Robowriter by Barbara Nadel

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In most ways (aside from the messed up head) I am an unremarkable individual. I’m not gross or thin, tall or particularly short and on the street I look like just about every other middle aged woman who conforms to a sort of steam punk-ish look. This is basically big boots and long coats with an optional saggy old scarf. I can pass easily through a world I don’t understand very much like this and  nobody generally hassles me unless they have a problem with swearing (mine).

The only thing that can be classed as remarkable about me is my right leg. In fact so amazing is my right leg that last time I went to the USA the immigration people insisted upon having a damn good look at it and taking photographs before they’d let me into the country. Now it’s a nice leg (I like it, on and off) but it’s hardly a visiting dignitary and so why give it the oxygen of photographic publicity?

Sadly the truth is prosaic and a bit tragic. Those of you who read my nonsense on a regular basis will know that I broke my right leg a couple of years ago when I fell down the cellar stairs on Boxing Day. It was a compound fracture, which meant that the bone snapped completely in half leaving a terrible looking branch like thing sticking through my skin. Setting the bastard was the work of seconds, however the subsequent surgery I had to have in order to nail the bone back together again took some time to (sort of) get over. Women will often talk about childbirth as being the worst pain they have ever experienced. But orthopaedic pain knocks it off the scale. It’s not for the faint hearted. When I came round from a surgical procedure that involved hammers, mallets, metal plates, nails and my bones, I almost immediately prayed for death. All I can say is ‘Thank God for morphine and I now understand just how and why so many Victorians became addicted to laudanum.’

However time is a great healer and as it has ticked along I have learned to stop limping and I can now do most things that I did before my accident. Except deal with winter. It came today, winter, we had the first real frost of the year and didn’t I know about it! Two seconds outside the house and the metal inside my leg began to howl. At first I thought ‘Ah this is a job for string painkillers!’ But then I remembered that I had to work. I’m just coming to the end of my latest Hakim and Arnold novel and so I need my wits about me in order to created a good climax and hit my deadline.

And so just like last winter and the one before that I will just have to put up with pretty much chronic pain during the hours of daylight. Every evening I will be bombed out on drugs on the sofa looking like a bad effigy of the late Eva Peron. This will be my life, as a low rent version of that great Detroit icon, Robocop. As Robowriter I will squirm and limp and drag the bastard  sometimes like a dirty thought. Sometimes it will hurt so much I’ll go a nice shade of green and complete strangers will walk up to me and talk about vitamins and homeopathy. I may be polite but then again I may make like Cerberus the three headed dog.

There’s no doubt in my mind that my accident has made me a more irascible git than I was before. When I’m in severe pain and someone wants me to do something I don’t want to do I can just sod off without a word. My mother used to have a friend some years ago who was always full of good advice. People who live perfect lives will do that I find. The one that always gets on my nerves was ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Fuck off. No it doesn’t. Is my leg stronger than it was before I broke it? Am I a better person than I was prior to the accident? No. Now instead of being an occasionally amusing curmudgeon with two decent legs I am now an occasionally amusing curmudgeon with one good leg and a dud. Having the dud improves neither my mood nor my temper and it makes winter, largely, a bloody misery. My accident didn’t kill me but it didn’t make me better in any way I can work out. And if I had my time again would I choose to ‘learn that lesson’ voluntarily? Are you joking? Of course I wouldn’t. I’d much rather be the writer with no metal in her leg than the writer with a small Ford Ka embedded in her tibia. But I’m stuck with it and so I’ll just have to content myself with doing a lot of stomping about a la Robocop in post apocalyptic landscapes. Embracing the ghastliness may well work for me this winter.

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