(Dear Friends – a footnote at the top of the page! All my poems in the past have had an audio except for “Self-portrait in landscape” which was promulgated the other day. I’ve fixed that omission, so there’s now an audio of me reading it if anyone is interested. None of this has anything to do with the following story!)
When Charmaine was peeling potatoes she accidentally cut off her baby finger. Her mother had always said, “Charmaine! Don’t peel the potatoes with a sharp knife! Peel the potatoes with a proper potato peeler!” But you know young people. Charmaine knew better. It was inevitable that one day she would cut off a finger with the knife.
It wasn’t just the tip of the baby finger; it was the whole hog; the entire pinkie on her left hand.
Part of the tragedy was of course that Charmaine was a fabulous concert pianist. What a fabulous concert pianist was doing peeling potatoes I have no idea. Nor did her mother, my wife. Naturally, her hysterical mother phoned for an ambulance after wrapping the little finger up in several pieces of paper towel, the roll of which sat on the window sill above the kitchen sink. There was blood on the cutting board and kitchen bench and everywhere, and the couple of potatoes that had been already peeled were ruined.
I said to Charmaine that I wouldn’t mind paying a famous composer to write a piece for piano that used only nine fingers, and she said “Don’t be silly Daddy. How would a famous composer know it was my pinkie on the left hand that was missing?” I wouldn’t have thought that such things mattered.
And then the ambulance, while turning off the road into the driveway, missed and drove into the ditch. It was stuck. And what is more it was blocking the gate so that the next ambulance (that my wife had called for immediately) couldn’t get in. To add to the inconvenience, the ambulance personnel got the stretcher through the gate, but with Charmaine lying on the stretcher they couldn’t squeeze it between the stuck ambulance and the garden wall. It simply wasn’t possible to turn the stretcher on its side. Not with Charmain in it.
The ambulance crew tipped Charmain onto the grassy verge and managed to get the stretcher through the gap. They then had to get Charmaine through the gap and onto the stretcher and into the usable ambulance.
That is when I said, “Look Charmaine, I can tell the famous composer which finger is missing when I commission the piece.”
And Charmaine said, “Oh Daddy, it’s not the same.” I didn’t have a clue what she meant. She can be so obtuse at times. But anyway, before long the ambulance was on its way and I followed (with Charmaine’s mother as a passenger) in the family car which fortunately I had parked on the side of the road outside the gate. Somehow the ambulance got through all the heavy traffic but we got stuck. We were sitting on the road in the car halfway to the hospital, and I said “Well at least the right vehicle got through”, and my wife said “Yes, but I have her finger in my purse. There’s no hope now.”
I said, “That settles it. I’m commissioning a piano piece for nine fingers from a famous composer. I’ll do that tomorrow.”
That is when Charmaine’s mother’s phone rang. “Hello? Hello?” The batteries went flat. The phone was dead. Now it’s going to be hours before we find out what the lottery numbers are.