(I've been going through some of my old writing, and found this. I think it's the favorite thing I've ever wrote. I'm going to post a couple more. Hope you enjoy.)
The only finger left on Danny’s body was his right index finger and he called it “Slim.”
One of Danny’s favorite actors had been Mr. Slim Pickens (R.I.P.), and he felt that the name honored both the actor and the finger. It was a good finger because it got shit done. Danny could still, believe it or not, wrap it around a pencil and write his own name. A shitty, scrawly, little-kid-wrote-it looking name, but for court documents and welfare maintenance forms, it did the trick.
Danny was happy. It was a positively gorgeous day and he was on his way to pick up $120 million dollars. At least that’s what tonight’s jackpot was. Danny Phelan was quite sure that tonight was his night. He felt it. A strange calm like he’d never known before. In fact, he had already passed through the initial stages of disbelief and euphoria- he was now sailing through the acceptance stage, knowing that in a matter of hours, his ship would sail in. Tonight would be the night that the chick who used to do the weather, (whose name he forgot but who had since been replaced by a black girl with long straight hair and curves like the Monte Carlo), would pull out, in succession: 7-13-15-28-33-42, with the lucky ball… 11!
It was weird how Danny could sense things. He remembered when he lost his first finger, how he saw it coming months away. Danny had looked at his hand one day and understood that his left finger was not long for his hand. Danny’s whole left hand had gradually gone numb, and then eventually cold. But it took a period of months for his hand to fully rot away, finger by finger, knuckle by knuckle, whatever the rest of the hand is called by whatever the rest of the hand is called. But that first motherfucking finger… that was the bitch of the bunch.
Danny was sitting in the lobby of Jiffy Lube, waiting for the portly Mexican to return his car to him. There was an array of magazines available, all current, and Danny selected US Weekly. He loved the bit at the end where comedians made fun of celebrities who showed up at big time functions wearing ridiculous outfits. He particularly liked the one where Kevin Costner was wearing some contrived surfer outfit, and one of the comedians commented, “Dresses With Wolves.” “Fuck Kevin Costner and fuck his ten fingers,” Danny had thought.
As Danny sat in Jiffy Lube, waiting for the verdict on his Impala, he noticed that his left hand and his pinky in particular, was cold. Too cold. He had long put off visiting a doctor because he had no health insurance, and he figured the coldness and loss of motion was due to a hockey injury. Still, the fact that his pinky had turned black and flaky had developed into a full-blown preoccupation for Danny. When no one was around (which was most of the time), Danny would talk out loud to his hand and try to bargain the finger back.
”OK- you stay on my hand, and I won’t use you to pick my nose.”
Danny sensed that somehow the pinky knew that he was a right index finger nose picker from way back, so the pinky wouldn’t fall for that empty bargain.
“Alright, then if you stay on my hand, I’ll wash you every day. More than the other fingers. And I won’t touch anything hot with you, and I won’t use you in any fights. In fact, I’ll make you the president of all the fingers. You’ll be in charge. What do you think?”
But the inevitable… well, it was inevitable.
Danny had been sitting in the Jiffy Lube waiting room, thumbing (with his right hand), through US Weekly, holding his left hand on his left lap. Occasionally, he would whack his left thigh with his left hand in the misguided hope that applying blunt trauma to his senseless limb would somehow resurrect its sensory capacities. By now it had become an unconscious habit- he’d bang on his thigh without even noticing. So it took a moment for him to recognize that at 1:17 p.m., he whacked his thigh and brought his hand back up one finger short.
There was his pinky, sitting on the floor like a little raccoon turd. Pleased as punch to be sitting there and offending everyone. Danny regarded his hand with something approximating admiration, rather than horror. “Holy shit,” he thought, “it’s gone.” Danny however, did not get up from his seat, nor did he place the magazine down.
While some might have seized such an opportunity to launch into a blood curdling stream of profane disbelief, Danny simply murmured, “Huh. That’s some fucked up shit there.”
