Before I introduce you the story I’ve written, I’d like to tell you in short how I got the inspiration for it! I’ve been reading a bit of Franz Kafka recently, and one thing that struck me with his writing is how topical it still is in the current world, seeing that most of it was written over 100 years ago. Especially intriguing to me is his famous story called The Metamorphosis. This particular short story inspired me to write my own story, which is slightly more light-hearted, to be fair. In my story, the protagonist wakes up one day without any of his fingers. What we as readers see is the same day, when the main character, Mr. Thornwood Goodfellow, decides to visit a doctor due to his strange situation, which is also the reasoning for the title of this story. Enjoy!
Strange Mr. No-Fingers
Mr. Thornwood Goodfellow, an average man of forty-or-so years, woke from his deep slumber in the morning, only to discover that he had no fingers attached to either of his hands; fingers that had been in their usual locations just the previous evening, as he had laid his head on a pillow after a long day. He distinctly remembered wiggling all of his long fingers in front of his eyes before closing them; to him fingers his were beautiful, as they had been described by some people as the fingers of a pianist, or a surgeon. They were important as well, as Mr. Goodfellow needed them every single day working as a typist at a very important position for a very important company.
This discovery of fingerlessness disturbed him so much that he immediately woke his wife from the opposite side of the bed, to make her get up, which she did quite reluctantly, and call the company to inform them immediately that Mr. Goodfellow was indeed ill for the day and could not come to work; which before even telling his wife to call, unnerved him so that he was petrified for a good few moments. Of course, he would have done it himself, if not for the fact that all of his ten fingers were completely missing, and operating a rotary phone would have been quite a difficult task.
After the phone call, Mrs. Goodfellow informed his husband that she’d be making breakfast in the kitchen if he needed something, while also strongly questioning his husband if he was indeed so ill that he could not travel to work today, which of course was a clear notice from his wife that he was indeed the sole breadwinner of the family, and he could not be separated from work for many days.
“Not to worry my dear, I’ve just got a bit of a cold, and of course I would not dare work sick while the head of the department, nay, the entire department itself could be at risk of catching my illness. That would not do at all – not at all dear!”, Thornwood responded to his wife, pretending to be cheerful to an extent, from under the covers, where he was still wriggling his fingerless hands secretly. He watched Mrs. Goodfellow walk out of the bedroom, constantly keeping his eyes squarely on her; jumping out from under the covers immediately when her figure disappeared past the door frame. His original finding was still holding true in its uncovered state, and his disappointed, if not slightly worried face showed that he was hoping it could have just been dream that had felt extraordinarily real. Not so, as his fingers were nonetheless completely absent from his hands. Mr. Goodfellow thought this to be quite a cruel and unusual predicament, as he specifically needed fingers to work as a typist. His gaze then slowly approached the typewriter sitting on the office desk in the bedroom; the machine he used when he continued his work at home. He took extraordinary pride in writing, and completing, each and every financial report on time that was given to him.
Slowly, as if meticulously planning his every step, he approached the typewriter; planting himself in front of it so carefully that he, nor the chair, made a single sound. Thornwood raised his stubs – both hands still devoid of fingers – upon the typewriter, and was determined to write something legible on the piece of blank paper locked into the top of the machine. Maybe, after all, he would not even need his fingers; he smiled of the thought that he’d call the company and cancel his sick day and make it to work slightly late, and do his job the same way he had for so long before. However, his ham-fisted attempts at writing; pounding the typewriter’s keys as carefully as he could, produced nothing but a paragraph of unreadable characters and unintelligible words. This would not do at all, Thornwood though to himself, worriedly imagining all the piles of reports currently piling up on his desk at work.
Thornwood sprung up from the chair with surprising speed, immediately facing the bedroom door and stumbling to the open doorway; quickly poking his head out of the room, to see if his wife was about the apartment. It seemed that the coast was clear towards the living room, and he took some, long, elongated steps out of the bedroom. His perplexing condition should be kept a secret from everyone for as long as possible, as he thought that he should not bother other people with this if he could. Thornwood moved about silently, as best he could, through the apartment, still dressed in his nightwear, approaching the front door which would lead him to the street outside. While moving towards the door, he finally realized the state of his garment, and stood still for a while in a strange – stretched – stance, as if he had been caught sneaking out of prison by a spotlight. Thornwood sneaked towards the coat rack, which was standing right beside the front door – guarding the entrance out of the apartment. He’d not thought how difficult it would be to dress oneself without any fingers; he fidgeted and practiced in front of the coat rack for a few moments, looking like a puppet whose strings were being pulled every which way. He then turned around, and backed up against the coat rack, finding two sleeves to stick his arms through; then taking a few steps away from the rack before realizing that the long coat he had chosen was still affixed to the hook it had been hanging on. What a situation indeed, Thornwood thought to himself, imagining the gazes of people on him walking through the streets with a coat rack dragging and bouncing along behind him. With a few awkward hops around the living room, he managed to free himself of the pesky rack, and finally make it to the front door, leaning against it while pushing the handle down with his arm. He made it through to the outside, while the commotion in the living room must have aroused the curiosity of Mrs. Goodfellow, as her voice calling him was the last thing he heard while he quickly pushed the door shut with his shoulder.
