Joe and I sat down and had a drink at the Cat's Meow last night. Try as I might, I couldn't quit looking at the stump of wrist where his hand with the black flag tattoo used to be. Eventually he caught me out and gave me that crooked grin of his.
“Nestor's gone, and good riddance too,” he bellowed, while I tried to shrink further into my seat. “No more stealin' and gropin' and smokin'; the good hand's got the rule of the roost, and I'm a better man for it.”
Old Joe had fought that malevolent left hand for months, claiming that it was possessed by the spirit of an anarchist bent on ruining his life. It was hard for me to believe, at first, that he wasn't putting on a show; but now I believe. We all believe.
Nestor the Bad Hand had appeared over a year ago, and rapidly became the subject of endless storytelling on the pub crawl circuit. Joe had been enjoying a rousing game of Fox Hunt when he'd picked up a dart, only to have the other hand snatch it away and hurl it at the bar. That ended any hope of ever setting foot in Quippie's again. Women began to avoid him, as he'd often pinch their bottoms or run his left hand up their skirts while engaging them in benign conversation. The odd thing, of course, was that Joe protested mightily each time that he'd not done it purposely; the hand had “a mind of its own”, and try as he would he couldn't seem to stop its antics. I didn't believe it for a minute, especially since he'd gone and had his hand tattooed with the anarchist's flag and been referring to it by name, as though it existed apart from the rest of his body. I'd witnessed what I thought was a really fine bit of comedy on his part in the grocery store one time. Joe had picked up a New York strip steak and was just about to tuck it under his shirt when his other hand grabbed hold of the offending appendage and began to twist it. Eventually, the beef was returned to its home in the cooling case but not before Joe's two hands had fought an epic battle while their owner stumbled around and cursed. Needless to say, we drew an audience pretty rapidly. Pity there was no security camera to capture it. I was laughing so hard that I choked on my own spit, but Joe wore a sour puss on the ride home.
“You think this is some damned stupid game, but I'm tellin' you that hand is possessed. Can't control it. Can't stop it; hell, it even threw my beer glass last night. I can't live like this.”
Something in his tone finally struck me. I didn't have a clue what to do to help him, but he seemed to be genuinely suffering.
I wish that I had offered some sort of sympathy. Maybe he wouldn't have gone to the garage that night and cut off his own hand.
But that's what he did, and after saving his life and listening to his story the doctors had all clucked, murmured and excitedly rung up their pals in the medical field. Joe was an overnight celebrity as one of the documented sufferers of alien hand syndrome. I was afraid he'd be stricken with remorse that he'd acted so hastily, but he seemed content with the notoriety – and the money - that he'd gotten out of the whole thing.
“I'm not much for the Bible, but it says if the eye offends thee, poke it out, and if the hand offends thee, cut it off. Or somethin' like that. I can get by with one, and life's a helluva lot easier these days.” He drained his glass, set it down and winked at me. “Just hope the other one don't go bad.”
Author's notes: this was originally published as part of Small Doses (which was pulled from sale). The medical condition referenced in this story (alien hand syndrome) exists; however, I am not aware of any instances where a sufferer committed any crimes with the offending appendage.