The Girl who was Born with only Two Arms and Two Legs
By Stuart Baum
Once upon a time,
actually not that many years ago, there was a girl who was
born with only two arms and two legs. Can you imagine that?Count how many you have. Eight! That’s right.
and four legs.
Now, there have been a few children born with only four
arms and three legs. Or four legs and three arms. And there
was one child born with only three of each, for a total of
six, but what would it be like having only two arms and
legs! That’s hard to imagine.
If you fold two legs underneath yourself and hide two
arms behind your back, you can feel what it might be like.
Very odd. And how would you do all the things you need to do
with only two arms and two legs. It’d be hard to even walk!
When the baby was born, the doctor told the parents the
bad news. That their new baby daughter only had two arms and
two legs. Though they were sad, they decided to love their
new daughter anyway. And they named her Quarta, meaning
u u u
Growing up, Quarta had very few friends. This was
possibly since her parents were afraid she’d get hurt or
struggle too much to keep up, because she had only half as
many arms and legs as the other children.
When she was five, Quarta went to school like the other
children. She did well in classes, better than most of the
other children, but she struggled to fit in socially, that
is, she had almost no friends. And, as far as sports went,
this was the biggest problem.
Other children could easily catch the two balls and two
sticks when they played “Balls and Sticks,” but since Quarta
had only two arms, she could only, at best, catch one stick
and one ball. For this reason, no one wanted her on their
Lunch was even more difficult, since the children had to
catch their own food and Quarta had to learn how to do this
with only two arms. Can you imagine catching food with only
two arms? That’d be really hard!
She did not starve, of course, but there were some
lunches where her teachers had to give her food, like a
baby, and this was embarrassing.
The other children teased her, as you might expect, which
made her sad, but what could she do?
It became worse as she got older. When she was thirteen
and the students were going on dates, she was often left
home alone. Every now and then, her friends would all go out
together and they would invite her. But, she knew, she was
too different to be considered a girlfriend by any of the
boys. They would be nice to her, but it was more like how
you would treat a pet than a person. This made Quarta very
u u u
One day, the students visited the seashore during a
school field trip.
Quarta had to get special permission to go, since the
teachers were worried she’d struggle to keep up and, if
there were any danger, she’d cause problems for the other
students. But she was allowed to go, mainly since everyone
knew that Kako, a boy who had all four arms and legs, was
the real problem. He kept wandering off to look at creatures
on the seashore, getting lost, or worse, getting trapped in
a tidal pool and having to be rescued.
As expected, it was only minutes after they reached the
seashore that one of the other students noticed that Kako
Quarta knew where he was. She saw him sneak off to watch
some of the animals on the sand.
“He stopped by the big beach,” Quarta told the teacher.
“I’ll go back and find him.” She hurried off to collect him.
The teacher asked two other students to follow her, to
make sure she didn't also get lost or in trouble.
As expected, Kako was trapped in a tidal pool.
Quarta saw this and, wanting to be helpful, climbed up
the edge of the rock (using just two legs and two arms! Can
you imagine?) and reached down to grab Kako. If you are
expecting that she was also pulled into the tidal pool, you
can relax. She was able to save Kako and he climbed back
over the rocks to safety.
Quarta was happy, since she rescued another student! She,
the girl with only two arms and two legs, had rescued
someone with all four arms and legs!
She thought this would make her a hero and that Kako,
though a somewhat troubled student, would be her friend.
It did not turn out that way.
A couple of the other students teased Kako.
“Kako was rescued by a frea-eak,” they chanted. “Kako was
rescued by a frea-eak.” This embarrassed Kako. Because he
was embarrassed, he became angry at Quarta.
Quarta had tried to be brave and helpful. And she had
been. She had rescued another student! But it was turned
against her. Instead of being called a hero, they teased her
as a freak. She was miserable for the whole field trip.
Until, that is, she saw something amazing.
On the last beach they visited, there were other two
armed and two legged creatures. Lots of them!
While they looked nothing like her (they were pink and
brown and had colorful pieces of cloth wrapped around parts
of their bodies) they were happy! They were playing and
laughing and splashing in the water. Even though they all
had only two legs and two arms! Quarta had never seen such a
She counted their limbs to make sure: One, two arms. One,
two legs. And, incredibly, everyone one the beach seemed to
have this exact same number.
This gave Quarta hope that she, too, could be happy even
though she, too, only had two arms and two legs.
She watched them more carefully. There was a small group
of them playing a game near a net. Four of them were on one
side and four were on another. They were hitting a large
ball over the net back and forth. Incredibly to Quarta, they
were hitting the ball with just one arm! They were jumping,
some were jumping pretty high, with only two legs!
