She told her husband her fingers were growing. “Not all at once, mind you. And they’ve always gone back.”
He looked at her a moment, maybe waiting for the punchline, before removing the cat from his lap and holding out his own hand, inviting her to show him. Hesitating, she presented her left hand, just out of his reach. He pulled her the rest of the way in. From her thumb to her ring finger nothing seemed different, but her pinkie finger hung low, drooping, like each joint had detached from its partner. Her husband pinched it, wiggling it a bit. “Does this hurt?”
“No, it feels fine. I can even move it okay. See?” She tried to pull her finger from his grip, but it remained, stretching to fill the empty space and sagging between them from the weight.
They both stared at it for a moment before her husband broke the silence. “Hmmm. No, that’s probably not good.” He kissed the elongated finger on the nail and let it go. It fell to the floor with surprising speed. “Well, we’ll see what it does tonight and get you to the doctor tomorrow, yeah?”
She looked for a moment at it, then her husband, before nodding unsurely to herself. “Yeah. Yeah, that’s fine.” She slumped off to the bedroom, her finger dragging along behind her, picking it up and holding it in her other hand only when the cat began to chase after and sunk in its claw.
The next morning the finger was back to normal.
“Guess there’s nothing we can do then. Doctor can’t diagnose something if there’s nothing to see.” He even gave it a little tug to confirm it would stay in place this time. “If it happens again, we’ll take you to the emergency room, if you want. Since it’s twenty-four hours.”
She tugged on each of her fingers and sighed. They all stayed where they were. While her husband was at work, her fingers went in and out of place. As she vacuumed, her pinky almost got sucked up with the dirt before she realized. Her thumb was nearly taken out in the garbage disposal. The tip of her index finger was flayed as she diced scallions for dinner. By the time her husband returned, aside from the bandage all her fingers were back in their place. When he asked about her day, she didn’t mention them.
As the night went on, the problem came back. As she chewed on the nail of her ring finger to relieve some of the nerves of the day, a particularly sharp tug unraveled it; it curled on the floor at her feet. When it reached its seeming limit, she tried her best to put it back, but she already knew once it was out it would only go back on its own accord.
It took her husband a moment to notice, but once he did, he only stared at it for a long time. She watched him, and she suspected he knew she was watching him, though his unmoving face did nothing to betray it. This lasted so long that when he finally broke the silence, she flinched. “So, is this just going to be a normal thing now?”
She didn’t quite know what to say. Would it ever be normal? Is this the type of thing that can be normalized? Is this the type of thing that should be normalized? She could only muster an apology and try to collect her spiraling finger in her other hand to move to the bathroom so she could try to figure out how to fix this.
Halfway down the hall, the weight of her finger stretched all the fingers on her other hand to the ground. She looked up at her husband who was standing now, watching as she struggled to palm the mess of fingers that littered the floor. He approached her at a slow pace, as she held what she could to her chest with her arm and tried to make it the rest of the way to her destination. He was able to bridge the gap though and collected what remained on the floor in his hands. He traced one of the fingers up to her hand and rubbed it with affection, looked her in the eyes and said, “Okay, here I am. You have my attention. What’s this really about?”
Her fingers all did something they hadn’t done before. They moved on their own, recoiling away from her husband, forming tangled webs of themselves behind her. Then all at once they returned to her hand as they should have been, as they were when she was born, when she first held hands, when she touched and felt, and the two of them, husband and wife, stared at each other for a moment before there was a metallic clanking on the cold tile and she was again surrounded by her appendages, cocooned in the soft heat of herself.
PD Hogan lives in the foothills of Yosemite, CA and mostly writes about trees and a hatred for capitalism. He received his BA in english and philosophy from Fresno State and is currently pursuing an MFA in creative writing from the California Institute of the Arts.