Monday, April 23, 2012

Reader's Diary #822- David Barker: Harlan's Finger

"Harlan's Finger" by David Barker reminded somewhat of an old Twilight Zone episode, but one of the non-supernatural ones. The premise is disturbing but simple: a man is going through the contents of his vacuum cleaner bag and is shocked to find a finger among the contents.

It was just intriguing enough to save the story from its other flaws. Also among the contents? A triple A battery. Not as questionable as the finger, but I did wish there was some acknowledgement that this must have been one kick-ass vacuum. Assuming the vacuumer had been just using the nozzle, that's still some pretty serious suckage to pick up a battery and a finger.

Another issue? The inconsistency of the wife's description. Harlan doesn't understand how his wife Lisa gets so worked up over an empty tube of toothpaste, yet easily brushes off a road accident involving a deer with simple philosophical reasoning. But a little later, he decides not to tell Lisa right away about the finger because "she a tendency to overact." I thought the point made earlier was that Lisa sweats the small stuff, not the big stuff. In which case, is he suggesting that a human finger in a vacuum is more akin to an empty tube of toothpaste than to deer roadkill? And then, hopefully not giving away the ending, it would seem that Harlan himself is the convenient philosopher. So, I'm left wondering if the discrepancies were intentional or not.

Finally, after showing the finger to his teenage sons, to see what, if anything they know about how it got there, they say no and return to their video games. Possibly, but I've never meant a teenage boy that would dismiss a human finger that easily. Just saying.

But again, "Harlan's Finger" is fast and interesting enough to have entertainment value if you don't over think it. Much like many old Twilight Zone episodes.

 (Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


Julie @ Read Handed said...

Sounds like a strange story - probably not my cup of tea. I read a story by Mat Snapp called "The Next Six Months". It reminded me a bit of a Raymond Carver story.

Perogyo said...

What I would give for a vacuum with enough power to suck up a finger! (not, it should be noted, a finger)

I read a sci-fi story more appropriate for holiday revels than sunny spring.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I have to read this, if only to glean some insight on what brand of vacuum cleaner to buy next.