Fall 2009, Volume 7

Fiction by Dan Corfield

The Man with the Wooden Leg

According to my therapist, it’s just an excuse. The real issue lies much deeper. “Everybody has some sort of handicap,” she says. “Yours just happens to be a wooden leg.”

Easy for her to say. She’s gorgeous, has huge breasts, as well as both her legs. No doubt when she goes out at night people want her.

“The least you could do is get a new one,” she says.

No thank you. Plastic, carbon-fiber, whatever, a fake leg is a fake leg. It wouldn’t make a difference. Besides, this is what they gave me. 

“They’d put a shoe on it for you,” she says. “Nike, Reebok, whatever you’d like”

“Look,” I tell her. “A woman meets a man without a leg and that’s all he’ll ever be, a man without a leg. No one wants that.

“Oh yea,” she says. And now I know she’s serious. She’s set down her notebook and is heading for the door. And now we’re walking out.

Apparently she’s taking me to The Coral Tree Café, which sits across the street from this office. Here, we’ll practice “exposure therapy.” This is where I face my fears, exposing myself to the situations I just as soon avoid.  It’s her favorite type of therapy. The idea is for me to hobble up to the first decent looking woman I see and start a conversation. After that, well, I don’t know. She tells me all of this as we go down the elevator.

A lime-colored building, an old house, really, with a patio and maroon awning, The Coral Tree Café sits on a corner in the heart of Brentwood. It’s a favorite of the lunch-time crowd. Sandwiches, salads, gourmet coffee.

We grab a seat next to the door at a reddish oak table paneled with chestnut. It looks sturdy but I know it will eventually rot. Pretty soon I’m looking at all the furniture in the room and comparing each piece to my leg wondering which will last longer. I have to stop myself from dwelling, otherwise I’ll get stuck in self-pity and won’t get up and do what I’m suppose to do, which is walk over to that dark haired woman sitting by the window, the one staring into her laptop, the one with big brown eyes.

“Now?” I ask.

“Yes, now,” my therapist says, nodding her head.


“No buts,” she says.

“My leg?” I say.

As I limp across the room, the rubber knob—which I like to call my foot—squishes and squeaks as if I’m Kobe Bryant running up and down the Staples Center floor. And yet I keep on walking. “It’s just a wooden leg, it’s just a wooden leg, it’s just a wooden leg,” I tell myself.  For years I’ve listened to my therapist say this. Week after week, a hundred and fifty bucks a pop. “What do you think; you’re the only person in the world with a wooden leg who has trouble meeting women?” 


“What do you think, some luscious babe is just going to knock on your door one afternoon and say, ‘Hey I always wondered where a guy like you lived?’”

“No, of course not.”

“Then stop with the excuses!”

So here I am. 

The woman looks up and I can see confusion on her face. She’s probably wondering why a guy with a wooden leg is standing before her. And why he’s wearing shorts. I have to say something.

“Well hello,” I say. And then I ask her what she’s doing.

“Oh, just working on a paper for school,” she says, glancing at her computer. She’s younger than I had thought.

“So, you go to school,” I say.

“Yes,” she says, smiling.

Perhaps this will go better than I had anticipated. She hasn’t told me to get lost. She doesn’t stare at my leg. She seems open, pleasant. But now there is a pause. “So, what are you studying?” I ask.

At the same time I feel my therapist’s eyes from across the room. She’s rooting for me, hoping for the best. I know the only reason I’m here is because she’s there. I want her to be proud of me, so I go ahead and talk. “UCLA, uh-huh, oh that’s nice, a B, well, that’s not so bad. Oh, psychology, that’s interesting. I know a thing or two about psychology.” We talk a little more and she asks me to sit down. This is when I notice a thin dark growth hanging above her left eye. It’s dangling, like a tiny stalagmite. She’s still smiling, she’s still talking, but all my words are gone. And now I’m leaving.

“What happened?” asks my therapist, shrugging her shoulders, as if I’ve dropped the ball.

‘Nothing,” I say. “I faced my fear.”

“Yes,” she says, “But, what did she say? I mean, what happened?”

And then I tell her about the wart.


BIO:  Dan Corfield lives and writes in Newport Beach California. He teaches writing for criminal justice majors at California Sate University, Long Beach. His work also appears in Boston Literary Magazine and Chiron Review.