Should've Bought American

“Lavish,” said the old woman sitting across from me in the waiting room of the clinic. The green plastic chair groaned underneath her as she leaned forward, eyes narrowed, and peered at my arm.

“That one of them new Korean models?"

"Yeah," I said, hoping that would be the end of it. I pretended to be busy with my phone.

"What's wrong with it, honey?"

The arm jittered and danced, burned against my left thigh, fingers pinched and squeezed, metal clattered against the edge of my seat.

For the first day or so, the arm did what I wanted it to do. Maybe a few hiccups here and there. Too much grip strength when I lifted a coffee mug by the rim, little jitters here and there. Then it got worse. Less obedient every day.

By the time I left my house that morning, it swiveled freely in the socket, pinwheeled madly, refused to behave. My new arm was a Problem. My shoulder ached and I worried the mount would tear itself free from the bone.

And now I was waiting here, in the clinic, in a row of identical green plastic chairs. I’d only been inside of one a couple of times, but one was the same as any other. They all stank like antiseptic, burnt oil and plastic, nothing but people coughing and wheezing, metal scraping, servos whining. This one was a government run place, somewhere between a free medical clinic and a mechanic’s garage. A place where people who didn’t have any money came to get their broken arms and legs fixed. Or close enough to fixed, anyway.

The woman to my right wore a veil covering her entire face, but something beneath that veil stank like kerosene, and I could feel the heat of it against my cheek. The seat to my left was vacant, thankfully. The fingers of my misbehaving arm scuttled across the empty seat like a spider.

"Dunno,” I said. “Got it last week. Hasn't been acting right since.”

“I’m just here for a routine check up,” she said. “These are American-made. Ain’t never had any problems, not really.”

Her extras were antiques, probably 20 years old. Both legs terminating in dull steel. She was too old to have been in any wars. My guess was diabetes. Her legs were heavy and reliable, practical. Mostly steel. The US didn’t produce hardware anymore. I wasn’t sure I’d have bought American even if we were.

“Well, buying American’s not really an option these days,” I said.

“You could’ve bought second hand,” she said. “Still plenty of good stuff at any decent mechanic. Any decent American mechanic, I should say.” The old woman laughed at her joke, her double chin jiggling and swelling like the throat of a frog.

The woman next to me was reading a magazine. I wasn’t sure where she’d even find an old paper style magazine, but she was ignoring me. Same for the man sitting next to the woman with the American style legs and the bullfrog throat. Her husband, maybe, and he didn’t give a shit about my bad arm. He was polite. The old woman leaned back, arms crossed under her breasts.

She was smug, but her legs worked like they should. Even if they were old and dented. My new arm swiveled in its socket, whined in my ear.

“97. Number 97?”

That was me. I stood to make my way to the receptionist.

“Good luck,” called the old woman. The arm swiveled behind my back, fingers scrabbling between my shoulder blades, all curled up except for the middle one. A little “Fuck You” from Korea. She gasped, and the antiques she wore scraped against the tile floor.

“Sorry,” I said. “You’re right. I should've bought American."