The Painted Finger

[So here it is. The story you demanded. Coming up with this story was a lot of fun. And by “fun” I mean, “banging my head against the wall trying to figure out how to make it work.” The freewrite on this thing looks like a demonic spider’s web. At one point I was thinking this story needed mind-controlling alien parasites in it. But finally I stumbled on a way to make the story both shocking and “believable” (in the story sense of the word). I hope that you like it. (and by “like it” I mean, “are filled with revulsion and mentally scarred for the rest of your life.)]

[Ummm, seriously though, this story is kinda wrong. If you’re not into this kind of thing, come back tommorow and I’ll have a funny for you to laugh at. Promise. Okay, we’re starting for real now.]

Richard’s stomach heaved, and a mass of bile and half-chewed food splattered down into the toilet. He retched again and again, until he could retch no more. A thin line of bile and spittle hung from his parted lips. He wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his bathrobe and gasped for air.

It was a relief to finally have it all out; he had felt the nausea building for almost an hour now, and he was sick of trying to hold it in, but even so… He wet a washcloth and wiped the putrid refuse crusted around his mouth.

His mouth tasted like the inside of a garbage disposal. His teeth felt strange and rough, and he kept finding bits of undigested food nestled in the cracks between his teeth.

He was about to flush the whole putrid mess into oblivion when something caught his eye.

It was a flash of color that didn’t quite belong. In the mass of brown and dull red there was a unnatural spot of green floating in the middle of the recently unearthed contents of his stomach.

Bright. Lime. Green.

That wasn’t right. Was it? Richard looked a little closer. It was. It was a finger. He didn’t want to believe it at first but there it was floating close to the edge of the bowl and the bright green spot…was fingernail polish.

Richard felt his heart start to pound in his chest. He sank down to the floor with his back against the cool tile wall and tried to compose himself.

A finger. His breath was coming faster almost in gasps, and he could hear his heart pounding in his ears. A finger.

He shook himself out of his stupor and stood to his feet. He took a pair of tweezers from the cup by the sink and picked the finger out of the vomit holding it by the fingernail. That long green fake fingernail.

Outside of the toilet bowl the finger looked even more grotesque. The skin was white to the point of being nearly translucent and wisps of ragged skin hung from the stump like fleshy streamers.

Richard almost retched again, but he managed to keep it down.

The fear and the panic started to subside, and something like reason came back into his throbbing head. He had to think. Had to figure this whole thing out. Figure it out before…

He flushed what was left of his vomit and dug in his pocket for his cell phone. He scrolled down the list of contacts until he found Van’s number and hit send.

The phone rang for what seemed like an eternity before Van finally picked up.

“Wazzzit?” Van asked.

“You okay?” Richard asked.

“Just hung over man. Why?”

“I need…I need to know about last night. I can’t…remember.”

“Yeah man me neither. It’s all just a blur you know?”

Try. It’s important.”

“Well I mean we went to the bar, right? And then…there was something with you and that chick? But then she dissed you or something? I don’t really remember man.”

“What happened? After she dissed me I mean.”

“Hey what is this, the fifth degree? My head’s pounding and I think I’m gonna puke man.”

“I wouldn’t be bugging you like this if it wasn’t important. Did…did I go anywhere with the girl?”

“Nah, man. She was still with her friends when you left…I think.”

“I left?”

“You were pissed man. Talking about needing to blow off some steam or something. To be honest I was kinda worried for you.”

“But I left alone. And I didn’t say…anything else?”

“Nope. Just left.”

“Okay. Look Van, I’m sorry about all this, but…well I hope you feel better okay? Get some rest.”

“Hey, that’s what the weekend’s for right?”

“Right.”

Richard hung up the phone and looked at the finger. It was sitting there on the counter and it looked almost like it was looking at him. Mocking him.

Why can’t I remember? Richard thought. I mean I was drunk sure. But that drunk?

He thought about the woman Richard had mentioned. He could see her now in his mind. He remembered thinking she was his type, that he needed to move on after Maria. But she didn’t think so much of him. She’d given him the finger and laughed in his face.

The finger yes.

But not this finger. Because he could see the moment in his mind and her nails weren’t painted at all. He liked women who painted their nails. Maria had painted her nails.

But Van had said nothing had happened, and Richard was sure his friend would remember if…but no. He didn’t remember a thing.

Richard took a big swig of mouthwash and rinsed out the last tastes of vomit from his mouth. He picked up the finger and thought Maria would know what to do with you. And the thought made him laugh. He laughed and laughed for a long time. And then he stopped laughing.

Maria, yes. But she was gone. Almost gone anyway.

He walked out to the garage, flicked on the fluorescent light and opened the big chest freezer. The harsh light played in sparks and twinkles over what was left of Maria’s frozen skin. By now all he had left of her was her left arm. And at the end of the arm, a hand. With the middle finger bitten off.

And the head of course. But he never ate the face.

“Getting sloppy,” he told Maria. “Got drunk, got a case of the munchies. Got to watch myself. Could’ve done something really stupid there you know? Could’ve told someone about you. Can’t have that now can we?”

Maria didn’t answer. Her mouth was frozen into a perpetual scream.

