The Girl with the Donut Fingers
A short story.
Had the girl’s father not been passed out on the floor, he might have offered his wife some soothing wisdom about their newborn daughter’s unique appendages. “She’s special,” he might have said. Or “She’ll never want for sustenance.” Or “I could really go for a cup of coffee right now.”
Because what had sent the father fainting to his current position of uselessness on the floor, and the mother into a panic of “how did I create such a monster?” type thinking, was the simple fact that their daughter had been born with ten tiny jelly donut holes perched atop her ten tiny fingers.
Odd, yes. But according to the attending physician who delivered the pastry adorned infant, such oddities were not unheard of.
“I’ve seen plenty of things attached to baby’s fingers when they’re born,” he said jovially and much to the mother’s chagrin. “Mostly fingernails,” he admitted, “but I have seen a baby born with a Philips head screwdriver on his right index finger. And another born with a small shovel on each thumb.”
“But those are useful things,” the mother thought to herself. “What use are ten jelly donuts going to be to my daughter? Or to anyone else for that matter?” Saddened, and suddenly famished, the mother absent mindedly nibbled the end of her new baby’s pinky.
Her eyes widened, her mouth watered, and her stomach rumbled with hunger for more at the first taste of the raspberry filled confection. She finished eating all five donuts on the right hand before she roused her passed out husband and implored him to sample the left.
He hesitated, looking back at the floor like he’d hoped it had all been a dream, and by fainting again he might return to it. But then, he brought his little one’s fingers to his lips and bit away the remaining donuts. The satisfaction was instantaneous and brought tears to the man’s eyes.
“She’s a miracle,” he said. And he kissed his wife, and they held their baby and watched her now donut-less fingers wiggle. And the longer they watched, the more heartbroken they became.
“Was that all?” the mother asked wistfully. “Just one batch of donuts?”
“Maybe,” the father sighed. “But it’s for the best. Now she can have normal life.”
But the girl’s life would be far from normal.
The donuts returned. At first, they arrived just once a day, in the morning, and the parents happily devoured them together over coffee. But as the years wore on, the donuts started to regenerate more quickly, a few hours, and then only minutes after they’d been eaten. The parents grew restless and unwell. The constant consumption of fat and sugar made them sicker and sicker, but they couldn’t stop. They wouldn’t stop eating the donuts.
The girl grew up. And as a young woman, she feared for the lives of her ailing parents. She fled her home at the age of seventeen, as much for their wellbeing as her own. She wanted to find some kind of normalcy in her life. Some truth. Some light. And perhaps even love.
But it seemed she would forever be defined by her fingers and what they held. Everyone she met became obsessed with her donuts. One taste was all it took to ensnare them and doom them to ruin. And it angered the girl. That all people could see when they looked at her were donuts. Miserable, murderous, heart clogging donuts.
Was there no one who could see past this? No one she could spend a day with that wanted to know her heart? Her mind? Her desires?
“No,” she thought. “Because as long as I have donuts growing out of my fingers, I’ll never be truly seen in this world.”
She turned on herself. Began eating the donuts immediately as they appeared, sometimes twenty times a day. But they made her terribly ill. And she knew they would eventually kill her if she didn’t find a way to make peace with them.
She packed a bag and called for a car to pick her up.
The car arrived and she sat in the backseat, hoping to avoid the driver’s prying eyes. She noticed only two things about him. He was young. She guessed about twenty. And he wasn’t married.
“Where to?” he asked.
“The edge of the world,” she replied. “Keep driving until there’s nothing left. And leave me there. I have money. I’ll make it worth your while.”
He didn’t ask questions. He put the car in drive and headed west.
He took back roads mostly, and the girl loved that. There was so much to see. They hardly spoke, but when they did, she loved that, too. The young man’s voice was kind, and he made her laugh.
When they stopped to sleep or eat, the girl avoided getting close to him and he respected that. But part of her wished he wouldn’t. Part of her wished he would approach her, see her fingers, and just get to the part where everything would go horribly wrong. The suspense of it was torture. But she held out, for two weeks, as they traveled across the country together. Learning everything, but not everything, about each other.
During their travels, the girl didn’t eat the donuts from her fingers. Because she didn’t want to be sick in front of her companion. And because she was starting to forget they were there. Because he hadn’t seen them. Hadn’t mentioned them. Hadn’t asked to taste them.
And that freed her.
But the day finally came when the car pulled up to the coast. Where there was nothing left but horizon. The young man opened the door for her, and she stepped out into the sea air and met his eyes for the first time. They were marble gray and just as kind as his voice.
She wanted to hug him. To thank him. To tell him how much the time they’d spent together meant to her. And how she wished it didn’t have to end.
But it did have to end.
She bravely extended her hand to him, holding her credit card between two jelly donut holes.
The tears filled her eyes before she could stop them.
“I can’t take your money,” he said.
“Of course, you can,” she said impatiently. “Just take it and leave me here.”
“You don’t understand,” he said. “I can’t touch your hand.”
The girl broke down into sobs, clutching her face in her own abominations. “I know,” she cried. “I’m a monster. I’m sorry I didn’t show you before. I just didn’t want you to be like everyone else. I wanted you to see me. I wanted you to want me. Just me.”
“I did see you,” he said. “And I do want you. I can’t touch your hand because it might kill me.”
The girl looked up and saw fear in the young man’s eyes. He was a foot away from her, his hands pressed to his sides, a glisten of sweat on his brow.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“I’m fatally allergic to wheat,” he says. “If I so much as touch a donut, I break into hives and my throat closes up. If I ever ate one, I’d be dead in a matter of minutes.”
The girl froze on the spot and searched his face for signs of laughter. But he wasn’t mocking her. He was telling the truth. The pain of it was visible in the swirling gray waters of his eyes.
“I’m so sorry,” she said.
“Not as sorry as I am,” he smiled sadly. “I promise you.”
They stood for a long time. Feeling sorry.
“I need to pay you,” the girl finally said. “Somehow.”
“How about you call me again,” he said. “When you’re ready to go home. You can pay me in full on the return trip.” He smiled and it pressed on her heart.
“I’ll call,” she said. “I promise you.”
“Take care of yourself,” he said.
And she prayed that he would. Prayed he would survive long enough to answer her call when she was ready to go home.
She stayed at the coast for a year. And she met no one. And she swore off wheat, in solidarity, and because it had never made her feel right inside. And as the chemistry of her body shifted, purging the molecules she’d gorged herself on out of necessity, the donuts on her fingers became smaller. And smaller. And smaller. Until one day she woke up and found nothing but ten healthy fingertips at the end of ten healthy fingers.
She leapt out of bed and called the young man. He told her he was only twenty minutes away; in the apartment he’d rented the day he’d left her at the coast.
She twittered nervously at the window while she waited, tapping her fingernails proudly against the glass, until his car pulled into the driveway.
She ran outside and met him halfway. When she reached for him, he recoiled. Then she held her hands in front of his eyes and watched them fill with happy tears. He grabbed her hands in his and tasted every finger in turn. She waited patiently for his lips to become available and then she thanked him with a kiss.
And they kissed again the next morning. Over coffee. Together.
At the edge of the world.
And they happily devoured each other…
every morning after.
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