You’d Better Learn
“This isn’t how it has to be,” John told the big man holding the bolt cutters.
“I’m tryin’ my best t’ hold everythin’ together, but…” He looked toward his wife. “Just look!!” Sobbing, he slowly lifted his free, undamaged hand and pointed. “Look what I come home to.”
Blood was dripping from his hand and running in streams down his forearm. When he focused on the blood drizzling from his elbow, he felt waves of dizziness flow from his head to his mid-section. “She’s here sucking up the profits while I’m out working.”
“So, that’s where your money’s goin’. Big Daddy wanted me to find out what’s going on with you.”
The giant man, held the mouth of the bolt cutters out waiting for another finger — John’s ring finger was next in line — and focused his attention on the woman huddled in the corner of a dirty sofa crying. “That true? You stealin’ Big Daddy’s dope?” He waited for a response; patience wasn’t his way. “Hey, you hear me? Look at me! You smokin’ up your man’s money and making him late on his payments?” His voice demanded an answer.
She started to say something, but her voice failed.
“Tell me somethin’, John, seriously?” the the big man asked, “what should I do? You want me to take another of your fingers or do I take one of hers? Big Daddy wants two fingers. Today!”
“Just tell him…” Large tears fell from John’s eyes. “I man, ask him to give me more time. I’ll have his money. Just…”
“I’m telling you, your time’s up. He’s using you to send a message to everyone else. After this he’s finished with you.”
These words meant more to John than losing his fingers. He couldn’t survive if he didn’t work for Big Daddy. “Come on, man. Just take the other finger, but don’t cut me off.”
When the executioner cut the ring finger from the hand, the bone popped loudly as it broke. The little finger didn’t do that. It just kind of crushed up and squished off. It hurt, but not like the ring finger. When John screamed, his wife joined him with a short yelp.
Lying in a pool of blood were John’s two fingers. As blood dripped on them, adding to the already significant pool, the ring finger twitched and almost rolled over. John thought it was trying to crawl away, then he realized his wedding ring was still on the finger.
Why hadn’t he thought of that?
“O.K. My job’s done here, John. I didn’t enjoy it, you know that.” He let out a long breath. “I’ve always liked you, we go back, so be sure to have the money by Friday. I don’t want to have to…” He looked around the room, which silently assured him he would be back on Friday. There was no way would he have the money.
“What? What’s on Friday?”
“I got to get that money, brother. Seriously.”
John looked up from his dismembered fingers and spoke, his voice barely a squeak. “You mean, I still have to pay? Even after…”
The big man shook his head. “Don’t tell me you don’t know why I came here today. After all this, you going to sit there bleeding and tell me you don’t owe Big Daddy? Look here, this is just a warning for what’s coming next. Don’t you think it might be in your best interest to pay him?”
“But my fingers? God!”
“I asked you. I gave you a choice. You’ve always had a choice.”
“But, I really have to pay Big Daddy all the money?”
“If you don’t, I’ll have to shoot you. Or maybe you’d rather it be your wife?” He looked over at her. “She’s the problem anyway, right?”
John stared at the floor, not wanting to look at his fingers, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of them. Is this really happening? He wondered if there was a chance of him waking up and everything being alright..
“Am I? Is… this really happening?”
The big man slapped John in the face, not hard, but hard enough to lay him back in the recliner. “Yes, you are and yes this is. Now, stay with me.”
John didn’t know what the man had said, but he answered, “Yeah, right.” A shutter went through his body. “You’re right. Yeah…”
“You’ve got to get him to a hospital.” He told the wife. He eyes were half closed, but she seemed concerned.
“What do I say to them?” She whispered.
“Tell them you got your husband’s fingers got cut off by a big man with bolt cutters because he owed for drugs.”
“Really,” John asked. The world was growing black around the edges. “You think they can help?”
“Woman!” The the executioner said. “You got to get your man to the hospital, now.”
She looked up at him, eyes yellow and dull. “But really? What do I really tell them?”
“Tell them you had to bring him to the hospital because if you didn’t a really big, black man said he was going to kill you.”
Her eyes blinked slowly, showing a want to live. She didn’t have a good life, but it was life. “Really?” She asked.
“Yeah, really.” He pulled his pistol from under his arm. “I’ll kill you if you don’t.”
Slowly, she stood up and started toward her husband. He wasn’t looking around anymore. His head was leaned back, eyes glaring at the ceiling. “I think he died.” A high pitched squeal escaped her throat and then she started crying. “Do…do you think he’s dead?”
“He will be very soon.”
Grief seized her for a moment, but then the big man saw relief flood her face. “I’m going to miss him so much,” she said beginning to cry louder. “He was my high school crush. We got married right after graduation.”
The moment was lost when the executioner spoke. “Big Daddy wants his money, don’t forget why this happened. He doesn’t care who pays it, as long as it’s paid. Don’t let this man’s life be a sacrifice for nothing. I’m coming back on Friday.” He started to get up, but he pulled back when she started to reach out to him. “Don’t touch me. Get back.”
“What! Wait! I can’t get that much —”
“You’ve almost a week.” He stood up. “You can get some of it. Just show some effort.”
“I’ll don’t know how to get twenty thousand—”
“You’d better learn.”
She sat back on the couch after the big man walked out of the small apartmen and silence filled the room.