Appendages

5

A man born with no arms and no legs, all torso and head, and one two-toed foot, jumped into a swimming pool and used his body to undulate to the surface. On a swath of country club grass, he sunk a putt and later, spun a hula-hoop around his neck. At age ten, he tried to drown himself in the bathtub. He slipped under the water and turned face down. He said his body was willing, but his mind wasn’t.

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The Los Angeles basin is often referred to as a desert. When parrots first appeared in Pasadena, the flocks were sparse. Now they converge in the oaks at dusk all clatter and turbulence, wheeling through dusky orange skies. The story goes that a pet store burned to the ground in 1959 and while most of the animals perished, the parrots took wing.

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Tesla—the company not the man—has introduced a luxury electric car, the Model X. Its rear doors open and fold over the top. They call them falcon-wings. The DeLorean with its stainless steel shell and similar gull-wing styling was featured in the movie Back to the Future thirty years ago, a futurist hot-rod cast as time machine. Both vehicles were designed to move through space—and epochs—with distinct chasses, motors, and extraneous wings.

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Research reveals that being born without arms and legs is rare. The disorder, called “tetra-amelia syndrome,” is caused by a mutation in the WNT3 gene. It is quite different from “quadriplegia” or “tetraplegia”—the result of disease or more frequently, injury. Actor Christopher Reeve who lost the use of his arms and legs after being thrown from a horse, is perhaps the most famous victim of spinal-cord fracture.

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Biologists have been studying bird migration in connection with global warming. Apparently, many species are moving away from the equator to cooler climes at the rate of fifteen feet per day. The Audubon Society states that birds are the most adaptable of wildlife.

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Leonardo da Vinci, obsessed with the idea that man could fly, filled his notebooks with detailed drawings of birds, the structure of their wings, the shape of their tails. From these studies, he constructed an apparatus of light wood, gauze, and feathers, hoping his assistant could leap from a cliff and soar. Eventually he invented both the helicopter and the parachute.

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As a child, the armless-legless man was given a plastic prosthesis fitted to his shoulders. Experts claimed it would create the illusion of arms as well as increase his ability to function. The boy who had already taught himself to ride a skateboard on his belly and play ball with his head found the artificial appendages clumsy. He soon abandoned them.

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Parrots are known for bright plumage and the ability to mimic human speech.  They tend toward monogamous breeding, the males courting their mates with a “parade-like walk” and a blaze in the eye.

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In Back to the Future, teenager Marty McFly jumps into Emmett Brown’s DeLorean and stumbles into 1955 at the moment his parents were about to meet. To bring them together, Marty must first teach his father how to stand up for himself.

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Before he had to rely on mechanical breathing and a wheel chair, Christopher Reeve starred in the 1978 movie, Superman, in which he saves the life of Lois Lane by flying around the earth so fast, he reverses time.

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Da Vinci began his painting, “Mona Lisa,” around 1503 and it is believed it took him several years to complete. There is speculation about the woman who sat for him, who she was, and why her smile is so enigmatic. Perhaps she was only in love?

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Nick Vujicic, the man born without limbs, the one who sought to end his life in the bathtub at age 10, was married in 2012. A recent television show ended with a video of him waltzing with his bride atop his electric wheelchair. They were expecting a baby.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Frerk Meyer

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5 Comments

  1. These ‘unconnected’ pieces gave me chills. The connections are startling. I don’t know how you put this together, it’s almost a puzzle until the reader sees it’s all about the most human of things.

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