Quarta stared and stared and stared at this game, trying
to learn the rules. These creatures looked so happy and they
were having so much fun! And all with only two legs and two
And, since there was only one ball, it didn’t matter that
they only had two arms.
She decided that she would bring this game to her school.
Her excitement was broken by one of the nastier students
yelling, “Hurry up, freak, it's time to go home.” Normally
this would make Quarta sad, but now that she had a game and
saw how happy it made these other two-armed and two-legged
creatures, she believed she had a chance to be happy, too.
u u u
When she got back to school, she started work on her new
She called it “One Ball” since it was played with only
one ball. She set up a net and marked off the area, by
drawing lines on the ground. The rules were simple: Hit the
one ball back and forth over the net. If the one ball
touched the ground or went over the lines, the other team
got a point.
She then found three of her friends who were also bad at
sports (One of them was very small, one was somewhat
heavier, and one was simply not good at sports) and they
started to play “One Ball.”
They had trouble at first, but soon they started to make
it work, hitting the ball back and forth over the net
without letting the ball hit the ground. Even though the
game was harder than she thought it would be, and the others
had trouble learning the rules, they were all enjoying
themselves. She was concerned, at first, since everyone was
struggling, but even when they missed the ball or hit it out
of bounds, they were laughing and having fun.
Even better, Quarta was able to play just as well as the
others. The extra two arms did help when playing One Ball,
but not as much as in the “Sticks and Balls” game, where you
needed all four arms.
The next day, there were eight students, all of whom were
normally bad at sports. They made two teams, each with four
players (just like the two-armed and two-legged creatures on
Quarta decided that the first team to sixteen points
They played three games and everyone had so much fun, no
one could remember who won any of the games.
The third day, even more of the students showed up to
play “One Ball.” Again, these were the students who were
rarely asked to play sports with the others. Generally, the
only time they were asked to join the games was when the
better players needed to make the teams even. And they were
often asked to “just stand there and try not to get in the
way.” With One Ball, though, no one could simply stand there
and watch. Everyone got to play as much as everyone else on
the team. And everyone was laughing and having a great time!
Suddenly Shay walked into the gym.
Shay had all four arms, but two of his arms were
deformed. These two arms had large round growths on them.
Shay had a condition called “club arm” and for this reason,
he was allowed to skip gym class.
Quarta welcomed Shay and found him a team with only three
players. He would be their fourth, which they needed. The
other players welcomed him. Quarta did not even need to say
anything about him having two good arms, which was the same
number of arms she had.
Shay was, at first, nervous about joining a One Ball
team, but by the end of the first game, Shay was tired and
“Thank you, Quarta,” he said. “This is a good game, since
anyone can play. Even me.”
u u u
Within weeks, they had formed a One Ball league with six
full teams. Quarta was captain of her team and also ran the
league. Shay was captain of another team.
One day, when they showed up to start their games, there
were eight other students standing in their way. These were
the eight best sport players in the school.
Jenna, captain of one of the “Balls and Sticks” teams and
probably the best sports player in the school, stepped
forward and spoke directly to Quarta. “You are being unfair
Quarta could not believe what she was hearing. She, of
all the students, the one who had been teased her entire
life, was being accused of being unfair and mean?
“Please explain,” she asked.
Jenna said, angrily, “You start a sports league, with a
brand new game, and only invite some of the students in the
school? That’s unfair.”
One of Jenna’s friends added, “Yes, just because you are
bad at sports, and a freak, doesn’t mean you can keep this
game to yourself and the other weak players.”
Instead of being mad or frightened, Quarta started
laughing. She said, through her laughter, “This league is
open to all players. It just never occurred to me that you’d
want to play a game with only a single ball. Or with us.”
The new players joined and, happily for everyone, they
were not much better than the other players. A little
better, of course, but not enough better that they always
u u u
Soon, One Ball became the most popular game in the
school. And while Quarta was never one of the better
players, she played well (especially since she practiced a
lot!), she always had fun, and she continued to run the
At the end of the school year, there was a big One Ball
tournament, where the parents of all the students were
invited to sit in the stands and watch. And cheer.
Quarta’s parents were watching from the stands. They saw
how well Quarta ran the league. They also saw how well she
treated the other students, even the ones who used to tease
her and call her a freak for having only two arms and two
They were very proud. They cheered loudly for all the
teams, but especially loudly for Quarta’s team, even though
her team lost early in the competition. It was during this
very moment they realized they did not love her anyway; they
simply loved her.
©2013 Stuart B Baum,
Illustrated by ZoŽ Baum