The thing about the compulsion is that you see it all happening, you know it’s happening, but there’s absolutely nothing in the world that you can do to stop it.

I’ve been teaching for over 35 years. Throughout my indentured servitude all manner of people have passed before my afflicted eyes: Kids with pulsating red birthmarks and extra rows of teeth; mothers with alluringly taut breasts; teachers with lunch in their beards; fathers covered with bumps like those on a pickle. I’ve stared at them all. Stared, transfixed, behind the sunglasses I wear to shield humanity from the knowledge that its bodily quirks awaken a demon in me.

I finally learned that the demon has a name, but I just used to call it My Eyetis. I suppose if you had to pick a way for it to manifest, staring ain’t so bad. At least my hands aren’t raw from hand-washing, and I can actually get from here to there, stepping on every crack along the way. Oh sure, I’m all read-up on my disease, if that’s what you want to call it. I don’t think I’m really sick, though. I just look at things … a little too long.

Luckily, I’ve managed to hide behind a pair of blue-blockers for most of my life. I don’t think anyone but my wife and my kids have ever seen my eyes. Every person I have contact with thinks that my eyes are just sensitive. Ha! They're sensitive all right, sensitive to the fascinatingly bulbous shape of your nose, from which I cannot tear my gaze. But you will never know. My head has been turned towards the window, while my eyes have been fixated on that tuber for a good fifteen minutes. Thanks to my trusty shades, I am a functioning member of polite society. My Eyetis is safely tucked away behind an impenetrable black veil.

It all cracked into pieces (literally) thirty seconds ago. An early-morning parent conference was called by the Xiang family. I was early as always, sitting at the table with my hands folded and my gradebook open. But Mr. and Mrs. Xiang were running a few minutes behind (of course), so I went to the staff room for a second cup of coffee. Pulling the carafe out from under the spout unleashed some sort of blockage, and coffee sludge splattered all over the burner. My face, my shades, my tie, everything was plastered with tiny brown flecks. I removed the sunglasses and began to clean them in the sink, glancing at the clock as I did so. Mustn’t be late for meeting … very, very unprofessional to be late for meeting! In my rush to do at least a half-adequate cleanup job, I pressed too hard and cracked the uni-lens clear down the middle.

Now what?!? I search desperately for something I could use instead. The sunglasses have been reduced to a hair-band; I suppose I could wear them anyhow, and drape a coffee filter or a paper towel over my eyes. I could shield my eyes with a hand. I could go home sick. I could feign death.

The principal fetches me from the staff room, and I have no time left to think. Maybe for this short period of time, I can resist the urge to stare; I’ll just avert my gaze from people in general. If I’m not aware of anything unusual on their bodies, my eyes wander freely and don’t fixate. It’s the knowing that compels me. It’s the knowing that traps me. If I don’t look, I will not know. If I don’t know, I will not stare.

So here I sit, waiting for the opportunity to overcome My Eyetis by sheer force of will. The Xiangs and their lawyer are signing in at the office, and will enter at any moment. The guidance counselor turns to me and, in hushed tones, says: “Have you met Mr. Xiang yet?”

“No,” I say.

“Well,” she whispers, “you know he has a thumbthumb.”

a … a what? ... thumthum?

I say, “He has a what?”

She says, “You know, a thumbthumb. Two thumbs. A little baby thumb, attached to his real thumb. I saw it last year; it’s on his right hand. You’ll feel it when you shake his hand. Try not to look at it, though. It’s pretty freaky.”

Holy mother of god. A thumbthumb? A goddam thumbthumb?!?!? Don’t they have surgeries in China or wherever to deal with this type of thing? Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. OK, whatever I do, I must not look at the thumbthumb. I must not, under any circumstances, look at the thumbthumb. I begin to chant inside my head, as the door opens and the family enters.

Do noooot looook at the thumbthumb.
Do noooot looook at the thumbthumb.
Do noooot looook at the thumbthumb.
Do noooot looook at the thumbthumb.
Do noooot looook at the thumbthumb.

  • This story is the sole intellectual property of Spinning Girl and has been submitted for publication. Use of any part of this story without express written permission from Spinning Girl will be pursued to the fullest extent of the law. So there!
  • The assignment in this Flash Fiction Friday was to write a story beginning with the words "The most embarrassing thing ..." I later removed the "embarrassing."


Harry Yak said...

ok i must confess that this is the first time i have been to your spinning another tale blog. this would be the first tale of yours then that i have read. all i can say is...


that is an amazing story. i would spend more time praising you but i must hurry and read the rest of your stories.

Finderz said...

well written. funny good.

Bobby said...

Words cannot express what I am feeling right this moment.

I will be purchasing your first collection of fiction as soon as it is available.

Just don't stare at me when I ask for your autograph at the book signing.

Jenny said...

That was funny---all he needs to do is "Step A-WAY from the thumbthumb"!

Monkey said...

I love this. "Thumbthumb" will probably become part of the venacular at Monkey's house.

