Paint Chips


I stand in line at the grocery store clutching three beers and a bag of popcorn. They are playing the Mission Impossible theme song over the loud speaker.

The man in front of me is short, hairy, from Azerbaijan, maybe. He smells like a man I met twenty-three years ago…

My Grandmother, used to go to AA. I don’t know if she still does, but, we were at AA; her, my brother, and I. There were donuts, I think. Coffee too, but I was too young to drink coffee. It was held in a church.

My brother and I were on these stairs, waiting. They were old and wooden; always leaving you with paint chips stuck to your trousers.

He looked a bit Anthony Hopkins, but fatter, with long hair, and a beard.

Maybe he didn’t look like Anthony Hopkins.

I don’t remember what my brother and I were doing; fighting, probably. This man, who didn’t look like Anthony Hopkins, approached us.

He walked right over, and pulled off his thumb. My eyes went wide, until I noticed the trick.

“It’s behind your hand!” my brother cried.

“Yeah!” I said, unsure.

He chuckled, “okay, okay,” he said. He held out his thumb to me. I grabbed it, confident. I pulled.

It came off in my hand.

The man, who didn’t look anything like Anthony Hopkins, roared with laughter. The little nub wiggled as he held it up to my brother’s horrified face. I dropped the rubber thumb onto the stairs. It rolled, gathering up paint chips.

The man snatched it up, fixed it to his hand, and walked off, laughing…

They are playing Shakira now, in the grocery store. The man, who might be from Azerbaijan, is trying to pay for cigarettes with a five-thousand ruble note. The cashier isn’t happy.

I lay my beers and popcorn down on the belt; stick my thumbs into my pockets, waiting.