I'm down to one hand now. Well, that isn't right. I mean to say that I have at least one hand’s worth of nails left, if I combine right and left. Five. Index and ring on left. Thumb, middle and pinky on the right.
I'm bandaging the left thumb now and Christ it, ha, it really stings. Christ. That makes sense. I mean he was a carpenter. He probably always hit his hands with hammers. Bet he never had anything like this. Well I mean with his finger tips. Hands are another story.
The thumb nail is sitting bloody on the table. Just a pinch of root on the end I pulled out. Really had to tug. I'm sure the neighbors heard me howling. Hope they don't call the cops. Again.
I pick the little thing up gently. Really can't lose it. I'm so close now. Five more after this guy! Just five! Sitting down next to the vent I cross my legs and wait. It takes a while sometimes. I don't mind. Would you? I mean, maybe. You might mind.
While I wait I take the nail and delicately run it over my left arm, dragging it lightly across the top of the skin. Soon enough my arm prickles in gooseflesh and I coo. I can almost smell perfume. I work the torn nail up my shoulder and almost forget the throbbing in my thumb as I shiver. The feeling of ecstasy is only brief. These aren't her nails. Not yet.
Finally I can hear the clinking and clanking in the vent. I grip the nail in my palm and let it dig into my hand. The thumps get louder. It sounds like, how did dad always put it, 'An old house settling', but I was always more clever than him. I knew what those sounds were.
Finally the sounds stop. A small gray mottled hand unfolds from one of the vent's slits. Its four little fingers unfurl. With blessed reverence I place the nail into the hand. There is something like a giggle and it closes on the nail and pulls it back.
"She'll dream of you again tonight. That is a promise." Says a voice like skipping stones over brackish and vile water. I can hear it tear the nail inside the vent. I'm sure it is eating it. I clear my throat.
"Oh. Oh yes. I almost forgot." No it didn't. It always says that it does, but it doesn't. This is just part of our transaction. "Here. Here."
The hand comes back out of the vent and opens revealing a large, delicately painted thumbnail. I carefully reach down and take it. I almost thank it, but that is a no-no. Mustn't thank things like this.
"She'll dream of you again tonight, boy. She'll dream and cry as I pluck another nail from her hand." The clanking starts again as it leaves.
I move back to my workstation and unwrap my thumb. It's still bloody and raw, but of course it is. As I look at it I admire the left's middle and pinky finger. The mate's to my new thumbnail. One is midnight blue painted and the other is the same soft pink as the new nail. Both are a little green around the skin and cuticle where I've attached them and they throb occasionally but if I apply light pressure a little pus comes out and they feel better soon after.
I begin attaching my new thumbnail. Soon I'll run her nails down my skin again and it'll be like having her back!