Harold Jaffe's docufiction

Severed Hand
by Harold Jaffe

cover image of False Positivefrom False Positive
(FC Books, 2002)

A man who cut off his left hand because he thought it was possessed by the devil is suing a doctor and a hospital for $7.5 million for following his instructions not to reattach it.

Huntz Hall contended that medical experts should have known he was psychotic and incapable of making an informed decision after he severed his left hand with a power saw.

Hall's law team, headed by controversial prosecuting attorney Lonnie Parnell, said micro-surgeon Dr. Krishnan Lingam and Sentera Hillcrest General Hospital should have ignored Hall's ramblings and obtained a court order to reattach the hand.

Left Brain

Lonnie Parnell --is he the self-styled country lawyer that's always on Larry King Live? Shoulder-length dyed blond hair. Cheekbone implants. Wears a rawhide jacket and black mock turtleneck. Married a bunch of times. Wears that strong cologne.

I can't say about the cologne but that's the guy. Parnell.

So was it only Huntz Hall's left hand that was possessed by the devil?


What about his right hand?


What about his left foot?


What about his left big toe?

Don't be a dick, okay?


What was his left hand doing that got it possessed by the devil?

Rubbing and squeezing himself improper is what I heard.

You mean . . .


So he was rubbing and squeezing with his left hand exclusively?

He was using his right to punch the keys. Stroke and point the mouse.

He was online? I had a feeling.

He was trolling through the brackish pornographic backwaters of the WorldWideWeb.

I heard you can access any perversion a demented mind ever conceived in those backwaters.

I'll hold off comment on that one.


So old Huntz would work himself over with his left hand while punching the keys and stroking the mouse with his right?

Sometimes he'd use both hands to punch keys, but the mouse was exclusively right.

Seems like his right hand stroking and squeezing the mouse would be as reprehensible as his left hand squeezing and stroking his--

That's not how he saw it, okay?


Odd name: Huntz Hall.


Wasn't there a Huntz Hall movie actor? One of the Dead End Kids? Funny-looking horse-faced guy, very comical. Sidekick to Leo Gorcey, who is a story in his own right.

This is a different Huntz Hall.

Recite his particulars.

Thirty-eight. Five-feet-eleven with unnaturally long arms. Fallen arches. Divorced. Actually annulled. After three-and-a-half years. His wife testified that he wouldn't perform the sexual act with her.

Wouldn't or couldn't?


How come?

She said he said he wasn't in the mood.

Did he follow professional sports?

Wrestling. The fake shit. Watched it on TV. When he wasn't trolling the Net. He loved that shaved-head guy with all the steroids. Goldberg.

Go to church?

Not since he was a kid. Called himself agnostic.


You mean . . .

Bowel movement. Was he regular? Was he fruitful?

I believe he was irregular. But don't hold me to it.


Tell me about his family.

They lived in Chula Vista, south of National City, close to the Mexican border. Parents were Pentecostals. Father worked in the food industry, mother worked part-time as a checker in Lucky. Both dead now. Huntz Hall's only sibling, a sister, converted to Judaism. Orthodox variety.

You're joking.


What's her name?


Huntz Hall's sis?

Used to be Lavinia Hall. They called her Queenie. She changed it to Zipporah. I think that's Hebrew.


Now that Zipper--What's the name?


Now that she's an orthodox Jewish person I guess she don't live in Chula Vista any more.

After four years in a childless marriage in Chula Vista, she got divorced. She converted to Judaism and moved to Woodstock, NY. She lives in some kind of commune or kibbutz-type setup in the mountains up there.

Janis Joplin's Woodstock?

That was in another life. Besides, the brassy, bluesy boozehound is dead and gone.

So what's happened to Woodstock?

All kinds of competing religious cliques there. Orthodox Jews, militant Muslims, panting Pentecostals, renegade Roman Catholics, simmering Sufis, bumptious Buddhists.

What are they bumptious about?

About the way the shit's flying.


You say they compete--these religious cults? How?

Cliques not cults. They compete with chains, knives, power tools, Uzis, pipe bombs, anti-personnel mines, sharp-edged stones, rusty hubcaps, broken Coors Lite bottles.

Has ESPN or FOX gotten wind of any of this? It 'd make some great millennial TV: Winding Down the Century: The Snuff Games of Woodstock!

But who'd sponsor it?

Yahoo. Or maybe Pfizer. They're the Viagra folks.

Not bad.

So what happened to Huntz Hall's severed left hand?

Wondering when you'd come to that. They recovered it, but it was too late. All chewed up.


After Huntz Hall severed his left hand he chucked it through an open window, right? There are conflicting versions about what happened next. One party claims to have seen a raccoon slinking across Utah Street near where Huntz Hall lived in a furnished studio with the bloody, severed left hand in its jaws. Another party insists that a Rottweiler with a custom latex collar was slobbering all over the severed hand.

What's your theory?

Between the raccoon and the Rottweiler? I'd pick the Rot. Hands down.


So what's Huntz Hall doing right now? As we talk?

Being treated with electroshock. You're sticking out your lip. Electroshock is not the barbaric modality it was in your time. For some patients it's a rush, like bungee jumping. If electroshock don't fly the mental folks may opt for psycho-surgery which they do with lasers now. In and out, no mess.

I'm sticking out my lip because I'm hungry. When we're done here let's do lunch.




How about Mexican?

Mex is too heavy for lunch. California cuisine?

That'll fly.


While Huntz Hall is undergoing this electroshock, he's pretty heavily drugged, I imagine.

Oh, sure.


Among other agents.

What about his severed hand?

If he wins his case against Dr. Krishnan Lingam and Sentera Hillcrest General Hospital, first he'll pay off Lonnie Parnell and the rest of the legal team. Which ain't gonna be cheap. Then he may be able to afford a prosthesis. Not one of those steel claws like in your time. These are state-of-the-art, electronically managed "hyper-hands" composed of a flesh-like synthetic. They're supposed to be as good as flesh and blood. Some experts claim they're better.

Will his electronically-managed hyper-left hand work as well in the squeezing and stroking department?

That's a dead issue. Whether it's electroshock, lasering his frontal lobe, mega-doses of meds, or distributing his mania into a software program, Huntz Hall won't be rubbing and squeezing himself anymore. Bank on it.

Distributing mania into software? What's the deal?

Employing computer technology on behalf of our soon-to-be-interfaced species.

Homo sapiens?

Homo-techno-sapiens. You look skeptical?

If I was skeptical about the infinite potency and fundamental decency of high-technology, you'd make a citizen's arrest. I know you.


One last thing: The devil that possessed Huntz Hall's left hand--does s/he have her/his own website?

Yes, s/he does. You satisfied, motherfucker? Let's do lunch.

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