Richard tossed the finger into the freezer and slammed the lid shut. He went to the kitchen, poured himself a bowl of Fruit Loops and thought on what kind of girl he would bring home for dinner next. He liked to keep his options open. But this time he thought he might pass on the painted nails.

***

[Just a quick final note concerning the title. I wasn’t sure if “The Painted Finger” was a good way to describe a finger with a painted nail, but I thought, “The Severed Human Finger With  A Painted Fake Fingernail” didn’t quite have the same snappy appeal. If you thought the title was confusing let me know in the comments. It’s not etched in stone or anything.]

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21 responses to “The Painted Finger

  1. Nope, not confusing at all – the title that is 🙂

    I’m wondering if Mr. I’m having you over for dinner, for dinner could be the long lost cousin of Mr H. Lecter, in a distant, poorer side of town cousin sort of way 😉

    All I can say is I admire that you could come up with something really cool “by demand”!

    • Yeah, I’m not a big fan of glamorized serial killers. I’ve been thinking for a while about writing a story about a serial killer with slightly below average intelligence. This may be the seed of that. Or not. Who knows? I don’t know what I’m going to write until you guys tell me. 🙂

  2. Blah! It made me nauseous! LOL, just kidding, but yeah, it did give my stomach a turn. So if that’s what you were going for– mission accomplished! 🙂

    Great story Albert. I’m not sure about the title. I don’t have any better suggestions, but if anything could be rewritten the title would be it. Otherwise the story is great.

    Thanks for sharing it!

    • So I’ll put you down for a ‘no’ vote on the title?
      My alternatives were “Fake Nails”, which I thought could be an interesting riff on the story’s initial misdirection, or simply “The Finger.”

  3. Peter Saint-Clair

    Awesome story, sir. I’m actually working on something similar, so maybe I’ll post mine when I’m done…lol Got anymore like this?

    • It depends what you mean by “like this”. But yes, I’ve got some other short stories in various stages of completion. Some of them I may not release because I’m pondering maybe doing an anthology sometime late this year, and I’d like it to have some fresh material in it.
      Currently I’m planning out my entry for Chuck Wendig’s weekly flash fiction contest, so you may see that some time next week.

  4. Wow. It was, what, two days? Since you came up with that little seed of an idea. And here’s a full story! Hats off to you! The story’s brilliant. My stomach felt a twist inside but it’s OK . All part of the fun. 🙂

    I think the title’s OK. It kind of created a suspense and wanted me to read on and find out how the finger was painted, why it was painted…so when the details got slowly revealed, it was just like how faint memories slowly become clearer once you wake up from a deep slumber.

    Well done!

  5. Just read your story. It’s really helped me keep to my diet!

    You could call it ‘the finger’. It read for me like it was maybe built round the expression of ‘giving somebody the finger’ and even suggests that this guy’s little hobby might have been triggered from being ‘given the finger’ i.e. seriously humiliated in the past.

    Just a few thoughts! Thanks for the story (I think)!

    Ann

    • Yeah I definitely got the sense that there was more to this character than we could really see in this little snapshot. I like to have a sense of what my characters are doing and thinking outside of what is written. I like to think it makes the story you do see more believable.

    • Oh, yes, definitely a good diet aid! And I like the suggestions for “The Finger,” too.

      I enjoyed the story, even if it did make me nauseous. 🙂

  6. Got a little bit nauseous there!

  7. Okay, after reading other comments, I’m somewhat hesitant to admit that I’m not at all nauseous and that the story made me smile at the end. I even thought, “hey good description of what it feels like to throw up.”

    And I like the title – reminds me of Sherlock Holmes (the speckled band, the blue carbuncle, the yellow face….); and it’s kind of like a detective story, right?

    • Exactly. Except the reader is the detective in a way. He just doesn’t realize it until the end.
      Also, I don’t mind that you weren’t nauseated. But I do kinda wonder if anyone turned back at my disclaimer. I don’t just put those things in front of everything I write.

  8. WHOA! Didn’t expect that! Great job. 🙂

    Fingers are fun. Especially middle fingers. Never tried to eat one, though. When I see someone giving the finger, it always looks like they’re proudly displaying a boogee. 😄

  9. This is wonderfully twisted and dark.

  10. I like the title “Painted Finger” although it conjured a very different image than a painted fingernail. However, Painted Nail just doesn’t have the same ring.

    It would be fun to read snapshots of this character from time to time. Perhaps a series of short stories that tell his story? Each a mini mystery that told more of his story and took you deeper into overall story. I would totally buy that and could recommend it to my other sick friends.

    Thanks!

  11. Oh gross!!! Uhm, well I’m glad I waited to read this until this afternoon instead of like what I planned, before breakfast. Ewww! But whew, good surprising plot. I did not expect that. And I like the title as it is inoccuous so you don’t know what’s coming.

    Good job, even though, well I squirmed in discomfort. Shivers up and down the spine.

  12. Sick! I was cringing reading it the whole time. I’m so glad you wrote this. And so quickly! Nice job, Albert.

  13. Wow, what a strange yet intriguing story. You rock!

  14. This was really good. One question – who really knows what the inside of a garbage disposal tastes like ? And if they do – eech. Maybe the makings of another fetish type story :). I loved the twist and it didn’t twist my stomach.

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