“It survived,” Jessie tapped out under the Instagram of his busted finger. In the photo, Jessie’s index finger was bandaged from tip to the palm joint. The bandaging was tinged with pink and red along the left side.
“Dude, that’s ugly,” said Trent, peering over Jessie’s shoulder to see what he was typing on his iPhone.
“It’s truth, Tren,” said Jessie as he hit post and shared the carnage with his 35 followers.
Jessie’s mauled digit came courtesy of Blindey, the Carroll’s half-blind golden retriever. Jessie and Trent were playing a game, which entailed getting their hands as close to Blindey’s head without the dog noticing. Blindey — real name Blondie — was blind in his left eye. So Jessie and Trent would slowly reach for the floppy ear on Blindey’s left side.
This was a new game, with the inaugural attempt occurring just an hour ago.
“Fucker nearly took my hand off,” said Jessie, still admiring the Band-Aids.
“You screamed like a bitch,” said Trent, giving Jessie a sharp punch in the arm.
“You get your arm caught in a rabid dog’s mouth and see how you react,” said Jessie, rubbing his shoulder.
As cuts go, Jessie’s finger was about 2 millimeters shy of a stich. Still, Blindey’s sharp incisor had gone bone deep and, for all his bravado, Jessie’s finger was throbbing. He was pretty sure he could feel the blood racing into it, hitting the cut, and recoiling in horror as it raced back to his heart.
Jessie secretly wondered if he should be checked for rabies, but there was no way he was going to say that to Trent. In any case, Blindey was old, harmless and never left the Carroll’s back yard. Where the fuck would he catch rabies?
Trent pulled out his phone and liked Jessie’s bloody Instagram.
“What?” said Trent
“My freaking finger, Tren, it felt like someone stuck a pin in it – in the cut…Crap.”
Trent just stared back at Jessie, his own finger poised over the screen where he had just liked Jessie’s finger photo, then he started laughing. “Oh, man, that’s fucked up. You had me. Asshole.”
Jessie just stared back at Trent for a beat and then his face composed itself into a smile, first small and odd because his eyes weren’t smiling. Trent stopped laughing, but then Jessie’s grin widened and he let out his trademark bark laugh.
“Ha! You were hooked!”
Trent punched Jessie’s arm again. “Dick. Look, I gotta go. I promised I’d do my English homework by Sunday. If I find the Spark notes online, I should get it done in 20 minutes. I’ll come back.”
Trent start to walk away, leaving Jessie by himself behind the shed, but then he stopped, turned around and grinned at Jessie.
“I know, I’ll share you busted finger photo on Facebook and then everyone will like it. You’ll be in agony! Hahahahah!”
“Go ahead, Tren, I can’t wait for it. Bring. The. Pain.”
“On its way,” Jessie yelled back over his shoulder as he trotted down the sanitation roads that ran behind all of their ranch houses.
Jessie was running as fast as he could, which wasn’t very fast because he was dragging Blindey. The dog still had his jaws clamped around Jessie’s index finger. The bloody digit was now stripped of skin, but still strong enough to give Blindey purchase and for Jessie to drag Blindey from one yard to another. The pain was excruciating and Jessie cried out. Finally he stopped running and began trying to pull his ruined finger from Blindey’s mouth.
Jessie yanked and pulled and screamed and punched Blindey’s face with his free hand. As he did this, the part of his brain that wasn’t in pain noticed that both of Blindey’s eyes were red. In fact, he was pretty sure Blindey could see out of both eyes, because both pupils were locked on his own two eyes.
Jessie thrashed and screamed until his mother slapped him.
Jessie’s eyes snapped open. His mother was standing next to his bed with one hand over her mouth and the other holding his wrist. He’d been fighting her. In his dream, she was the dog, holding his finger, though it looked like she was only holding his wrist.
As his head cleared, the pain came back.
“Oww. Shit, mom.”
“Jessie, I’m sorry I slapped you. You were screaming and thrashing and then you started swinging at me. I had to wake you up.”
