You ever shake somebody’s hand and you’re pretty sure they’re missing a finger but don’t want to look down to make it obvious you know they’re a digit short? Yeah, that happened to me the other day, but I looked down. I didn’t mean to but did nevertheless, and he caught me. So he knew I knew — only he didn’t know I knew he knew.

I’m not making fun of the guy. Let’s just call him Raymond. I certainly wasn’t trying to be rude to him. Some of you are probably missing the tip of a finger or two. It happens. It’s common — just not that common. It’s just if you shake 100 hands and 101st shake feels a little different, it might catch you off guard. As a stuttering guy, I get it all the time. People speak to hundreds of folks a day without an issue then when they get to me I have trouble saying my name. 

Not knowing I stutter, they immediately spit out some nonsense like, “Did you forget your name?” But I know they’re not trying to be rude.  

A dear friend of mine has a nub. I’ve always called him “Grandpa.” He’s in his mid-90s and fought in World War II. I always just assumed he lost part of his finger in the war; it makes sense. I’d known him for 10 years before I learned the real story. 

When he was 9 years old he had an accident at his family’s sawmill. I think it was just their barn. They had trouble locating his finger because of all the sawdust. Later in the day they spotted the missing tip in the mouth of a chicken. Was that the world’s first chicken finger? Was it finger-licking good? Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be here all week.

Everybody chased that chicken around with no luck until they were all completely exhausted. Ever try to catch a free-range chicken? It ain’t easy. When they had all but given up one of his siblings found the missing finger laying in the dirt, which is funny because immediately after the accident someone likely told him to “just rub some dirt on it.”

It was too late to reattach the finger, so Grandpa’s mother kept it in a jar in the kitchen. 

“She pickled it,” he said.

She told him when she died she wanted them to put the severed finger in her casket with her. They all agreed to do so, but before she passed away the house was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. All of that is 100% true. 

Raymond was a nice guy — one of those older dudes who likes to maintain the handshake and strong eye contact throughout the conversation, which I appreciate by the way. And he obviously had a great sense a humor. About halfway through our chat, he started rubbing his nub on my palm. I didn’t flinch — didn’t want to “show my hand” so to speak.

That was payback for looking down, I know. It had to be. That’s always been a weird feeling when guys do that to be funny. It was his index finger — the trigger finger; the forefinger; the pointer.

He told me I reminded him of someone he knew but couldn’t “quite put his finger on it.” Still rubbing the nub.

Oh, he was messing with me now. I was almost positive he knew I knew he knew, but I wasn’t 100% positive. I wanted to be certain so I asked him, “Can I give you a…tip?” 

Yes, I paused. 

Sharp as a tack, he shot back with, “Well, I can always use a pointer or two.” 

I almost broke my neck looking to see if he was missing his left index finger too. 

He wasn’t.

“Gotcha!” he said. 

It was like he’d had the same conversation before. Raymond was and is a funny man. Humor can get us through so much. We need to laugh more and shouldn’t take everything so seriously. Some people might have gotten offended. I have stuttering friends who get bent way out of shape when someone acts strangely during an initial interaction. It’s different. Give people a second to adjust. Stop finger pointing.

In case you’re wondering, Raymond’s story is also a true story.

When we parted ways I wanted to get his phone number. I wanted to say in touch so I asked him for his digits.

“I don’t have any to spare,” he laughed.

OK, that part, I made up. 

Jody Fuller is a comic, speaker, writer and soldier with three tours of duty in Iraq. He is also a lifetime stutterer. He can be reached at jody@jodyfuller.com. For more information, please visit www.jodyfuller.com