Monday, March 23, 2009

The Finger, Part 1

(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.


Anonymous said...

It sounds exciting ... more please!
I like a good mystery.

Aniket said...

I love mysteries... the nail suggests the finger is of a lady. And the worn of skin makes it look the lady was quite old. Now who would do such a thing to an old lady. Inheritance issues??

Oh bring on the next part soon!

Karen said...

Intriguing! My favorite genre of lose-me fiction is mystery, so this one caught me from the beginning. Can't wait for more!

McKoala said...

eew, eew, eew! Great start!

Margaret said...

Ugh! Kids pick up lots of things from the ground - but a cut off finger!!!

I've got a perfect picture of Celine & her Mom through this short dialogue.

Curious, very curious....

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Jaaaason! - what an attention grabbing first installment. I have always loved your writing style...clean, uncluttered - yet descriptive and in depth! This is wonderfully captivating. Yay - you're doing a series!

Sarah Hina said...

Wow!! Please, please tell how you worked that amazing photo!

I can't wait to see how everyone reacts to this missing finger. In trying to solve the mystery of the finger's identity, much may also be illuminated about the souls who stumble across it. I'm looking forward to see how you connect the...uh, threads. ;)

I liked Celine a lot. Her innocent curiosity. And all the little details you do so well. :)

Anonymous said...

Aggie, glad you found it intriguing. :)

Aniket, anybody short a finger around here?? Glad to have you along for the series! Great deductive thinking there.

Karen, I had the idea for this one a while back. I'm finally tackling it.

McKoala, imagining the feel of that puppy on your cheek, are you?? ;)

Margaret, the oddness of this one is the hook. At least I hope.

Kaye, thanks so much for distilling your thoughts on my writing like that! I've been contemplating the evolution of my style quite a bit lately. I'm very happy it works for you!!

Sarah, as always, your thoughts and feedback are very appreciated! And your words of encouragement. :) As for the photo, I took two separate shots--a hand on a white background and the asphalt. I took a finger from the one picture, dirtied it up with Photoshop, and dropped it on the picture of the asphalt. Not the best, but it'll do.

Aine said...

Good thing you have a digital camera...

But seriously, glad you mentioned the photoshopping.

Old lady, indeed. Hmmph!


Can't wait to see which direction you are pointing us with this one.

Aniket said...

Oops I did it again didn't I??

Should have figured that Jason wouldn't just pick up a pic from the web. Its Aine's finger isn't it?

Well I meant old as in older than me... 25-30. Honest! :-) :-)

Please dun be mad at me Aine. :-)
My deduction skills suck!!!

Aine said...

Yeah, yeah... keep back-pedaling, Aniket.

:) I'm just joking with you! Jason purposefully aged the photo. And your deduction skills may be right on track for the story (or not...I don't know the ending either!)

Aniket said...

Oh I knew there would be some logical explanation Aine. :-) :-)

And Jason wouldn't keep things that simple, am sure of it. :)

Jason, next time a little help out here would be appreciated! :)

Jennifer said...

Wow, Aniket, you really stepped in it. ;)

Jason, this is great, and like Sarah's last piece, a little unexpected (at least for me--I've only been following since just before "The Clarity of Night"). I totally smiled when I saw the pic, because I was thinking, what IS he up to? But this is so great and even though I am an impatient, read the book in one night kind of person, I really, really enjoyed Sarah's (torturous) stringing us along with Letters. So I am definitely looking forward to this.

Your characterization of Celine is wonderful, flawless. You are in her head, and now so are we. Love the "pantyhose" detail. When my son was really little and I was wearing nylons he asked me why I was wearing "more skin." So I get her fascination!

Anonymous said...

Aine, see, I was going to let the "old finger" thing slide! But now, you outted your finger. ;) Of course, yes, I did muck it up really good in Photoshop. The finger in the story has seen better days. Yours, however, is far more lovely attached to your hand. :)

Aniket, I was going to let that one go completely, but I guess it didn't work out. ;)

Jennifer, thanks for the feedback on Celine and the little elements of description! I do like doing serials in blog format, provided that they're short and attention-grabbing and can stand relatively well alone. (I especially like linking them with mini-cliffhangers.) As for this being out of character for me, the one thing you can expect here is the unexpected. I've done some wildly differently things here and will always challenge myself to do more. :)

Aniket said...

Yeah Jason, It DIDN'T! :-D

And look Aine, now Jason's back-pedaling... 'let it slide', like he would have let the chance to brag about his camera and his photoshop skills go. Huh. :-D

This is a conspiracy! ;)

Jennifer, smile all you want... its a vengeful day for you isn't it? I really did step in it. "Watch where you're stepping... watch where you're stepping!" Mum would always say. Should have listened. :-D

the walking man said...

Jason, I won't tell you that I didn't read the title before I read the text and that my first thought was that Celine had picked up a used...No I won't tell you what I was thinking, just knowing I live in Detroit is enough for you to figure it out. That it was a finger actually was a relief.

Catvibe said...

Aine-What a lovely finger you have! :-) Even photoshop can't take away your loveliness, even if a little sad that Jason had to chop it off in order to get the shot. Sad the things men do to women. So sad.

Jason! You David Lynch, you! Can't wait for the next part.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I'm most interested in five-year-old Celine's curiosity toward the finger, why she calmly picked it up and rubbed it against her skin. This should be an interesting read from here on.

Vesper said...

A new series - ah, that's exciting! :-)

This is a great first part and it hooked me in. Celine is an interesting character and her first contact with the "thing" opens up a lot of possibilities. Looking forward to reading more.

Anonymous said...

Walking Man, you're upping the ante. I LIKE that! That would be not uncommon in the city, indeed.

Catvibe, I offered to chop off my own finger. But Aine wouldn't have it.

Vesper, thanks for the encouragement! I feel excited about doing a new series. I like being able to weave longer stories once in a while.

SzélsőFa said...

Wow, I'm all into reading further on into this story.
To be honest, I laughed hard at the end. Go on with this, Jason!