English Kat Finch

Short Story Final Draft Period 5

Single Effect 10-31-03

Lady Fingers

The piano sat in the middle of the room, the legs sinking deep into the lush maroon carpet. Its surface was polished so that the black wood glowed from the pale winter light, coming through the frost-covered window. At the bench sat a little boy, no older than ten. His wiry fingers resting slightly on the ivory keys. They were worn, the edges round and rubbed of polish, the only part of the piano showing any age. Music was situated above the keys, showing arpeggios and simple chorales - yet the boy did not play. His shoulder blades were rigid, the muscles in his back tense as a firm hand drummed her fingers on his shoulder. Tapping her pinky softly near the boy's neck, he scooted his rump across the bench's silk pillow top. Hand still pressing onto the boy, she sat, curling her hands into her lap. Wheat colored hair was wrapped up in a severe bun, accentuating her angular cheeks and highbrow. A long, straight nose pointed out over curved unsmiling ruby lips. Gray eyes watched the piano, moving slow and decidedly, like the cat that readies itself for a hunt. In a sense she was beautiful, almost like an-

"Are you an angel?" The little boy looked at piano teacher's folded hands.

"I am not an angel." She began to turn the taupe pages of music, hisses of air slicing through the quiet room. Her hands fell lightly onto the old keys, almost in reverence, a flourish before looking striking the first note. Unblemished hands danced upon the keys, moving gracefully, but with a smooth churning like the pistons in a car. The piano teacher's hands were large, perhaps the size of a man's, yet they were delicate and seemingly docile. Glossy nails adorned the end of her long, slim fingers like faceted diamonds. All ten digits curled and extended with unwavering precision. The piece faded into the walls and recesses of the house, the piano teacher looking at the boy with expectance.

Taking the boys hand into hers, she carefully stroked his fingers. "Listen: you have talent. Natural talent, and I would think if you practiced, you could be great. Have you been practicing?" She lifted his hand higher to examine his fingers palm up, tracing the lines and hollows, like she was looking for something.

"Yes, miss." He almost pulled away.

"I talked to your mother the other day." The boy began to feign shock. She dropped his hand and took the other, looking under his fingernails. "She hasn't heard you play since the last concert. Have you practiced?"

"No, miss."

She rubbed his fingers till they became red. "You must clean your finger nails, and massage your hands to keep them in good shape. You could be wonderful. Will you practice?"

"Yes, miss." He hung his head.

"If you'll excuse me, I shall make you a snack." A smile flew across her face - although briefly - the boy couldn't help but notice it didn't reach her eyes. And with that she headed for the arched doorway, leading into a hardwood passageway.

"Miss Lithodora." The boy stood, crossing his legs slightly. She stopped and waited for him, questioningly.

"May I use the bathroom?" His legs crossed a bit further.

She nodded. Turned, and then looked back again. "Shall I tell your mother to pick you up, or will you walk today?"

Running past in a lopsided manner the boy called, "Walking! Walking!"

"Do not run, you'll trip over a lose board!"

The kitchen was the only room in the house that had a cheery atmosphere. The tiled floor was gold with a spiraling flower motif, while the walls were covered with wallpaper the color of fresh honey, stripped with off-white. It wasn't the largest kitchen; it was pleasantly small, the sink across from the oven, and the stove above that, heating a pot of tea. Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies serenaded the room with a warm, sleepy aroma. Lithodora pulled another batch of cookies from the oven, placing the tray to cool on a marble cutting board.

"Where is that boy? He cannot have been in the bathroom this long." She briskly walked out into the hall that lead to the front door, the piano room was on the right. The stairs were opposite the piano, carpeted in the thick maroon rug, while the banister was the same dark wood as the hall floor. Placing her slim hand upon the banister she walked up the stairs. The lights were off, and the undraped windows in the upper hall illuminated the lonely cobwebs hanging from the chandelier and shadowy corners.

As she reached the top floor her hand slipped in something wet, like a leak from the ceiling had been dripping onto the rail. The carpet was also soaked, but in the dim light, she could not tell what it was. She couldn't smell anything, holding her finger up to her nose, although it was a bit salty - tangy.

The bathroom was the first door on the left, knocking gently she called out, "Are you done? I have cookies for you in the kitchen." There was no answer so she tried the lock, her fingers curling tightly around the brass knob. It took her a moment to glance away from the handle, as her fingers turned a violent magenta. 'What pretty fingers I have.' She thought, 'What perfect piano fingers.' Assuredly she opened the door, feeling a little odd about her thoughts.

No one was in the bathroom. She flipped the light switch on, and a dull buzz hummed through her veins. The bathroom was plain. A white toilet, white bathtub with the opaque white curtain, and a white sink. Above the sink was a mirrored cabinet, her head down she walked over to wash her hands. A gasp escaped her lips as she saw red all over hands; frightened she glanced up to the mirror. Her lips where smeared with blood, tendrils of hair streaked with the sticky fluid. Lithodora turned the faucet, scrubbing at her face, mauling her hands, cleansing her fingernails. It was maddening to see her dishevel herself with this frenzied washing. At last, bloodstained towels thrown in the hamper, lips bruised and red, she opened the cabinet. At first she thought she had lost her mind. But that was silly; she must have cut herself baking. Although, truthfully she knew, that she hadn't cut herself at all. Although, she thought an aspirin might calm her down, and relieve the buzzing headache.