Danny was nonplussed, because Danny was more laid- back than Ghandi on Xanax. He could observe the most shocking events with no more than bemused detachment. And so Danny looked at the departure of his finger with scientific curiosity, rather than abject terror. And so he simply sighed, picked the finger up with his left (and lighter) hand, and folded it in the US Weekly. The black, rotted little metacarpal would rest in the peace of a story about Christina Aguilera’s reported relationship with Justin Timberlake. Danny got up, threw the magazine and its little treasure into the trash can, and sat back down to wait for his car.
He wondered if there was some law that prohibited driving with less than ten fingers. He had no idea. He withdrew his left hand and noticed that the bloodless color that had consumed his erstwhile finger had spread to his left ring finger. It wasn’t looking good for the remaining tenants of his left hand.
As the next eight months unfolded, the remaining fingers on Danny’s left hand each made their exit one by one, like children going off to college. Perhaps the most embarrassing for Danny was his left index finger. He was in The High Street Pub, watching the baseball with the other regulars, when a base runner was thrown out attempting a steal. In fact, the base runner had been safe, and Danny loudly offered to no one in particular that the second baseman’s tag had never touched the runner. Reflexively, Danny pulled his left hand out of his pocket to point at the television (his right hand, growing more numb by the day, was clutching his Negro Modelo). As Danny pointed at the replay, the left index finger simply fell off as if it had been held there by a piece of tape. Ironically, the finger fell into his ash tray. Some elephants walk miles and miles to find their final resting place. Somehow they know. Danny wondered if this were the case with fingers as well.
The regulars, long aware of Danny’s declining finger population, pretended like they didn’t see anything, although for the rest of the afternoon, everyone’s liquor consumption increased dramatically.
Now, eight months and 9 finger departures later, Danny walked down North Avenue, just like he did every Saturday, with two Jim Beam and Cokes in his system, approximately half of one spleef, and a smile a mile wide. “Shit happens,” wasn’t just Danny’s philosophy, it was the phrase that woke his soul up every morning, sucked it off, and made it coffee. Danny still had two legs and a mind like a “government supercomputer,” as he’d tell people, and he was simply happy to be alive on this fine, fine day.
As Danny continued on, he wondered if there was some special group for lottery winners, where they could gather together socially and discuss the finer points of insane wealth. He hoped that if there were such a group, nickel and dime daily lotto winners weren’t invited. The top prize for the daily lotto was approximately $5,000.00. “What the hell would a five thousand dollar winner know about being rich,” Danny thought to himself as he chuckled his way down the street.
And then it happened.
Right there in broad daylight, Danny’s nose-picking days came to an abrupt, anti-climactic ending. With his left stump cradled in his jacked pocket, and his right stump in the other pocket, Danny instinctively knew that he was now fingerless. Having lost all sensation in his hand long ago, Danny did not have the capacity to recognize any sensation past either elbow. But somehow he knew, like a mother knows when her child is in danger, that at some point during the constitutional, his last remaining finger had bid him sweet adieu.
Danny resolved to put this one in a jar, with some of that liquid that preserves pigs and eggs and stuff. The finger deserved as much. It had once spent an evening charging and retreating into the nether regions of one Miss Melissa Boudreau, who had later gone on to a career as an exotic dancer at the John Steinbeck-themed strip club, “The Grapes of Snatch.”
Danny did not break stride, refusing to pull out and regard the stump where his last remaining finger once lived. He didn’t care. After tonight, he’d be able to buy ten new fingers and ten new toes (many of which were currently plotting an escape). Heck, he might even get one of those Hollywood plastic surgeons to give him a couple extra fingers, just in case.
Finally Danny arrived at the convenience store where he had played the various lottery games with religious zeal over the past 20 years. He ambled his way over to where a heavyset woman with brittle looking grey hair sat behind the counter. She smiled.
“Hiya Danny,” she said, “How ya feelin’?”
Danny smiled back and then ducked his head down into his shirt pocket and came back up with a five dollar bill in his teeth. He withdrew his finger-free stumps from either pocket, and used them like a pair of tongs to remove the bill from his mouth. He somewhat awkwardly placed the dollar on the counter and said, “How am I feeling? Lucky…”