You know, I once rode in a car with a man who’d just had his finger cut off. Yes it’s true, and the finger was in the back seat of the car as well. The scene wasn’t as weird as it may sound to you. Maybe it was. I don’t know. You lose touch about what is weird and what is not after a while—when you’ve kicked around as much as I have with all them freaks, psychos, drunks and junkies. There were good reasons for the entire matter . . . logical ones. I know how you modern folk are—can’t stand for anything that ain’t rooted in logic. Mystical? Throw it out! Toss it to the hyenas! Drown the next mystic in the river! Nail Jesus up there again! The bastard never should of come down! That’s you harpies’ position. Oh, I can give you tiddle-bums some reasons. My noodle isn’t as cooked as all that.
I’d gone up to a town about 60 miles north on the big highway, hitchhiking. I was supposed to meet this pal of mine up there. Hitchhiking can be a drag—if you ain’t in a good mood, or you don’t want to talk, or a predator is trying to hit on you, or some lonely dude that talks incessantly. But I got lucky. Two dudes that could have been out of a Hunter S. Thompson novel picked me up. It was two (sorta) hippie dudes in a nice Airstream-type deal—it had a lot of room to lie around in in the back. Them crazy dudes sat up front and passed the weed. They offered it to me, of course, but I ain’t the weed smoking type. They pulled out a bottle of tequila as we listened to somebody like David Allen Coe on the stereo. I was like “Oh yeah!” I was a drunk. But it got even better! I loved barbiturates. I adored them. And it was the mid-80’s—barbiturates were getting hard to find. They had Quaaludes! My fave! To lude out! Yeah! Those wonderful 714s! I popped a handful. I asked the dudes, since they seemed so chill, if I could just lay back and be fucked up. They were like, “Hell yeah! Kick back young fella!” And I did, and it was a delightful ride. And they were going all the way to the town I was visiting.
Oh lord, dear reader, I got to take you on a tangent. It’s my problem, never telling a story straight. I apologize, but stick with me my beloved perusers, it will be worth it in the end—I promise! I’ll get to my Canuck and his finger.
From my childhood onward I was scared—always thought the sky would fall on me, or I’d be ravaged by leprosy. It was a passion with me, worrying. The worst conflagrations were bound to happen. People terrified me. That’s why I loved booze. It took all that fear away. I tried to stay drunk all the time, so I was delighted to be dizzled on the ludes and the booze!
I finally got to the town and the college there, my destination, I told the hippie types they could drop me anywhere. But they were like “No way dude! We’ll take you to the front door.” And they did. There was a big gig there at the University. My pal was supposed to be in there. But —wow—when I walked in there, hundreds of people! Jesus! I just couldn’t take it. Then I saw this chick I knew and she said some weird shit to me—it disturbed me. I won’t show and tell, dear pal, I’m sorry, but it fucked up my high. It was weird. Nothing had ever fucked up a barbiturate and booze high for me, but she and that huge crowd freaked me out. Mother of god! I just had to find my pal then I’d be set up. He said he had wine and some chicks for us to hang out with—hit the town and swig wine and kiss girls. It was going to be paradise, but I freaked—I’d never had a panic attack before, this was a first. Fantods! I feel for you all that have panic attacks. What happened to the lude high? It just went away as I found I couldn’t breathe anymore. So I ran out of that place.
I wandered the campus feeling low. Depression was setting in. I just wandered. It was peculiar, but I found a little farm type place on the edge of campus. A little barn . . . a goat or two . . . a tiny pastoral scene.
When it got dark it got cold. Damn! I found a little nest of hay and buried myself under it. I must of dozed off—I don’t know—it was all so weird. But when I woke one time I couldn’t feel my hand. I’d lost the use of it—it sure was creepy. Saying that seems a bit of an understatement, but it was awful peculiar. It’s happened to me many times since, so I deal with it, but this was the first time. My hand curled in on itself and when I tried to pull it back into its proper shape, it curled back in on itself again. I was like “Oh god! Is this forever?” Remember I’m a worrywart. I sure got no more sleep that night! What a godawful night it was. I was so fucking scared and lonely.
When the dawn’s early light showed its vicious, but welcome head, I made my way to the highway. Goin’ down the road feelin’ bad just like the Woody Guthrie song. I was too numb and sleepy to be intimidated by the ride back.
An old man in a huge red boat of an automobile picked me up. Something from the old days that car was, maybe early sixties. One of them that was all metal—before the corruption of things. He was an old timer with a thick Canadian accent, dressed way out of date. He was poor—that was obvious—working class. His hand was all bandaged up and he held it upright like Stonewall Jackson used to do.