Jessie realized that it wasn’t his finger that hurt anymore. It was where his mother had slapped him.
“And watch your language.”
“Sorry, mom. But that hurt.”
“I know sweetie,” His mother said, then paused, scrutinizing Jessie. “Were you drinking?”
“What happened to your finger?”
“Mom, enough with the 20 questions. I caught my finger on the fence by the shed. It’s fine.”
“Fine? Was it on a rusty nail? Do you need a tetanus shot?”
“Mom, I got one last summer, remember? I think they last for, like, 30 years.”
“Okay, okay. You want a glass of water or something?”
“No, I’m fine,” said Jessie as he rolled onto his side to face away from his mother, “I just want to go back to sleep.”
“Okay. Sorry I slapped you.”
“It’s fine,” said Jessie, purposely slurring his words a bit so she would think he was going to sleep.
Jessie’s mother quietly shut Jessie’s bedroom door behind her. Jessie didn’t move until he was certain she was all the way down the hall.
After a few minutes of near silence in the hall, Jessie eased out of his bed and padded over to his dresser where his phone was charging.
First he check his messages. There were a couple of Snapchats of Trent’s butt which Jessie quickly deleted. Then he opened Instagram.
His finger post had 40 likes. 40 likes?
Jessie opened Facebook. Just as Trent had promised, there was the Instagram share, complete with the whole story, as retold by Trent:
“Don’t Mess with Blindey”
Behold the mutilated finger of one Jessie Hart. We played a game and Jessie lost. Under the bandage is a nearly severed finger. It looks like something out of SAW. I swear I saw bone. Like if you love it!”
So eloquent. Trent had a way with words. Asshole, now everyone knows I teased an old do…”Ouch!”
This time the sharp pain was in his finger. Jessie winced and cradled his hand. Then it faded.
What the hell?
Jessie turned his attention back to Facebook. Under Trent’s post were 16 likes and a few comments:
“Nice way to treat a dog.”
Jessie switch back to Instagram and noticed there were now 41 likes on his finger photo.
There were also some comments under the photo there. Jessie started to read them when another sharp pain coursed through his index finger.
When it subsided a few moments later, Jessie refreshed his Instagram feed: 42 likes.
Jessie felt the blood drain from the top of his head and pool somewhere around his toes.
“No.” Jessie whispered to himself, then he started to giggle. It was the most ridiculous idea he’d ever had.
“Fuck that,” Jessie said to himself and the phone. Then he turned the phone over and put it face down on his dresser and padded back to his bed.
Jessie slept, but his dreams were punctuated by nightmares and sharp pains.
The next morning he awoke to find his face damp with sweat. When he climbed out of bed and stood in front of the mirror hanging on the back of his door, he let out a yelp and then clamped his hand over his mouth.
His face wasn’t sweating, it was covered in blood. His hand and damaged finger were especially bloody. That’s when he noticed that the bandage was off his finger. It had started bleeding again. There was blood on his hand, face and when he looked back at his bed, on his pillow.
Now he’d have to sneak into the bathroom to clean up. There was no way he wanted to face his mother with this mess. She’d freak.
Jessie started to reach for his door handle to check the hallway situation when another sharp pain stopped him in his tracks. He looked down at his finger and swore he could see it throbbing. The pain subsided and Jessie started toward the door, when he stopped again and looked over at his phone on the dresser.
It was 42. What could it be now? What does it matter?
Yet, even as Jessie though this, he was moving toward the phone.
Instagram likes: 60.
Okay. So what? More like. More pain. So what?
Jessie put the phone down and walked back to the door. Easing it open, Jessie stuck his head out the door. The hallway was empty – everyone slept in on Sunday. Jessie tiptoed into the bathroom, shut the door and then hurriedly cleaned up and put new bandages on his finger. Throughout this process, Jessie counted six additional sharp pains in his finger.
