(It has been quite a while since I did a series here at The Clarity of Night. My last was the historical fiction series Ventilation back in June, which followed the life of a polio victim in an iron lung. We'll see how this one turns out. Welcome to "The Finger.")
Five-year-old Celine walked with her mother on the summer sidewalks of Philadelphia. Eleven o'clock, before the lunch crowds came.
Mom's suit skirt stretched with each stride. Celine like to sneak touches on her pantyhose. Raspy and clean. But Celine was careful, because Mom still didn't like that Celine took too long to find her shoes.
The crosswalk flashed from the white stickman to the red hand. Mom hissed and stomped her heels to a stop. The teacher at pre-school promised to make daisies today. Celine liked to rub the green pipe cleaners across her cheek. Mom didn't like to be late.
Celine looked down at the dirty sidewalk. At the cigarette butts. Bits of stepped-on paper and food.
Something was laying just off the curb on the edge of the street.
Curious. Very curious.
She broke hands and bent down.
"Celine!" Mom shouted, pulling her back as a taxicab whizzed by.
The horn blared and swept on.
"My God, Celine! Don't you ever do that again! You'll get hit!"
The white stickman came back. Mom yanked forward and across the street. Celine clutched the thing she picked up in her fist. It was cold. Squishy. Hard.
"I might be a little late picking you up today," Mom said in her planning-ahead voice. "I already let the school know."
Celine liked the feel of the thing. She squeezed it. Especially the hardness in the middle.
"I packed you pepperoni," Mom said. "I stopped at the store yesterday."
Celine brought it up to her cheek and brushed it on her skin.
She traced cold circles.
Smooth. Very smooth.
Mom looked down, and her eyes jumped wide. Crazed, she grabbed Celine's hand and shook it.
The severed finger flipped into the air and fell in front of them.
Celine started to cry because Mom hurt her hand.
Mom choked out a scream.
On to Part 2.