Chips

Prompt: Thanks

the finger bandaged

Leep sharpened the steak knife for quite some time, as he knew it could be more difficult slicing through raw meat than cooked, and his fingers were definitely raw.

He didn’t intend to saw through the bone; no that would be stupid, and very difficult, not to mention unnecessary. This might all be unnecessary if old Anthony Gizmodo hadn’t been scooped up off the street, from his usual spot on the bus stop bench in front of the liquor store, and taken to some kind of government rehab. He couldn’t find out where they took him and Hannah, the liquor store manager, who usually was pretty well-informed, didn’t know either.

So Leep would have to take himself off to emergency.

He’d been tracking Theresa, Anthony’s daughter, for a few nights now and knew her shifts and that she was working long hours in Emergency. It was risky just turning up. She could be on a break, or busy defibrillating someone, or stocking the shelves with thin rubber gloves and vomit trays, or injecting antidotes for illegal drugs. Really, he hoped she was well-paid for this work. Leep himself was ok with blood but not with anything of any texture coming out of eyes, ears or mouths. Those kinds of things made him queasy. He had a nice chilled bottle of Red Racer IPA to calm his nerves, and positioned the middle finger of his left hand on the bamboo cutting board.

Ok, who knew so many blood vessels and nerve endings were located on the ends of fingers?

He only cut a small piece, just the very tip, and debated whether to put it in a baggie and take it to Emergency with him, but it truly looked too flimsy to be successfully reattached so Leep disposed of it in the can under the sink. This injury should be just severe enough that he lingered in Emergency, but not so severe that they’d keep him there. He got a towel and a bag of frozen peas— holy hell, it hurt!— and made his way to the car.

Theresa, with great authority and purpose, pulled back the curtain that surrounded the bed where Leep sat perched, his hand still encased in the peas and towel. She hadn’t looked him in the eye yet. But how serendipitous that it was she who was assigned to bed number 4 in the emergency ward! Leep smiled inwardly— sometimes the chips (he imagined poker chips) fell his way. Not often, but sometimes.

“Leep,” she said, “is that you?”

Exactly what she’d said in the parking lot when Leep mugged her, that night two weeks ago. Then he’d responded “No” and stole all her cash.

This time he said, “Yes, I cut my finger.”

She examined it, dabbed at it with some liquid on a cotton ball that hurt but didn’t sting at all, then bandaged it up. All very deftly, efficiently, and while not completely ignoring Leep’s grunts and winces from the pain. Holy hell.

All the while they conversed in low tones.

“I was sure it was you in the parking lot,” Theresa said.

“What parking lot?” asked Leep.

“I needed that money to pay for my son’s school trip.”

“What happened to it?”

“You wore the same jacket and jeans the night we took my father home.”

“How is old Anthony?”

Theresa smelled equally of white gardenia and disinfectant. It was actually rather comforting. She didn’t wear a white uniform and white oxfords but instead a pink polyester short-sleeved pant suit and white Adidas running shoes.

“He’s not doing well in rehab,” said Theresa.

“No,” said Leep. “I’d like to go see him though.” He held his left hand up in the air, propped at the elbow as Theresa had instructed, with his wounded middle finger extended. It was not the message Leep intended. Perhaps Theresa had endured other symbolic though unintended insults before.

Theresa didn’t respond, and instead disappeared into the hubbub of Emergency, closing the curtains firmly behind her.

Was she calling the police? That would not be a good thing. Chips were falling his way tonight though. They were tumbling through the air and landing in giant mounds at his feet. So perhaps she would find him convincing, genuine, if a bit gormless; the details of the robbery might be fading. Leep was not the kind of man to rob the daughter of the closest thing to a friend that Leep had. Was he?

When Theresa returned she had a small prescription pill bottle. “For the pain,” she said. “Keep it iced and elevated, if you can.”

“Thanks,” said Leep, adding: “Maybe I could go see your dad with you, next time you go.”

“I don’t think so,” said Theresa.

“I’d help pay for gas,” said Leep. “My car is getting new brakes.”

“You don’t need to pay for gas,” Theresa sighed.

“Maybe you could tell me then about that thing in the parking lot,” said Leep.

“Maybe I will,” said Theresa.

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