a fragment of a short story I’m writing called “Everything Breaks”
“One way to think of it is like this,” he raised his gnarled hands and began to bend an imaginary piece of metal, “all metal has a limited number of bends in it. Every time you bend a blade or a paperclip, whatever, it has one less bend it can take before it breaks. If you can bend it, you can break it.”
I’d never consciously thought about that before though of course I had bent paper clips and pieces of wire repeatedly until they broke apart for whatever-uses.
The bit about bending metal quickly slipped from my mind when I noticed his hand.
His knuckles were large and his skin had the calloused quality of well-used tools. There was no doubt in my mind those hands could clamp down and grip, bend and twist, maybe even pull or pound a nail as effectively as a wrought tool in a pinch. The thing that truly struck me was that his right hand had only three fingers and a thumb.
They were evenly distributed and my first thought was that he was born this way. Before I could form any other ideas about them he caught me staring and interjected, “bone infection”.
“Oh? That sounds pretty serious”.
“It was. At first it was just the tip….” He explained how third by third he had lost his ring finger, and how the surgeons decided that if they removed the bones in the hand that were connected just to that finger they could realign that hand so that it could function with only three, “which is why it looks kinda natural. A lot of people don’t notice until we shake hands.”
He’d been very helpful and gotten us back on the road. Whatever part of the engine that literally came loose and drove me to pull over on the side of the road in the first place, he had fixed in relative short order and gotten us back on our way. We didn’t have any money and he wasn’t driving around with a credit card processor, so I took his information and promised to mail him $500. He nodded and walked away with a smirk.