For Spite They Broke the Harper’s Hands

They started in on his other hand. “It’s a tough life,” said one of the bruisers. “You understand it ain’t personal.”

“Sure, sure,” growled Matthews. “Just doing your job. You and the SS.”

Crack. “Yeah, me and the SS. My grandmother just got out of Czechoslovakia in time, did you know? They were Communists.”

“I didn’t know that,” said the other bruiser, who was dark and Greek-looking.

“Yeah. She was a canny old bird. Could read the writing on the wall.”

Crack. Matthews started to swear, his voice ragged. The bruisers spoke a little louder, that was all.

“Communists, huh?”

“Yeah, hard to imagine, ain’t it? What she’d say to see me I’d as lief not imagine.” Crack.

“Please,” said Matthews.

“Only got one more to go,” chided the Greek.

“We oughta finish up.”

“Yeah. Damage is done, man.” Crack.

They let him up and he stood with his hands pressed against his chest. “You should get those looked at,” said the Czech. “You want us to take you to a hospital?”

“What does it matter?” asked Matthews.

“Don’t take it so hard,” said the Greek. “Life goes on. You’ll see.”