By David Hutt
Jack Kerouac’s fingers weren't his own; they kneeled and crippled with spontaneous prose like magpies fighting over cigarette butts. You see, he bought them on a hire purchase and agreed a repayment plan of two dollars a month and a new chapter of a novel every two-weeks. He worked those fingers. He worked them like Luddites believing in pickaxes over machines. They burnt too. When his fingernails caught fire in Mexico City some whore had to suck them cold again. But he never paid off his debt. He was always behind and the bailiffs were on to him. They followed him from coast to coast. Kerouac’s face changed as the repayments fell behind. He started to look like the man who sits drinking hot water for breakfast, waiting for bills and rejection slips to slip through the letterbox.
An American tramp I was sipping wine with down on the Seine, who took long glugs of the red wine into his foamy beard and licked his lips around it, took out a metal box from his inside pocket. We sat down on the velvet floor and he opened it. Inside were Kerouac’s fingers, still fidgeting, still spastically typing in the black. “I owned the company who sold them to him,” the tramp said. “It’s sad, by the end he was only one installment away from owning them outright.”
He grimaced like a hearse parked outside a cemetery. “They’re cursed. My company went bust. But I can’t bring myself to get rid of them.”
I said I understood. “Can I touch them,” I asked.
“I wouldn't suggest it,” he said.
“I just want to feel one finger.”
He snapped the metal box shut, put it back inside his pocket and rubbed his belly like a disillusioned monk.
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David Hutt spent most of his childhood in London, UK. Every now and then he tries normal work and stability, but it never lasts long. He has traveled the whole of Latin America; built houses in Guatemala; worked as a journalist in Nicaragua and Cuba; and hitchhiked through most countries in Europe. He has published short-stories and poems in several international publications.
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