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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 11: January 2022
Flash Fiction: 989 words
“Triple-Q” Challenge
By Renée Jessica Tan

Thumb

 

Bugeye Sprite trots over to my desk with something in her mouth. She holds it in her jaw delicately but with authority, as if transporting a naughty kitten. But, alas, she is unable to birth kittens, naughty or otherwise, because her reproductive system was ripped out long ago by the dubiously named “kitten rescue.”

As Bugeye gets closer, I see that she’s carrying my severed thumb. I knew it would turn up eventually. I cut it off two days ago, and, honestly, I’m embarrassed for my hapless little huntress that it took her this long to find it. In fact, enough time has passed that the stub of my new thumb is already growing in, although not fast enough to make typing a pleasant endeavor. I should have thought of that when I chose an appendage to remove. Perhaps a toe would have been more practical. This lack of foresight makes me think of my mother, who once said that while I might have a brilliant scientific mind, I did not possess an ounce of common sense. This comment is memorable for its inclusion of the scantest compliment before the inevitable complaint.

I take my quobbled digit from my darling longhair and stroke her glorious coat with my thumb-less hand. It is indeed a shame that such a gorgeous creature has been robbed of the ability to bestow such superior genetics to the next generation. Although, I do wonder what kind of mother Bugeye would be, as cats are known for their narcissistic tendencies. One self-absorbed matriarch in this house is more than enough.

The phone rings. It is my incessant Aunt Mathilde, invading my peace yet again. As with her past hundred calls, I do not pick up.

I throw my thumb into an empty jar on the shelf with the starfish arms, gecko tails, quahogs, and tentacles from various genera of octopi. It occurs to me that if my bio-cellular tissue regeneration serum is successful—and my new stubby thumb certainly shows promise of its efficacy, I am thrilled to report—it probably would not take much to alter the formula to replicate a new functioning uterus for my beautiful little Sprite. Granted, the project thus far is to regrow limbs, not organs. But everyone, especially my querulous mother, doubted I could even come this far. And now look where I am—I have almost half a new thumb!

Of course, though the quiddity of my experiment has already proven successful, there is minor concern about this growing addition to my left hand. For instance, will it develop a fingernail? Will it have the same touch sensitivity, knuckle armature, and mobility of its predecessor? Will it know when to stop growing once the thumb is fully formed, if indeed, it ever develops in its entirety? And, most curiously to me, will the biological tissue that I used to create my serum present any of its other source characteristics within the new growth?

One hypothesis that I hope comes to fruition is for my new appendage to have the ability to change surface color. Considering the cephalopod and reptilian cells culled for my serum are chromatophores, it is highly possible that any resulting growth could change hue to camouflage to the environment, or because of emotional distress, or—dare I dream?—at will. The ability to grow new body parts already has the potential for a huge financial return in the biomedical industry. If I also could create a product that could make one’s skin literally change color, the possibilities within the cosmetics market are endless. Imagine that: me, a child whose mother dubbed the homeliest specimen born to man, now on the cusp of becoming a beauty mogul!

As I sit here at my computer with Bugeye nestled comfortably on my lap, with every stroke of her fur, I feel a rush of blood pulsing through my new half-thumb. My gaze wanders to the jar that contains my mother’s shriveled, desiccated heart. One might assume its diminutive size and withered condition is from sitting on a shelf for six months, but I swear it came out exactly like that.

If I can regrow a new womb for my beloved little feline companion, why couldn’t I create a new organ for my mother as well? It would not be that difficult to get her body out from the storage freezer and start dumping growth serum into the gaping black hole where her sorry excuse for a heart used to be. Maybe I could even grow a plump, warm, oversize heart that glows a bright red when she tucks me into bed and tells me how proud she is of the wonderful person I have become.

Bugeye’s angry hiss shatters my reverie. Being a highly intuitive creature, I know instantly something is afoot. Sure enough, I immediately hear a most unwelcome knock at the door.

Bugeye springs off my lap, scrambling to her usual hiding place that rudely only has accommodations for one.

As with all darkeners of my doorstep, I sit quietly and wait for them to depart. But then I hear the impertinent jiggling of the doorknob, followed by the unmistakable timbre of Aunt Mathilde shouting my name. I momentarily panic before remembering she is too quotidian to figure out where I hide the spare key. But then I hear the sliding of the doormat, and I am taken aback by her guile.

I have but moments to run to the kitchen. I put an oven mitt on my left hand to hide my nub. Then, with great effort, I pull out my mother’s gargantuan cast iron skillet and brandish it over my head—no small feat sans two fully opposable thumbs.

As I wait impatiently for my dimwitted Aunt Mathilde to figure out the deadbolt, I pass the time by taking inventory of all the empty jars sitting atop the counter.

 

—One of 12 Finalists in MacQ’s “Triple-Q” Writing Challenge

Renée Jessica Tan’s
Issue 11, January 2022

work has appeared in various anthologies and publications including Flash Fiction Online and Everyday Fiction. Her short story “Baghead” was read live at Symphony Space in New York City and featured on the Selected Shorts podcast that aired October 2020. Her flash fiction story “Auntie Cheeks” was published this fall in The Best Small Fictions 2021 Anthology.

 
 
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