You’d Better Learn
by Thadd Presley
"This isn't how it has to be," John told the man who held the bolt cutters. "I'm tryin' my best t' hold everythin' together the best I can." He looked toward his wife. "And just look!!" Slowly lifting his hand, pointing at his wife. "Look at what I come home to find."
Blood was dripping from his hand and running in streams down his forearm, when he focused on the blood, he felt a wave of confusion flow from his head to his mid-section. "She's here sucking up the profits while I'm out working. That's where you're money's goin' man."
The black man, held the mouth of the bolt cutters out, waiting for John's ring finger. His grey eyes focused on the woman who was huddled in the corner crying. "That true? You and this crack-head stealin' Big Daddy's dope? You smokin' up your man's money and making him late on his payments?"
She started to say something, but her voice failed her.
"Tell me somethin' John." The black man asked, "do I take another of your fingers or do I take one of hers?"
"Just give me more time. I'll have his money."
"Time's up. Daddy don't want money now. He wants you t’know that he’s finished with you."
These words meant more to John than losing his pinky finger. He couldn't survive without Big Daddy's help. "Come on man. Take the finger. Just..."
At the command, the executioner cut the ring finger from the hand. John screamed and his wife joined him. Lying on the blood covered ground was John's finger. It twitched, as if it was trying to crawl away. John's wedding ring was on the finger.
"My job’s done here, John."
John looked up. "Do I still have to pay the money?"
The black man laughed. "Pay? Don't tell me you haven't learned your lesson, John. You owe Big Daddy. Don't you think so?"
"But my fingers? God!!"
"God?" The black man slapped him. "Say it again."
John lowered his head.
"I'll not have you takin' my Lord's name in vain."
"So, I have to pay Big Daddy still?"
"You'd better or next time I'll bring a gun and shoot your wife in the face." He looked over at her. "She's your problem anyway, right?"
John stared at the floor, not wanting to look at his fingers. But, for some reason he couldn't take his eyes off of them. Is this really happening," he thought. Am I really..."
The executioner slapped John. "Right?"
John didn't know what the man had said, but he answered, "yeah, right." A shutter went through his body. "You're right."
"Now, get to a hospital."
"What do I say?"
"Tell them you got your fingers cut off because you owe for drugs."
"Really?" John was getting light headed. The world was growing black.
"Woman!!" The executioner said. "Get your man to the hospital."
She looked up, her eyes were yellow and dull. "what do I tell them?"
"Tell them that you brought him to the hospital because if you didn't a big black man said he was going to kill you."
Her eyes flickered, showing the smallest recognition of life. "Really?" She asked.
Slowly she stood up and started toward her husband. He wasn't looking at the ground anymore. He was limp. His head flopped back, eyes glaring at the ceiling. "Do you think he is dead?"
Grief came over her face, but then the executioner saw relief. "I'm going to miss him so much," she said. "He was my high school love."
The moment was lost when the execution spoke. "Big Daddy wants his money. Don't let this man's life go needlessly. I'll be back in a week."
"What!! I can't..."
"But I can. Just know, I'll be back in a week."
"I'll don’t know how to come up with twelve thousand..."
"You better learn," said the man walking out of the door.