Edition 3: The White Glove by Nick Seifert
As my employer, Mr. Percy Esq., began to dictate litigation, I found my eyes constantly drifting away from my newly purchased quill towards Mr. Percy’s left hand. Whenever the opportunity arose, I had trained myself to study the hand so as to not draw suspicion from Mr. Percy. For you see, his appendage is always shrouded in a pristine white glove. The fabric looks extraordinarily smooth to the touch as though it came from an exotic land where materials, even white cloth, never get dirty. While with most gloves one can see the seams along the inside finger line, this particular mitt shows nothing to indicate a tailor crafted the item. Around the wrist a small oval mother of pearl belt buckle delicately secures the glove to the arm. As immaculate and interesting as this glove itself is, there is more to Mr. Percy’s story; for you see the hand never moves and is forever locked in a twisted position of discomfort. Mr. Percy’s fingers—long feminine extremities for such an obese and selfish old man—are frozen in some sort of crooked claw forever trying to hold a lost item in a frustrated embrace. What ill fate befell this hand my employer will not say or disclose to even the closest of acquaintances. I wholeheartedly believe Mr. Percy wears the glove to conceal the hideousness of what lies beneath. During times like these, when the opportunity to catch a glimpse arises, I find myself dreaming about the hand’s mystery or unholy scarring underneath the glove. This unhealthy obsession of conjuring is constantly making me yearn for resolve in regards to what the white glove so elegantly hides.
Then one day an opportunity to settle these suspicions came to fruition—Mr. Percy developed a cough. The constant hacking of phlegm started slowly, eventually growing as fierce as my scheme. A doctor was finally summoned after a small amount of blood appeared in the lawyer’s handkerchief after an intense bout of coughing. The good doctor believed that our mutual acquaintance could be in the early stages of tuberculosis, although more testing was needed before a proper diagnosis could be determined.
The good doctor sent me to obtain a tonic from the local pharmacist which may help settle the cough. I explained my hesitation in giving my employer anything, for medicines have not settled well with him. To this the good doctor replied that the elixir’s side effects were minimal. Fair enough, I replied, but a small chance is still a chance at death. A minimal chance the good doctor repeated.
Upon returning to Mr. Percy’s office from my errand with a brown bottle, I sat beside the worn leather coach. Another bloody handkerchief lay on the floor. The fat lawyer, begged me to take him home early so he may rest. As a good assistant, I obeyed, making sure everyone took notice of Mr. Percy’s ill health and my kindness.
After placing the fat man in his bed, I removed the brown bottle. I told Mr. Percy that the pharmacist said it would burn; but, no matter the pain, one must endure and drink its entire contents. Being a man of logic and reason, Mr. Percy hushed me aside telling me not to treat him as a youngling. I watched the fat man take a sip and almost regurgitate everything consumed on an exotic rug.
“Perhaps, I should get you something weaker from the pharmacist, something for children.”
A cold callous reply shot from Mr. Percy’s eyes, his thick bushy eyebrows furrowing with angst. Then, he drank two large gulps as if to disprove my last statement. I could tell the liquid burned his throat and the taste was unpleasant, for tears rolled down his chubby and rosy cheeks.
I interjected, “It should burn going down as it’s meant to cure the throat immediately. The pharmacist also said that contents may burn your stomach for a few minutes afterwards too. The entire bottle Mr. Percy or else it shall not work.”
“It burns, I cannot drink anymore. What is this devilish brew you have given me?”
“The pharmacist said it would be too strong for you. I assured him otherwise, but perhaps he was correct. I will return to his shop for an ailment in the form of a paste, something he gives the elderly. You are too weak to take such a strong and quick healing tonic.”
Hacking and gripping his throat Mr. Percy responded, “No you fool.” Another gasp, “If I survived the war, I can survive the contents of this bottle.”
“Surely you are in pain and cannot finish. Let me take it from you.”
He grabbed the remaining liquid and his body began convulsing. His insides were on fire and he beat his fat stomach with the twisted hand. After a minute, Mr. Percy began clutching his throat with his one good hand begging for air. I began to laugh hysterically at his pain.
“You swine, what have you given me?”
“Ahh my beastly mentor, I have given you my own creation. It’s a mixture of tonic water, bitters, and most of all, bleach. For you see, nothing would serve that white glove better than cleaning it from the inside.”
