Lucky 13, by Ian Tuttle

Vince covers his bad hand with his good hand.  It’s the bad hand, more than anything else, that makes him feel old.  The girl next to him is in her twenties, easily half his age.  Her phone keeps lighting up with messages. She’s waiting for someone.  He can tell by the way she fidgets and pokes at her phone that she’s not comfortable sitting by herself in a bar.

He shouldn’t say anything.  Even so, he says, “that, ah, it’s a nice bracelet you have.”  He used to be so smooth.

“That’s a nice bracelet, yourself,” she says, pointing at his own tarnished band.

He’s not expecting that.  Her smile is nice and not quite symmetrical. She’s not mocking him.  Her lopsided smile puts him at ease.

He forgets his bad hand for a moment and with it he touches his bracelet. It’s sterling silver, from a claptrap shop in New Mexico or Texas or Nebraska.  He can’t even remember.  He was on one of his sprees, the one that finally landed him here in San Francisco, and when he came to he had the bracelet, and two fingers less than ten.

When she sees his hand her smile tightens.

“Oh,” she says.  “Oh.”

“I got it in the southwest.”

“The injury?”

“The bracelet.”

“What happened to your fingers?”

“Just lost ’em.”

“Just lost them?  How do you just lose fingers?” Her eyes widen in puzzlement.  They’re set a little too close together.  She’s all kinds of imperfect.

“Sometimes you just lose things.  That’s why they call it lost.  Cause you don’t know where it went.”

“Oh.”

He sips his bourbon.  The ice has melted and the liquor has thinned.  He should have never started with her.  He’s just depressing himself.

“Can I feel it?” she asks.

“The bracelet?”

“Your injury.”

He looks at her.  Her skin is smooth and powdered.  She’s looking right at him but still she fidgets with her phone.

He slides his bad hand towards her, keeping it flat on the bar, palm down. The small bumps at his knuckles look polished and pink.  When she touches them he knows he can’t really feel her, the nerves have all been ruined, but the way she touches them, with curious caresses, he imagines that he can.

IAN TUTTLE was born in San Francisco, California, which he left long enough to realize it’s exactly where he needs to be.  He writes short stories, flash fiction, and is at work on a novel about video game addiction.  People have said these things about his writing: “Great stuff,” “This is real writing,” “Truly inventive,” and “More honest and nuanced than most non-fiction.”  His website is: http://wordsofeverytype.com.

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