Mr. Thornwood Goodfellow was sitting in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. The waiting room was dull – as devoid of colour, or furnishing, or even decoration as any place could be. He was the only person there; sitting on an uncomfortable chair in a row of empty chairs in front of one of the walls, on the opposite side of the door leading to the doctor’s office. Though, his solitude in the pallid waiting room was a sort of blessing, Thornwood thought to himself, as it would be quite difficult to explain the sudden disappearance of his hands’ extremities to anyone else other than the doctor. He’d made the trip to the office without anyone suspecting anything; keeping his stubs strictly tucked and hidden in the front pockets of his long coat, smiling harder and longer than usual at every passerby. This secretive action he still kept up while sitting and waiting, while bouncing his legs up and down nervously. Other than the chairs, the only piece of decoration was an unusually large ticking cuckoo clock – which Thornwood had only somehow noticed just recently, after waiting in the room for a considerable while – sitting on one wall. The constant, loud ticking – which made Thornwood increasingly nervous and anxious; imagining the pile of work at his desk increasing to astronomical sizes with each tick of the cuckoo clock. To further his anxiousness, the office of the doctor was completely silent; with a sliver of light coming through into the waiting room under the door being the only visible clue of someone even being present.
Suddenly the door leading to the doctor’s office creaked open slightly, with a graying head slowly emerging from the opening; a head with a wrinkled face attached to it, coupled with a long, sharp nose protruding out of it. The head slowly turned to face Thornwood, fixing it’s eyes – which were deeply set inside the head – upon him.
“Mr. Goodfellow?” The head asked in a nasal voice, to which Thornwood responded to by nodding his head eagerly up and down. The head also nodded once, and slowly disappeared back into the office, to which Thornwood reacted by bouncing out of his chair and briskly walking into the next room; meanwhile trying to ignore the increasingly loud ticking of the clock, which might just have come from inside his head by now. He entered the office, where the doctor had already seated himself behind his desk. The doctor was sitting with his legs crossed – one leg resting over the other – while resting a clipboard on the higher leg. He was rhythmically tapping a pen on the clipboard, which made Thornwood grasp that he was using – nay spending even – the time of someone paramount; this realization made him awkwardly remove his coat and secure it to the rack next to the door, which took him a considerable amount of effort.
“Thornwood Goodfellow”, Thornwood introduced himself, smiling amiably while extending his right hand towards the doctor, before realizing that he was basically extending a stump towards an esteemed practitioner of science, while still dressed in his nightwear. His smile disappeared, in realization, even faster than he could pull back his hand.
“I see,” the doctor said, while sizing Thornwood up and down with his unfaltering gaze and continuing “please, sit down.” While Thornwood obliged, in his flustered state, and sat down opposite the doctor, he introduced himself: “My name is Doctor Gerhardt Beginning. What seems to be the issue today, Mr. Goodfellow?”
“Well, Dr. Beginning, in my own unprofessional opinion, it seems to me that my fingers have simply vanished during the night.” Thornwood answered; trying to keep up a calm and practiced front, while Dr. Beginning nodded continuously and wrote something down on the clipboard. “This would not be such a large problem, if not for my profession, where my fingers – you see – they are very important to-,” Thornwood continued explaining before being interrupted by the doctor in the middle of his sentence.
“Tell me more about your occupation, Mr. Goodfellow,” Dr. Beginning said cutting in while vigorously keeping his focus on the clipboard. To this Thornwood reacted to by smiling excitedly and proudly lifting his head upwards and raising his nose towards the ceiling, as if particularly roused by this exact line of questioning.
“Now that you asked Doctor, I work as a typist at one of the most important companies in the entire city- nay the entire country!” Thornwood explained enthusiastically, while waving his fingerless hands around for added effect. “I’ve worked the same position,” he said while adding, quite unnecessarily, a dramatic pause in between, before continuing “for twenty years now.” He was waiting for some sort of affirmation or reaction from Dr. Beginning; considering how loyally Thornwood had worked his position, but all he received was a curt nod from the doctor, and more scribbling on the clipboard. The room fell silent for a few moments, which felt very uncomfortable and longer than it should have to Thornwood. He was compelled to break the silence by saying something, which he did, not as enthusiastically as before: “Doctor Beginning, do you think that this could be resolved within the day? I would very much appreciate if I could return to work- I can’t even imagine the amount of paperwork waiting- and the state of the company without me!” To which he did not receive even the smallest nod or reaction from the doctor, who was still transfixed on the clipboard.
After an excruciatingly long amount of time, at least according to Thornwood, the doctor finally raised his gaze from the clipboard and turned towards him; releasing the clipboard from his hands and letting it lay on the table between the two men. After taking one more glance at the paper attached to the board, the doctor said: “Mr. Goodfellow, I have come to a conclusion which might solve this situation,” to which Thornwood reacted to by almost jumping out of his seat, while Dr. Beginning raised his hand, indicating that he was not done yet. Thornwood sunk back into his chair, and the doctor resumed: “I can only conclude that your total lack of ambition in life and work has driven your fingers to vacate your hands in defiance. It seems to me that your passion for being a typist- having no aspiration to rise in your corporate life has made it so that your fingers have left you hoping for something better, more fulfilling- less menial if you will.”
Thornwood could only stare at Dr. Beginning in complete astonishment. Before he could even think to answer- to defend himself and his loyal career as a typist; Dr. Beginning continued: “Worry not Thornwood, I have come up with a solution,” a statement which made Thorwood hopeful again, only for a short time. “I’ve spent the last 15 minutes coming up with different performer-names for you. Working at the circus is the next logical- nay, the only choice for your career, working as a freaksh- a human attraction. Think of the money you’d make: a fingerless wonder!”
This was all too much for Thornwood, who raised himself tentatively from his seat; walking to the door and backing up against the coat rack and fidgeting himself into his jacket- surprisingly effortlessly. He opened the door decisively, and took two steps out of the room before Dr. Beginning stopped him by calling out: “Wait, Mr. Goodfellow! Stop! How does ‘Strange Mr. No-Fingers’ sound as a stage name? Pretty catchy isn’t it?”
“Sounds super, Dr. Beginning. Thank you for your assistance- and please, call me Mr. No-Fingers,” Thornwood responded, smiling politely while walking away from the office; dragging the coat rack out behind him.