Without thinking her hand automatically reached into the cabinet without a glance, and out came a spaghetti sauce glass jar. She unscrewed the lid, wiping her eye as she set the lid down. She poured two or three aspirin into her hand. Aspirin did not come out of the glass jar. At first, it was hard to tell exactly what she was looking at. But then realization struck her, and with a shriek of repulsion and fear she dropped the glass jar of fingernails to the floor where an ear shattering crash drove the pianist into the hard wood door. Gently sliding down the side, she wept in unbelieving fright. How long she cowered there, she couldn't guess, hours, maybe days. The phone rang. It was a long time before the caller gave up, and even then they called back.

Staggering to her feet she crept into the hall to answer the telephone. "Hello, Dupree residence."

"Lithodora? I was wondering if you sent my boy home? It's been a few hours."

Lithodora stood, her glazed eyes looking straight t ahead. "I believe he left, I sent him home after milk and cookies." She turned towards the bathroom door.

"Oh well, if you see him, he hasn't come home."

"If I see him, of course. Good day." Click.

It was almost like she floated back to the bathroom, her steps light and ghost-like. Slowly, without a sound the door opened to reveal the bloody bathroom. Handprints ravished the shower curtain, some small hands, others large and menacing. Long fingers stretched out in a trance, sliding away the curtain. The rings clattered against the pole, tolling a hymn of darkness.

Folded into the corner of the bathtub, head lolled to one side was the little piano boy, a bloody goosegg on the side of his forehead. The pianist sank to her knees, eyes fixed on the sight before her. A small grin spread across her purple lips, menacing, malevolent. Her hands reached forward, they did not shake or hesitate, only clasped and unclasped as they took the boy's thin hands. "You had such beautiful piano fingers. They looked ever so sweet and lovely." She gently yanked on his thumbs. "But these monstrous humps, I told you to exercise your thumbs. I told you they were clumsy, and big." Shaking her head and muttering to herself in a psychotic way, she left the room conversing with herself. She was arguing over whether it was better to have long fingers, or slimmer short fingers. After a few minutes she came back, a kitchen knife clutched precariously in her hand.

She sat on the side of the tub, pulling the boy up to caress him; she laid his hand on the side and cut off his index finger just before the knuckle on his hand. After that she quickly severed the nine remaining, gently setting them into a small plastic bag. She stood up professionally, they way a doctor did after leaving the side of a patient.

The kitchen welcomed her as she stepped through the door, plopping the bag onto the cutting board. She reached in to a drawer, puling out an old-fashioned can opener. Carefully she laid a finger down and shifted the metal point beneath the finger and pried. It cracked a little at the base, blood drenching the cutting board; the pianist cut the remaining part off and cleaned the finger. She repeated this with careful detail, piling the little fingernails into a neat and even pile. Above her was a cabinet, she pulled down a bowl and walked over to the fridge, taking out a can of whipped cream.

Coming up the dirt road was a police car, gently rolling along the ruts and potholes. The siren was off, and the only clue to its coming was the rumble of the engine as it worked up the hill. In front of the man behind the wheel, an old brick house loomed, the grass long, and unkempt. He slowly pulled into the drive, stopping the car abruptly, gently, silently shutting the door. His partner did the same, sitting on the hood of the car as they watched the next two police cars pull to a stop in front of them.

Each un-holstered their gun, creeping up the steps, and pushing open the door. Little puddles of blood dotted the floor like a polka-dot skirt, round and unblemished except for smeared footprints. The stairs were soaked, like someone had been drug down, and taken out to the back. A young officer ahead of the rest walked into the kitchen, the bottom of her pants freckled with red. The clatter of her gun hitting the floor and the thud of a hand against a wall brought the others, guns raised.

A woman stood, a small grin on her blood stained lips, nibbling what appeared to be a ladyfinger cookie. Only, it actually was a finger, dipped in red whipping cream. She looked at them, like a fawn caught in the headlights of car. She raised her hidden hand to wave, a large hand a mass of jagged, bleeding stubs. She looked at her hand and rumpled to the floor, without a twitch, without noticing.

The officer who had driven there first walked over and took her pulse. "Look for the boy. He might be alive."

They split up, leaving the room, while the one who had spoken left through the back door in the kitchen. You could see field as far as the horizon, a tree no more than a few yards away. He walked over, and looked about. There were five gravestones, all children, all talented pianists, all dead. Over to the right was a dug grave, but not filled. "Oy, he's here!" He called into the house.

Rushing out, they saw his new grave:


Age 9


His talent was never Put to use

And now he has none