Joe's Perfect Girlfriend
Lily of the West

"I've always been like that, Mr. Cartwright," Helen said cheerfully and held out her thumb for all four of them to see. Five minutes ago she had badly cut it with the steak knife, but before they had recovered from the shock, the wound had miraculously closed right there in front of their eyes. Helen shrugged apologetically and nodded at the tablecloth. "Sorry about the bloodstains. I've always been a bit clumsy with knives. Never had a need to learn otherwise, I guess."

"That's all right," Ben said automatically. Joe had warned him that the girl he was bringing home for dinner was `someone very special, Pa,’ but he had failed to mention just how special she was. They had all dreaded the outcome of the evening when she had shown up clad in a powder blue dress, which bore so many thumbnail-sized patches of various fabrics and colors that it appeared polka-dotted.

From across the table, Adam stared at Helen in fascination, forgetting his good manners. "And any wound you suffer just closes on its own within seconds? Even fatal wounds?"

"Oh yes, Adam. Just look!" And before anyone could stop her, she plunged the steak knife into her heart, gurgled a little, and pitched forward onto her plate.

"Ain't she fantastic?" Joe beamed at their stricken faces. "She's been stabbed, crushed, dragged behind a horse, hung, disemboweled…"

Blinking groggily, Helen lifted her face from the plate and picked a few noodles out of her hair. "I even lost a leg once, in a train wreck," she added. There was a wet sucking sound when she pulled the knife from her chest. She wiped the bloody blade on the sleeve of her blue dress, making a pretty purple stain. "Hank lost all of his in the same accident. We grew our legs back together."

"Hank?" Joe asked, slightly worried.

"Oh, my pet newt. You haven't met him yet."

"Miss Helen," Hoss, who had just now found his voice, whispered in awe. "You ever bin shot?"

"Oh, many times. My older brothers liked to use me for target practice. Until my mother put an end to it. She grew tired of darning the bullet holes in my dresses." She pointed at the many patches of her dress. "I hope you don't mind my wearing this old patched-up thing tonight, but you see, it's my lucky dress, and…" she blinked meaningfully at Joe, "I thought I might need it tonight."

"Miss Helen." Intrigued by all he had seen, Adam leaned forward "From a purely scientific point of view…what would happen if you cut your head off? I mean, would you grow a new body? Or would your body grow a new head?"

"Hmm. I never thought about that," Helen said brightly. "Maybe both, and then there'd be two of me?" She began to look around for a sharp object.

Ben rose quickly. "There's …no need for any more demonstrations, Miss Helen." He cleared his throat and glanced meaningfully at Joe. "Was there something you wanted to announce, Joseph?"

Joe stood up, winking fondly at Helen and taking her hand. "Pa, Adam, Hoss. I finally found the girl I would like to spend the rest of my life with. Helen and I are perfect for each other. Never again will I have to bury the woman I love. No tragedy, accident, bullet or badly-aimed pitchfork can ever separate us." His brow wrinkled a little. "At least, as long as they happen to her." He went down on one knee in front of Helen and took a deep
breath. "Helen, my love, will you be my wife?"

"Oh Joe!" she breathed and pressed her hand on her heart, where the bloodstains were just beginning to dry. "I'm the happiest girl in the world."

They all looked at the loving couple with tears in their eyes, and every one of them remembered the last time Joe had proposed to a girl, right here at the dinner table. She had choked to death on a pickled herring five minutes later.

`She's a right fine gal,' thought Hoss, while he felt happiness for his brother spread warmly through his belly, `even iffen she's a bit unusual. I mean, who's ever heard of a gal with a pet newt before.'

Adam, smiling tenderly, was secretly looking forward to many stimulating discussions with Helen about her remarkable gift. In his mind, he was already designing a scientific experiment involving the removal of her pretty head.

And Ben, with tears of joy rolling down his face, inconspicuously placed the bowl of pickled herrings under the table. Just to make sure.


Biological note: newts and salamanders are the only vertebrate animals (excepting Miss Helen) that can regenerate severed limbs.

Psychiatric note:I’ve observed, with some concern, a prevalence of severed limbs in my recent writings. I’d like to state for the record that I’m not obsessed with severed limbs. I do, however, have a pet newt – well, four of them really – and they’re in good health and still have all of theirs.

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Lily of the West

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