Monday, April 15, 2013

Three-fingered People I Have Known

Years ago I remember going to a reception, one of those things where you meet two dozen people and can’t remember a single name. I think it was to celebrate the twentieth wedding anniversary of a couple whose vows seemed threatened from the moment they were made. They had patched a good life together in spite of a rocky and adulterous start, defying both doubters and odds, and they had invited their hundred closest friends either to share the happiness or go deeder deeder deeder to all the cynics.

The reason I remember the event at all is that I was introduced to a young man and when I shook his hand, I realized he was missing two fingers. This was totally unexpected and I managed not to recoil, or make a face, or go, “Whoaaa.” I’m sure I must have had a reaction, though, and luckily he was far into his cups because he did not have a counter-reaction and we ended up having as good a conversation as one drunk and one non-drinker can have about something that did not matter.  I forgot about the incident until very recently when a fellow writer described one of his fictional characters as missing a pinkie finger. I told him my story, and noted that such a depiction is indeed nifty; there’s no need to go farther in the portrayal because by creating a physical eccentricity, the author has successfully defined his personage with minimal hoopla and maximum effect.

And then I thought further.  Many years ago I played in a band that had a three-fingered drummer who would duct-tape his drumstick to his hand and wrist. I wish I could say he was a great drummer but he wasn’t. In fact, he was downright lamentable. Since he could not bend his taped wrist, the tri-digit hand had neither finesse nor subtlety; it banged away on the snare and drowned out cymbal and crash, high hat and cow-bell. Then the fully fingered hand, trying to keep up with its accomplice’s decibel level, would play louder and louder until nothing but cacophony and confusion reigned. Whether on ballads or three-chord proto-punk, the noise quota was the same. I took to wearing ear-plugs when the band practiced. On top of it all, the drummer was an irascible musician prone to fits of anger and noisy frustration. It wasn’t a good fit and he soon quit the band.

When I was a kid in Paris, one of my heroes was my great uncle Clovis Répaud who lived downstairs in the same building as my family. Oncle Répaud was a survivor of the Western Front trench fighting in World War I; he had been shot and while unconscious, rats had chewed through his boots and taken three toes off his left foot. His dog Soldat was similarly afflicted, having lost its right front leg to the wheel of a horse drawn cart.  Both man and dog had the same rolling gait when they went for walks, a fact not lost on other strollers who treated them with great respect.

Nowadays it’s rare to meet anyone with visibly missing appendages and it’s probably politically insensitive to even write about it. So I’ll stop here.





  1. They are considered as unskilled and ignorant laborers working the actual planet labor
    industry. This style of training is particularly strict and systematic.

    my website :: ochrona obiektów lublin

  2. Your place is valueble for me. Thanks!…

    Also visit my blog post ::

  3. certainly like your web site but you need to check the

    spelling on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems

    and I find it very bothersome to tell the truth nevertheless I
    will definitely come

    back again.

    Feel free to visit my website: ttk alicante