“Sit down, Steve. Let me tell you what we’ll do. You will get my stuff and bring it back to me, say in three hours. Enough time to so that they can reattach your finger without any problems.”

“What …?”

“Let me finish, will you? You’ll go and get my stuff, but – there’s always a but, Steve, especially when they don’t tell you there’s one – I’ll keep one of your fingers. Not a big deal, really, if you come back in time, you’ll get it reattached almost as new. Now, if you don’t make it, you’ll get automatically another 24 hours – although, you’ll evidently lose your finger. Now, if you come back without my stuff within that lapse, we’ll re-start the process again: that is, I’ll cut you another finger and so on. If you fail to come at all after those 24-hour ultimatum have passed – say an hour after it has expired -, then I’ll come looking for you. By then, I’ll have already given in getting my property back, which is a very bad thing for you: it results in you being, how can I put it? Superfluous? Unnecessary? Besides being a painful remainder of my lost belonging; that is, the residue of a mistake that I regret and with to forget: something that, evidently, needs to be removed, eliminated. Do you follow me? Or do you need me to draw you a sketch? Just nod, Steve, will you? Hey, it’s your fingers after all. Your life. You better get it right.”

“Yes, yes… Yes, Tony, I understand… It’s just that it is so… disproportionate… For God’s sake, is a book! It’s not even a first edition, just a paperback copy of… of….”

“The Sound of the Fury, Steve. A beautiful edition, by the way.”

“That’s it. I told that would return it you as soon as I finished. You even said, ‘No rush, Steve, enjoy it’ ….”

“That’s right. I said so over a year ago, Steve.”

“Yes, Tony. I know. I told you I would give it back to you without even reading it… Oh, come on Tony, it’s just a book….”

“No, it’s not just a book. It’s about trust. Not just in you, but in any potential future borrower. And, you could say, well, don’t lend any more books, but, you know, I love books and, in doing so, I love sharing them, being able to talk about them. Bust most of all, I love passing by the book shelf and smelling them, and I treasure the sight of that random composition of books spines that is just a meager summary of their contents – places I inhabited or at least tried hardly to do so. But probably what I hold most dear is to feel the uniquely pull of the gravity that the bookshelves exercise on the bodies that enter its zone of influence. So, Steve, you can see this is about far more that a book. It’s about the hope (in humanity) that you’ve taken from me. And, yes, it’s also about the book: I can’t make my mind to losing it. You can always say that I can by another copy, but then you wouldn’t have understood a thing.”

“I do understand, Tony. I’ll bring it. I promise.”

“I know that you’ll bring it. But as my confidence in you is at an all-time low, I’ll keep one of your fingers as a pledge.”

“Tony…. You are serious…? You were never so drastic with my gambling debts.”

“You don’t get it. Anyway, it doesn’t matter. Choose a finger, Steve.”

“Here, the pinkie….”

The sunset’s dim light coming in through the dusty wood blinds offered a trite illumination to the scene, as one of Tony’s men prepared to cut Steve’s finger with a cigar cutter.

© Marcelo Wio

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