Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Left-handers Beware

First published in Bent Pin Quarterly (2007)

Abe watched as Morgan McCord's Ford pickup sputtered along Main Street and turned into the VFW parking lot across from the post office. The truck squealed to a stop in the slot next to Abe's rusted Buick. Morgan exited and grabbed an ax out of the bed.

“What're you doing with the ax, Morgan?”

“Looking for left-handers,” Morgan replied. The right strap of his bib overalls flapped against the back of his legs, and his black hair beat a rhythm on his shoulders, as he walked around his truck to the front of Abe's car.

“Just left-handers? How come?” The car sagged and moaned when Abe leaned on the fender, even though he wasn't a big man. He continued prying pieces of lunch out of his teeth with the ivory toothpick his wife had given him last week for his 50th birthday.

“Gotta cut off their hands,” Morgan said. He neither smiled nor frowned.

“Gotta what?” Abe was used to Morgan's crazy schemes. He'd been a part of enough of them since their high school days. Abe slid the toothpick into its case and sunk his hands into the pockets of his new Levis.

“Guy Zimmer told a bunch of us about a lecture he went to by this retired professor.” Morgan sat on the hood of the Buick, lowered the ax head to the ground, and rested the handle between his legs. “According to this professor, all our problems could be solved if we got rid of all the left-handers. Jack the Ripper, that bin Laden guy and Napolean were all left-handed, you know.” Morgan snatched a corncob pipe and tobacco pouch from his pocket. He loaded the pipe, tamped down the contents with a brown-tipped finger, flicked his lighter to life and watched smoke billow out of the bowl.

“Do you know the Latin word for left?” Morgan said through an aromatic cloud.

“Can't say as I do,” Abe replied.

“Sinister. And them Latins knew what they were talking about. Even the Chinese realized left-handers were trouble. Know what the Chinese phrase 'left path' means?”

“Nope.” Abe knew he shouldn't argue with him once Morgan got it in his head to do something. The last time he did, Morgan took a shot at him. They were both too drunk to stand still and the bullet went through the window of the Drinking Spot. Abe snickered as he remembered the sight of all those men and Barbara Thomas scurrying out the door and down the street like a bunch of fireflies.

“It denotes illegal or immoral means.” Morgan didn't wait for Abe to comment. “And Japanese men can divorce their wives if they turn out to be left-handed.” Morgan looked skyward as he used a grimy paw to smooth his beard. “Wonder if I can get Mabel to use her left hand more.”

“Sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me.”

“Well, we know how bad Napolean was.” Morgan said as his finger jackhammered Abe's arm. “Hey, I bet all French people are left-handed. And they're probably related to Satan, too.”

Abe didn't know what to say even if he wanted to talk. He'd never seen Morgan this agitated. Abe wanted to smell Morgan's breath to see if he'd been drinking, but his nose wouldn't let him get any closer. He wondered when Morgan's last bath was.

“The professor said we need to put all those athletes that use testosterone in jail, too.” Abe stepped away from the car, as Morgan emphasized this point by waving the ax. “It causes what researchers call biological developmental errors. Of course, testosterone isn't the only cause. He said we should start treating all fetuses with injections to eliminate left-handedness from the world. Then we could all live safe, normal lives.”

“There must be billions of left-handers in the world. How you going to get them all?”

“One hand at a time,” Morgan said, raising the ax above his head.


“Yes, Abe?”

“Aren't you left-handed?”

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