*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events I experienced firsthand; used with permission.
Most people have five fingers on each hand, or four fingers and one thumb, depending upon how you look at it. My uncle lost one of his fingers in a work accident at a box factory. A hydraulic machine sliced his finger off right at the knuckle, leaving a stump that looked ugly and weird to me as a child.
My uncle couldn't read or write. Many people in my family were illiterate. So whenever he needed to read a letter or fill out paperwork, he came to see my parents. My mother was the designated literacy expert in the family. She helped everyone, including my uncle.
He knocked on the door one day with a stack of papers under one arm, and my mother let him inside the house. The last time I'd seen him, all his fingers were intact. This time, things were different.
My uncle was talking to me and playing with me, as he usually did when I spotted his anomaly. I ran into my room and closed the door and didn't come out again until he was gone. I was three.
Puzzled, my mother checked on me in my room several times before he left and found me playing quietly in the corner. When my uncle finally left, my mother noticed that tears had streaked my face.
"What's wrong?" she asked.
"I'm afraid of that man," I told her. "I don't want him inside the house anymore." I felt terrified of the man with the partially missing finger.
It didn't help when he had the stump surgically removed, so he only had four fingers on that hand, or three fingers and a thumb. Now he was truly the man with the missing finger. Just the sight of him at the door sent me into a panic.
It took years before I could be in the same room as him without bursting into hysterical sobs. When I got much older, I found it interesting how perfectly surgeons had removed the stump. Unless you stopped to examine his hand or count the fingers, you could easily miss the fact that he was one short.
I was terrified of the man with the missing finger because he was different from everyone else. He didn't have all five fingers on one hand, and that made him seem strange and dangerous to me. Even though I knew my uncle couldn't help it, I still couldn't shake my fear of him.
My uncle's finger was always a source of fear and fascination for me. As a child, I was terrified of him because of his missing finger. It wasn't until I got older that I realized how interesting it was. His hand looked perfectly normal, except for the one missing finger. It was a fascinating sight to behold.
Now I find his missing finger interesting and even a little amusing. It's a reminder of how we are all different in our own ways, and that's what makes us special.