Back in his room, Jessie checked Instagram again:
Aha! That’s not six. Jessie allowed himself a triumphant little smirk, which crumbled as soon as he realized he hadn’t checked Facebook
18 Likes on Facebook.
Jessie snatched his phone off the dresser and started furiously texting Trent,
Tren u there?
Dude are you sleeping?
Wake the fuc up!
It was another 10 minutes before Trend finally texted back.
How’s it hanging?
Your boo boo all better?
You see all the likes? People luv it, cept for the people who hate your dog-taunting ass ;->
Jessie felt like strangling Trent, instead he just throttled the phone – until he felt another sharp pain, a pain pause, and then another sharp pain.
Jessie Checked Instagram. Still 64. Then he checked Facebook:
Jessie texted Trent:
Tren listen. Something is wrong. Can you come over?
Sure Jess, but I’m not kissing your boo boo.
Shut up Tren and get your ass over here.
Chill dude. I’ll be there in 15.
While Jessie waited, he stripped the sheets off his bed: the pillow case was bloody and some had gotten on the sheets. Then he stuff the soiled lined into the deepest corner of his closet. He figured he’d clean them on his own when his mother went to work on Monday.
Jessie dressed and ran downstairs, just as Trent was arriving at his back door, about to knock. Jessie ran to the door waving his arms. Trent saw him through the glass and got the message.
“Everybody still asleep?” asked Trent as he eased through the back door that Jessie seemed intent on opening just enough to let Trent in.
“No, I just don’t want anyone coming down. Let’s go to my room.”
“Jess, what’s up? Why so serious?” Trent said with a snicker as he dropped his voice into a raspy Joker tone.
“Shhh. Shut up and come upstairs,” hissed Jessie.
Back in the bedroom, Jessie picked up his phone and handed it to Trent.
“Check out Instagram.”
Trent opened it on Jessie’s iPhone.
“Oh, man, Mikala Rockwell just posted the hottest selfie. I want to ..”
“Tren! Find the picture of my finger.”
“Okay, chill, I can check out those selfies at home.”
Tren opened Jessie’s grid of previously shared Instagrams and found the finger, it was the last pic Jessie shared.
“Got it. Woah. 70 likes. That’s cool, dude.”
“It was 64 this morning,” said Jessie, “Now open my Facebook. Go to my newsfeed and find where you shared my Instagram.”
“22 likes. Sweet. This finger’s gonna be more famous than Bieber.”
“Great. Okay, remem…Ouch!” Jessie stopped and grabbed his hand. He was panting. “Shit, that hurt.”
“Okay, hand me my phone and remember those numbers.”
Trent just stared at Jessie.
“Tren, give me the freaking phone and sit down on my bed.”
Trent nodded slowly, handed Jessie the phone and sat down on the bed.
Jessie started pacing back and forth in front of Trent. Every once in a while he’d stop, clutch his hand and shout out a number. After 10 minutes, he was at seven.
Jessie stopped and turned to Trent.
“Open Instagram. How many likes?”
“Uh huh. Now go to Facebook. How many likes?”
“Jeezus,” whispered Jessie.
“What? Dude, that doesn’t even add up. You counted seven. We added three on Instagram and five on Facebook. That’s eight. Even I can count to eight.”
“You forgot the one before I started to count.”
Trent started shaking his head, “Come on, Jess. That’s ridic. There is no way. Likes are one thing and your finger is another. Of course it hurts. That dog bit the shit out of it.”
Jessie wasn’t listening. The pain, this time was more server and sustained.
Trent was leaning down next to Jessie, who had collapsed to the ground.
Jessie looked up at Trent. The pain was unbearable. Through clenched teeth he said, “Look at Instagram and Facebook.”
Instagram now has 112 likes. Facebook 52.
“Woah. I think someone else is sharing this shit.”
Jessie crawled up onto the bed.
“Delete what?” asked Trent.
“The posts!” Jessie screamed.
“Keep in down, man. You parents are gonna come in here.”
