(This is my favorite thing, aside from raising money for charity, that was born from one of the past Blogathons when I was super-ambitious and had my sponsors give me photos and I’d write 15-minute flash fiction for each one. I’m reposting it because, come on guys, get excited!)
Thomas was a man who worked hard everyday in the shipyard, making sure the paddle boats didn’t churn any of the river-swimming runaways into orphan butter. It was not the cleanest job, uncoiling hair caught around the paddles; sometimes the scalps would still be intact and Thomas would upchuck into his lunch pail. His aim was fairly decent, and most times his roast beef could be salvaged after a few residual specks of regurgitated morning porridge were flicked by the wayside.
He would come home in the evening hours with the prospect of a roaring fire and war novel to cozy up with. His wife Millicent always had other plans for him, though. Gather some twigs to use for kindle. Pump some more buckets of water for the morning wash. Check my bosom for lumps. I ran out of tampons, go get me some more.
Thomas knew that if he didn’t get away for a weekend with the guys, he’d likely stick an axe between Millicent’s eyes. He packed up some long johns and amateur pornographic literature and retreated to the forest with his best guy, Marvin, who in turn dragged along his nineteen year old son, Jacob. Now, Jacob’s story is that he was a bad seed, maybe even evil incarnate, if you dare acknowledge that there is a Devil. Jacob lived for skulking around in the alley, kicking three-legged dogs (there were a lot of those back then; dog legs were used for medicinal purposes and drum sticks) and sticking foreign-tongued immigrants with hot tongs.
Everyone knew these things about Jacob; he did not commit these heinous acts in secret. He wanted to be known, to be showered in accolades! “Jacob did it again,” the elderly citizens would mutter to each other over top of the daily newspaper, waiting for the workday to begin.
On the first night, Marvin whipped up a pot of bubbling porridge, spooning heaping ladles into three mugs. Thomas began shoveling the gruel into his mouth; porridge-eating was second nature to him. He ate it twice a day, after all. Startled, he paused in between chews. Using his tongue, he spat out a chunky stump.
“Marvin! There’s a thumb in my porridge!” As Thomas twirled the thumb between his own thumb and forefinger, Marvin examined it from over his friend’s shoulder. In the end, they shrugged it off and Thomas chucked it over into the weeds. Pausing only once to wipe away the porridge creeping past the corner of his lips in an oozing puddle, Thomas finished off his meal with a loud smack of the lips.
Jacob laughed slyly into his napkin. Each night when his father and Thomas were fast asleep in their tent, after having engaged in a bit of after dinner cognac and back scratching, Jacob had a habit of running off to other campsites, hacking off the thumbs of slumbering campers, then stealing away into the shadows before the afflicted came out of their shock. For Jacob, it was better than experimenting in the crudely made hallucinogenics that Alexander Fisher made in his father’s fishing shanty.
The next morning, another thumb was found, buoyant among the thick sludge on Thomas’s spoon.
“Goddamnit Marvin! There’s a thumb in my porridge again!” Thomas began choking. He tried to expel it back up through his esophagus, but it was too late. Strangely, he had begun to notice a throbbing pain coming from his right hand. “What’s that?” Thomas asked aloud. He looked down and discovered that his own thumb was missing. He had been gaffled by Jacob.
I should have stayed home and cleaned the commode for Millicent, Thomas thought bitterly.