Still giggling and drawing concerned murmurs from Mr. Damned.

buddha_girl said...

Absolutely hysterical. You just described what I deal with each fall when my school holds Back To School Night for parents and students. I can't begin to tell the horrors I've encountered.

Anonymous said...

Really good stuff.

Like driving by the scene of an accident... don't look, don't look, don't... oh shit!

DaMasta said...

I have an oval shaped birthmark on my neck. I've been called "Coffee Stain". Don't look.

B.O.B.I. said...

Damn, Spinner, you gots skills!

I was disappointed that it ended so soon.

Melody said...

Did he look? Did he look? Did he look at the thumbthumb?

You know that he did.

Funny stuff, SG.

Leigh Yung Li said...

My dad was pretty pissed off that you described him and his deformity in fairly obvious detail. I believe his exact words were "given my career, she should have thought before she put her two middle fingers (maybe he said pointer fingers--i don't remember, he was yelling)to the keyboard." Then he mumbled something about "how many patients are going to want him for a surgeon with his thumbthumb." He appreciated your attempt to mask his identity with the false name and all. I tried to calm him down, explaining that I don't think many people will read it online, etc. I kind of lied and told him that no one really goes online anymore and that was more of a late '90s, early 2000 thing. I don't know if he bought it. He said something about looking at naked pictures of your entire Estonian family online. I just muttered "whatever" kind of like my students do and moved on.

As for the story, I personally love it. Your description is fantastic. When you asked me to read it, I was honestly nervous that it was going to be like your previous stories--you know, all the stories that really ended up being more like "picture books" than actual short stories. But this one can certainly stand alone--no illustrations needed! I think you have finally worked your writing to the point where the storytelling is the central part and you no longer have to work with Microsoft ClipArt.

I can see by your writing that you made it home safely and so I need not say more at this juncture, thankfully.
I will continue to ponder Thumb.
I will not look at the Thumbthumb
I will not look at the Thumbthumb

Spinning Girl said...

LYL, The freakiest part is how your dad's latex glove stretches over that thing.

Yes, I often need to see somebody else's illustration to really visualize what the author is saying. That's why I love Stephen King so much--all his pictures help me to achieve what I couldn't with well-chosen words alone.


Thank for making me read aloud at your party. All 2 people really "got" my story!

And yes, I got home. I saw 3 foxes. I tried to take their picture to blog about them and ran into a bush. My request to inform my blogmates in the event of my sudden demise was almost put to the test in your driveway.

JJ said...

much good.
Much good.
Much Good.
Much Good.
(stop it, just stop it!)
Much GOOD!
I really liked your story.

Chrissy said...

Loved the story, but am rather disturbed that the inspiration came from LYL's dad's thumbthumb. Oh well, sometimes non-fiction is better than fiction. I can only hope to someday be as clever a writer as you are. I am such a hack and am also extra-extremity-challenged.

Spinning Girl said...

Haaaaa! I love it. Thanks a LOT, LYL, you got me in trouble. This story does have a true root to it; luckily Mr. Yung has all 10 of his digits in the correct places, and is unimpeded during surgery.

Between lies and truth is a hazy shadowland...we call this place: BLOGLAND.

Shanie said...

Wow! You're detail is amazing! You bring the reader in so easily... what is your secret! Wow!

Madge said...

Thank you for leading me here. Lovely piece of fiction! I love your casual humor - it makes everything so much funnier.

Übermilf said...

I am just getting around to reading everyone's submissions for this week, since I've been feeling a bit down... but not anymore. This actually made me crack a smile for the first time in days. Thank you so much for that!

Shanie said...

We shall~

art said...

Could be useful-that thumbthumb could

mizzunderstood said...

I laughed out loud. Try having a colleague with visible hair implants - I spend hours trying to woek out whether he has had more grey inserted.

babyjewels said...

you are just very very talented.

Monkey said...

Thumb Thumb!!

Leigh Yung Li is one funny friend. Why does she not have her own blog? I want to laugh more often. I demand my dose of humor. Demand it!

Sylvana said...

Loved it. I have trouble not staring at visually weird things about people. I usually spend the whole conversation saying to myself don't stare, don't stare, don't stare...

and then I usually end up inadvertently say something stupid like, "Oh, I'm all thumbs- d'oh!"

Bethalow said...


Kiki said...

OMG lol!!!! So funny.
And that was a good question. Are we related?? I'll have to look into that.

Just telling it like it is said...

Yeah I have that same problem..
Growing up in my family will make you this way "the pickers"...why most of the time I have to resist the urge to pick someones pimple (only with universal contact procations on for thoughs that I am not related to)..It is a fixation that I can not stop..probably why I am a nurse..
Funny story and well written..enjoyed!

Maynard said...

I guess I'll have to hide my thumbthumb better from now on. I didn't realize everyone was staring at it. I guess the same goes for my anusanus.

J said...

This is my favorite so far. I am suddenly inspired to create a character and the character's worst case scenario and then put them in that worst case scenario! Wow, it works!