Jessie tried whispering, but his voice was pained, urgent, “Just delete both posts. Every time someone like them, it’s like someone is stabbing me in my hand. Just fucking do it. Please.”
“I’m logged – aaaa—-shiit!”
“200 likes on Facebook….125 on Instagram. Sorry. Sorry, let me zap my Facebook post. I need to log in or log you out.”
“No, no,” said Jessie, wincing, “open my laptop. Log into Facebook on the Web as you. Then do it. Please.”
Tent sat down at Jessie’s desk and opened the laptop.
“It’s booting up…sorry.”
“Okay, okay, I can deal. I can – oh my god!”
“Jess! Sorry, I’m hurrying.”
The computer finished booting up and Trent opened Facebook.
“Okay, give me a sec. What’s my password?”
“Jeeezus, Tren, you don’t know you’re fucking password?”
“No. Sorry, I never log in. Oh fuck, look at your nose!”
Jessie touched below his nose. The skin felt wet and sticky. His nose was bleeding.
“It’s getting worse. Hurry up!”
“Jess, I can’t log in here and I left my phone at home.”
Jess started back at Trent in disbelief. “What the hell?”
“I have to go back home. You take care of Instagram here and I’ll kill the Facebook post at home.”
Jessie stated to shake his head no, but quickly realized there was no other way.
“Fine. You go—-ahhhhh!!”
“Jess, stop screaming!”
Trent heard footsteps outside Jessie’s bedroom, followed by a rapid series of knocks.
“Jessie?” Jessie’s mom called from the other side of the door, “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Jessie took three deep breaths and then spoke calmly, “I’m fine, mom. Another nightmare. Sorry. It’s fine. Go back to bed.”
“Honey, let me in. I want to see you.”
“No, mom. I’m not dressed.”
“Okay, sweetie. I’m going to make breakfast. Come out so we can talk. I’m worried about you.”
“Okay,” whispered Jessie who was fighting another “Like”…fit of pain.
Trent, who had stood stock still during the whole exchange looked back at Jess and threw up his hands in a “now what?” gesture.
“It’s fine,” croaked Jessie, who was bleeding from both nostril and his left tear duct. “You can climb out the window and jump off the roof into the yard. It’s only, I think, a 12 foot jump.”
“Dude, if I break my legs, you’re telling my parents.”
“Just go. I can’t take this.”
Trend nodded and started crawling out the window when Jessie stood up and grabbed his shoulder.
“My phone. Give me my phone.”
“Oh, sorry, here.” Trent handed it over, crawled out the window and jumped and landed cleanly. He turned, smiled and gave Jessie a thumbs up. Jessie grimaced and waved Trent away.
Jessie walked back over to his bed and cradled his phone in his hands. They were shaking so badly, he could barely navigate the screen. Eventually he got to Instagram, found the finger post and deleted it.
Instantly, the finger in his pain cut almost in half – but it was still bad. Jessie stood up and looked in the mirror on his door. He looked like crap, but at least his nose and eyes had stopped bleeding.
Even so, the sharp pains kept coming. Sometimes there were three or more pulses in a row. Jessie started trying to text Trent again.
You there yet?
Ten. Where are you?
For 15 minutes, Jessie repeated this refrain in text. In between, his mother asked him to come out for breakfast.
“Jessie? I made egg sandwiches. What are you doing?”
“Ma, I’ll be there …aaarrgh!…a minute.”
“What? Jess, what was that sound?”
“Nothing ma. Be there in a minute.”
“Finally. Tren. Hurry up, man. I can’t take this anymore.
“Jess. Two minutes.”
Jessie sat back down on his bed and, for the first time in years, prayed:
“Please God. Make this stop. I won’t ever tease Blin…Blondie again. I swear. Make this stop. Help me.”
Jessie’s phone buzzed again.
Done. You’re all clear.
Thanks man. I gotta go.
Where you going? Wanna talk about this?
Nope. Breakfast, then I have to hit Petco for some dog treats, a bone and some major chew toys.
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