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Franklin and the Finger

We're all familiar with the phrase, "Give 'em the finger."

But down here in the Gutter, it takes on a whole new meaning.

Franklin and the Finger by Michael Pool



Franklin used a handkerchief to hold the pale little lump between his index finger and thumb while he examined it. Only after he caught his own reflection in the mirror, mouth agape and holding the morbid thing, did it occur to him that he should call and let someone official know what he’d found. The problem was, that conversation kept going wrong in his head. He couldn’t get past the ridiculousness of the situation to make the call.

“You found what in a coat?” The operator would say.

“A finger. Someone dropped the coat off in our overnight bin.”

“And this is your coat? Sir, why do you have someone’s finger in your coat?”

“Not my coat, a coat someone put in our night return box. This is Bill’s Haberdashery, down on Fifth Street. We rent out formal wears.”

“Would you like me to send out an ambulance, sir?”

“No. Aren’t you listening? There are no injured people here now, why would you send an ambulance?”

“Sir. Calm down.”

“I’m calm. I just don’t know what to do, and it seems to me someone has committed some sort of crime.”

“Ok, I’ll send out a unit.”  The operator sighed and hung up at the end of the imagined conversation. Her attitude reminded Franklin of his ex-wife Jennifer. Always annoyed.

The finger had no blood on it, and had shriveled since detaching from the unfortunate individual it once belonged to. The suit coat he found it in had no traces of blood on it either. This lack of blood further made Franklin hesitate to call the police, as if the severed finger represented nothing more than some misunderstanding that would clear itself up in time, with or without his intervention.

The bell on the front door chimed, and a teenage girl with braided blonde hair stepped into the shop. She had a dress bag draped over her left arm.

“Hi, I’d like to return this dre-“ she started to say, but her mouth fell open as her eyes met Franklin’s at the finger held up in front of his face.

“Is that a fucking finger?” she blurted out, dropping the dress bag at her feet.

“It’s, I—“

“Why the fuck do you have someone’s finger? Holy shit. You’re some creep murderer or something. I just wanted to return this dress. I didn’t see anything, I swear.”

“I didn’t kill anybody,” Franklin said, realizing how creepy and guilty it sounded only after he’d already said it.

“Then why do you have someone’s finger?”

“I found it in a suit coat from our night depository. I was just about to call the authorities.”

“It didn’t look like you were calling the authorities to me. It looked like you were about to eat it or something. That’s fucked up. Look, I didn’t mean to interrupt whatever it is you’re doing. I just wanted to bring back my prom dress. Please don’t eat my fingers.”

“I’m not gonna … I don’t eat fingers.”

“What, you just eat the toes or something? I watched a show last week about foot obsessions. It’s called podophilia. None of the cases on the show were this bad, though.”

“I don’t eat toes,” Franklin snapped, and immediately wished that he hadn’t, because it made him sound both aggressive and insane. The girl sucked in her breath and drew back as if to make for the door, then relaxed a little, stood still.

“So you really found it in one of the suits?” she asked.

“Yes, really. To be honest, I can’t believe I’m actually touching it.”
“It’s so ... cool,” she said. “Can I touch it too?” She picked the dress up, walked over and dropped it on the counter.

“Can you what? Why would you want to touch it?”

The girl shrugged. “I don’t know. It’s like, something out of a TV show or something.”

She leaned in so that her eye was right next to the severed end of the finger.

“Wow, that thing is totally for realz. Megan will so freak out when she sees this. I gotta Instagram this for sure, no filter.” She produced a cell phone from her pocket and snapped a picture of Franklin holding the finger. “Epic photo,” she mumbled.

“Look, you have to delete that,” Franklin said, no longer caring if he sounded crazy.

“Why?” the girl asked, pulling the phone in close to her chest.

“Because I look like a maniac. People are going to get the wrong idea. It’ll probably turn into one of those internet mimes or something.”

The girl rolled her eyes. “You mean memes? Whatevs. I’m totally not deleting this.”

Franklin was getting ready to beg her to delete the picture when her phone lit up and she smiled.
“Josh and Courtney already favorited my photo. See, I told you this was a good picture.”

“Good for you or good for me?” Franklin asked, starting to panic.

“Who cares about you?” the girl replied. She rolled her eyes, then turned and wandered back out the door, still fidgeting with her phone.

With Franklin’s luck the picture had probably already made it halfway around the world, would be on the cover of every major news website within the hour. The police were probably already looking for him. He could lose his job. Jennifer would keep the girls from him if he got behind on child support again. He set the finger on the counter and dabbed his forehead with the tainted handkerchief, then dry-heaved when he realized what he’d just done. He picked up the shop’s phone and dialed 911.

“I’d like to report a severed finger,” he mumbled to the operator.

“A what?”  A woman’s voice replied.

Franklin dabbed his forehead again, and then tried not to puke, again.  “It’s kind of hard to explain on the phone,” he said in a hoarse, broken tone. “Maybe you could just send over a unit?”  


Michael Pool lives in Seattle, Washington. His debut novella, Debt Crusher, is due out from All Due Respect Books on February 15, 2016. Find him online at www.michaelpool.net.