face. Seamus couldn’t tell much from looking at Oleg. He looked the same as he always had. The man got to his feet and gave the thumbs up signal to Seamus.
‘Oleg has accepted your apology,’ said the man. ‘More than that, he is thrilled that you tried so hard to pair him up to some of Newton Drookit’s unfortunates.’ The man placed his hand inside Oleg’s single pocket and took out a small, golden scrap of paper. ‘Here,’ he said. ‘Oleg wants you to have this voucher. He says he can’t use it himself as they only do clothing in pairs. But he has been saving it for a kind soul such as yourself.’
Seamus unfolded the voucher. It read: This voucher entitles the bearer to exchange goods up to the value of ten notes. It is redeemable within any department of McTochty’s.
‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘I know just what to do with this. Come on! Follow me! McTochty’s does more than just clothes!’
Thirty minutes later, Seamus, the man and Oleg sat at a table in McTochty’s café. Seamus instructed the waiter to keep food coming until they’d used up the full value of the voucher. They were to have salmon sandwiches, cream cakes, chocolate fancies and gallons of fizzy pop. Oleg salivated and licked his toes while Seamus tested out the elasticated waistline of his new luxury trousers with his thumb and forefinger.
‘These should last me for years. If I don’t eat too much this evening that is!’