His body flopped on the bed and I watched him fight the fire. He tried to talk, but no words came from his lips. A neighbor girl entered and I begged her to retrieve the good doctor for Mr. Percy was having a violent attack.
When the two of them returned, Mr. Percy lay motionless. I was questioned in the most routine of fashion. The police and doctor inquired about the pharmacist’s tonic. I pulled out the small orange bottle from my front jacket pocket which I had purchased earlier that evening, explaining that Mr. Percy’s coughing fit began before I had time to administer the pharmacist’s remedy.
While the coroner investigated I reviewed the logistics of the situation. Nobody suspected much reason for murder because they all knew the cough had grown worse over the last few days. An autopsy was forbidden because of Mr. Percy’s faith; this I knew from reviewing his will several months before. I also remembered that the fat lawyer was not giving me any monetary compensation for my years of service. This made me furious at first, but now served as an excellent alibi to alleviate suspicion about me wanting his estate.
I tried not to look eager or not stare at Mr. Percy’s white glove while people shuffled in an out of the bedroom. A few times, I noticed the unconscious tapping of my foot and quickly stopped this action. Some two odd hours later, everyone had left me alone with corpse. Another officer from the coroner’s office would come first thing in the morning to remove the body. After many years of suspicion, I would finally find an answer to the mystery that so captivated me. I felt like a jovial child seeing an end to an imaginary quest.
I walked over to the Mr. Percy and wanted to spit in his face. Instead I touched the white glove for the first time—it soothed my senses. I closed my eyes and maintained this contact for quite some time. At some point I realized that what lay under the mitt was extremely hard. This I attributed to the body stiffening after death. No longer was I calm; instead I became anxious. I unclasped the cool mother of pearl buckle, my heart raced faster than when watching the lawyer take his final breath. I grabbed the glove from its base, at the wrist, and began to pull upwards. Surprisingly the glove was removed with some ease as though longing to leave the hand, yet I kept my eyes closed until it completely detached itself from the corpse. Slowly, as though leaving a dark cave and returning to the world, I opened my eyes to find what remained concealed from the public for as long as anyone could remember. A vision of red scales and yellow fingernails flashed across my mind. But, when my eyes slowly opened they befell upon a smooth hand carved by some master artisan from a piece of wood. I stared. Questions captivated me as to why Mr. Percy needed a prosthetic appendage, and why he chose to have the hand twisted instead of straightened one. Why not display this beautiful carving instead of hiding it with a white glove? I felt betrayed for my years of service and for this one last joke from my employer. I hated him even more in that moment.
Three years later, I had replaced Mr. Percy as the town’s only private legal counsel. A recent graduate from the university served as my own assistant. His substandard grades did not land him at a better firm or in a larger metropolitan area. He served me well, at an extremely low wage too. This young man, Tom Wells, reminded me of my start to law and working under Mr. Percy. His curly yellow hair and good looks brought in much needed business. Whenever a new female client came in for advice, I found them stealing glimpses at Tom Wells. Therefore, I sent him out to do the most degrading and meaningless tasks I could conjure as an act of power and domination in front of these guests. Once we were alone, I would listen to these lady’s pleas and offer consolation, but not before explaining the story behind my white glove.
For you see after the funeral, I began to wear Mr. Percy’s accessory. The townsfolk believed this was done out of respect for a man who tutored and influenced my present position. They saw this as a great homage and loved me even more for this personal memorial. New clients appreciated the white glove even more because of what they thought it represented.
Truthfully, I loved the feel of the fabric on my skin, it felt comforting and soothing—a reminder of my victory. I felt a sense of power emanating from the glove as though I drew from some hidden entity within the material. However, there were a few things I did not foresee. The fabric was extremely tight and offered limited flexibility for daily tasks. Over time, it became easier not to depend on using my gloved left hand for any chore. Therefore, every action was executed by my dominant right hand. The need for ambidexterity became unnecessary. Subconsciously, the gloved hand fell into the same twisted position as Mr. Percy. I attributed some of this fact, to the fabric’s stubbornness and adhesion to the deceased lawyer’s wooden hand for such an extended period of time. The glove felt like a mold and my hand could not cast it into any other shapes. At first I tried, with limited success, to consciously straighten my fingers so as not to resemble Mr. Percy’s locked grip. However, my hand eventually fell into a state of atrophy and I actually began to enjoy the menacing look it represented.