I got on into that boat of a car, with my old Canuck and his bandaged hand held up to the roof—doctor’s orders. It was his left hand. The right one was steering his old boat. He’d cut his finger off in the sawmill. That’s what he told me. I ain’t lyin’ to ya. He also told me his finger was in the back seat . . . on ice. I took a peak. Sure enough, there was the cooler. Looked a lot like one you’d put a few beers into. I didn’t know what to say. I suppose I gave him a little sympathy. I don’t recall. I started to be flumdiddled by the situation.
They patched him up the best they could there at the mill. Now they were sending him down to the big city where the specialists would put his finger back on. Seemed kind of crummy of them. I guess they just didn’t give a shit. I can’t explain for it. I wasn’t much for asking questions back then. I usually kept my gob shut. He told me he lived in Canada, but worked at a sawmill across the border in America. Sure seems they could of got somebody to drive him down. I guess the boss didn’t want to be bothered. “Slows down the production!” That was his tune, the boss’. It sure seemed rotten. I was too young. I’d yet to experience just how filthy and swinish human nature really was. It was years before I started working in the factories, and I’d yet to learn how crummy poor people have it. How brutal and evil the bosses and owners are. The pig fuckers! But I’m wandering away again with my little social diatribe.
My new Canadian pal didn’t seem as concerned about his finger, there lyin’ in the back seat, as he did about his boy, his son. It was his boy that had him getting ulcers. He’d found some marijuana in his boy’s dresser drawers. Hacked off fingers he could understand. Having to drive himself sixty miles to have it sewn back on—no trouble with that one at all. But his boy and his dope? Holy Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Mary again! That was out of his realm. That was the devil’s work. He wanted my advice. Damned if I could help him. I didn’t smoke the old devil weed. No, that was for weirdos. Nembutal, Demerol, Librium, Valium, Morphine, or opium? Sure! Sign me up! Ready and willing to go! Amphetamines, LSD, cheap wine, vodka, even PCP. I’d enjoyed them all, but never that devil weed. No, I couldn’t figure out people smoking that shit either. He and I were of the same mind. The kid was crazy. Drastic measures needed to be taken. I told the old man to have his boy kidnapped by some of them fascists in Provo, Utah—the ones that run them disciplinary camps for bad kids, them so called “tough love” programs. That would straighten him out. I told him that they’d either fix him or kill him, one of the two, and I thought maybe he’d be able to pay for it from the company’s insurance plan. I told him that he might have a lot of power over the company since he’d cut his finger off in their sawmill. He didn’t seem so sure—gave a long hum of worry and got real quiet—a lot on the old fellow’s mind.
But not his finger! No! When we got to the big superstore, north of the city, he stopped to get some ski equipment. I’m serious dear reader. I tell a lot of lies, but right here and right now, I’m telling you God’s honest truth. As I got out of the car I thought, “Goddamned these Canucks take their skiing seriously.”
He knew there was a big sale going on. He was a mad dog skier. The finger be damned! He wasn’t going to miss this shindig. Hell no! They were having discounts you wouldn’t believe! You couldn’t beat the bargains! Nearly giving the stuff away! He had no intention of passing this one up.
I followed the geezer in. I didn’t want to stay in the car with his finger. He was still holding his hand above his head. It was quite something, I tell you. You don’t see that every day. Oh my friends, I know you think I’m telling a tall tale here, but you are wrong. May my mother turn into a baboon if I am lying!
I stuck close to the geezer—what else was there to do? He found some stuff all right. He even bargained them down from the already rock bottom prices. Yours truly carried the load of ski bum stuff out to the boat. He was happy. Lost a finger but got some damned good bargains. Tit for tat—that must have been his philosophy. Still, he couldn’t get over that pot smoking boy of his—kinda put a cramp in his shopping spree. I told him again, “Hand him over to them anti-drug fascists. Those bruisers will fix him up just fine. Biff bang pow!” He wasn’t so sure though. His boy was his everything. He didn’t know if he could just turn him over to a bunch of thugs.
We tramped on down the road a bit—me, my old timer, his finger, and the new ski gear. He got me down into town and pulled off at a place to let me out. Then he shot off to the hospital. I don’t know how they fix that stuff—I hope his finger didn’t thaw out. It was just kinda strange. This is an absolutely true story, or may Beelzebub poke me in the ass forever!
*Joe Wilson, aka Fishspit Willie, has written a zine that began in 1984 called Wiseblood.
He lives with a 19 year old deaf, demented cat named Pip. She weighs 4 1/2 pounds