Perhaps no one has ever paid more dearly or was ever pun-
ished more severely for a moment's childish disobedience,
myself and my two younger sisters.
My youngest sister, Lowain, now fifteen, and
the next young-
est, now seventeen, that is Tanya, and myself, I am eighteen
called Ilona, were until two years ago, three very happy
young girls, on an island of very happy, beautiful people.
one day, in a moment of adventurous misbehavior, the three
decided to swim out to an area that had been forbidden to us
In one swift moment, our merry laughter was
pierced by the
horror-filled scream of my younger sister, who had fallen
ly behind us. I turned in the water just in time to see her
struggling figure being pulled down followed by the huge fin
the devil shark. Suddenly there was another fin, and
cried out for my other sister, but she was not in sight. As
started to dive in search of them, the clear blue water had
already become cloudy, and in my eagerness to find them, I
not looked behind me, or even considered the danger to
Just that suddenly, there was a biting tearing pain in my
and in the instant before I passed out, I knew that one of
giant devils had gotten me.
When I regained full consciousness, many
days later, my
mother was at my side, gently stroking my forehead. Her face
lined with grief and worry. As I turned my head about the
there was no sign of my sisters, and I was sure that they
dead. My mother assured me that they were not -- but later
to learn that perhaps it would have been better if they
I became conscious of a kind of numbness in
my left arm, and
right leg, although I could feel them there, I couldn't move
them. As I turned my eyes down toward my arm, my mother
placed her hand over my eyes, and I knew in that instant
arm was gone. When my mother removed her hand, I could see
eyes more suffering than I felt for myself. She fought
ly to hold back the tears, as I pressed her hand in the only
I had left, and assured her that it was all right.
Again I tried to move my leg, and then
realized that it was
The doctor had come over from the big
island, and although
he and my mother both assured me that my sisters were alive,
neither of them would tell me if they had also been maimed
had. I only knew that Lowain had been take to the home of a
friend, and that Tanya had been taken to the big island for
kind of special care. I was told that I would be able to see
them, as soon as I was able to get about.
This gave me an incentive to try and get up
stand on my remaining leg, as quickly as possible.
Within a week or so, I had become somewhat
having only one arm. I would lie for hours, staring down at
large bandaged stump, and try to remember how it felt to
about. Sometimes I would forget, and try to reach for
for it felt for all the world as if it were still there. And
when the day came to remove the final bandages, I was able
accept the fact that my arm was gone-- that there only
tiny stump, and that that was the way it would be for the
my life. I even ventured at was, moving it about, trying it
The day they removed the bandage from my leg
had a much more serious effect. As I sat staring down at my
full brown leg, so perfect and alive, and then looked at the
futile little stump that had once been its mate, I seemed to
realize for the first time that I was a cripple-- that I had
one leg and one arm, that I would never again be able to run
play and swim as everyone else on the island did, and that
one would always stare at me and feel sorry for me and
felt very sorry for myself, and for the first time since it
happened, I cried my heart out.
After that, I seemed to lose all incentive,
all hope for the
future. My father had made two crutches for me, one with a
to go over my armless shoulder. My parents implored me at
doctor's instructions, to try and stand, but I refused. It
then that the doctor decided I should see my younger sister.
My father, as he was very clever with such
fashioned a wheelchair for her. This was all I knew of her
tion, the fact that she was in a chair, unable to walk. At
they felt that the shock of seeing her might be injurious to
recovery. Now, however, they felt, knowing how we loved each
other, that seeing her might inspire me into standing.
My father pushed her quietly into my room,
and when I turned
my head and saw her tiny figure seated in the large
my heart was torn apart. Both of her arms, and both of her
were gone, she was completely limbless. There remained only
stumps for all her limbs, about the same size and not unlike
"Please, Ilona, dear, please try to stand,"
she pleaded. "As
you can see, I cannot. They had to amputate both of my arms
both legs." She went on quietly, "It really isn't so bad,
will need your help now, and when she returns, for she is
worst-- of any of us, I think."
"What-- what is it," I asked, thinking
surely there could be
nothing worse than losing both arms and legs, and already
of myself for my actions.
"Tanya's legs were not injured, but -- but
she lost both
arms completely, right at the shoulder," Lowain went on,
able to control her voice. "She has no stumps at all, such
do, with which to do things."
"Oh, God," I cried, "I'm so sorry. How will
she be able to
stand it, she loved to weave, and use her hands so. But why
"She's on the big island, at what they call
center. They are teaching her to use her feet for hands, and
to-- to see with them. For she also lost-- lost her sight--
her head struck a rock, and will never regain it. So you see
badly we need you."
When Tanya returned to the island, totally
blind and arm-
less, she wanted desperately to see us. She gently ran her
toes over our faces and hair, her blind eyes staring
ahead, trying to recall what we looked like. Lowain was
the ground at her feet, when she slipped her tiny foot out
their thonged sandals that she always wore, and raised it
Lowain's face. She gave a little cry when she felt my
arm stump, and when her toes gently caressed the second one,
Lowain softly kissed her foot.
[also appears in "Fragments"]