In addition to mimicking Mr. Percy’s twisted hold, I obsessed with cleaning the glove routinely. At first I tried simple soap and water solution to remove the first stain. Yet, this concoction did little to properly clean the fabric. I needed something stronger. After finding a small container of bleach, I doused a tiny amount on a clean rag. Then, I patted the stain away. After cleaning the spot diligently, I noticed it looked whiter than the rest of the glove. This would not suffice, so I incessantly washed the entire surface until it shown with an even radiance. This took two hours to properly execute. A man of my stature did not have time to scrub for hours throughout the day. Therefore, I concocted an easier solution; I would submerge my entire hand in a bucket of bleach.
The first few times my skin felt as though on fire. I could only imagine Mr. Percy’s pain after drinking such a large quantity. The bleach burned the skin, but I took this as a penance for my crime. After removing my hand from the bucket, I noticed that the glove dried almost instantly. I assumed that this new method would only need to be done once a week. However, the following day another small stain appeared on a knuckle. This irritated me greatly. I took the remaining afternoon off, leaving Tom Wells to run the office. I realized that sustaining a pristine white would require daily care. Therefore, after every meal I began dipping my entire hand in a bucket of bleach for exactly two minutes. Eventually, the burning sensation decreased and the glove remained in pristine condition.
Tom Wells knew of Mr. Percy and had heard my story of homage repeated to every new client. But, as of late, I believed he had begun to steal glimpses of the white glove whenever he assumed I was not paying attention. They were subtle at first—a quick glance while setting a stack of court documents on the desk. Over time, however, they became more explicit. I knew these secret squints all too well. Occasionally, I would catch him staring for several seconds. I believed he began to wonder about the real story behind the atrophic hand. Ironically, I too developed a slight cough. What devilry Tom Wells played I didn’t know, but would soon find out.
One night Tom Wells and I worked late as the fringes of a storm entered our town. The eeriness of the night’s howling made us light the fireplace for the first time that season. We pored over our papers and reviewed file notes for an upcoming case. As the sun fell and little droplets of water began bouncing of the glass windows, my cough began to worsen. Each time I went into a small fit, Tom Wells looked up from his desk. When we heard the first crackle of thunder, I had a terrible bout and spat a large wad of phlegm into an oriental spittoon near the fireplace.
“Perhaps I should run to the pharmacist and get you a tonic to ease your cough.”
“What did you say?” I turned to him and saw clearly my assistant’s motivation. “I knew it would come to this. I have seen you stare at my glove and you want it for yourself. You know exactly what happened and you are planning to do the same. You want the glove and the secret that lies beneath.”
“Pardon, my good grace, but I have no desire to wear your glove.”
“Liar!” I struck his right cheek with the back of my right hand. “Silence, you fool. Don’t offer me a tonic after your apparent obsession. I was once like you. I too became transfixed on this glove. You undoubtedly know the story, but not the truth. Do you really think I would honor that fat bastard by wearing this glove? I wear this glove not as homage, rather as a symbol of my own accomplishments. I loathed Mr. Percy for everything that he represented. He was a beastly creature with a secret. I needed to find out exactly what was underneath the glove to expose him for everything he was. When I did, I took the one thing that shielded his lies; this glove.”
I grabbed the poker from the fireplace rack and moved closer to my apprentice as another crash of thunder and small cough echoed in the office chamber.
“Sir, I don’t care about your hand, really I don’t. This all seems so strange. I have not any sort of obsession with that glove. I just want to go home sir. I think it’s been a long and late night.”
“Why would I let you go? Tomorrow you will poison me with a tonic by claiming it will cure my ailments. I know this trick all too well. For you see, that is exactly what I did to Mr. Percy. But, do you want to know the genius behind his death?”
“Please sir, drop the poker and I will speak to no one of the events that transpired here.”
“Bleach,” I laughed hysterically. “How ironic to kill a man with a chemical that whitens fabric. I will tell you something Mr. Tom Wells. I don’t trust you and your obsessions. This glove is mine now and you won’t murder me for it.”
“I won’t kill you. I promise. I’ve never had any qualms with you. Nor did I know Mr. Percy. I simply came here because you were the only person to hire me. Your confession is safe with me. Please, sir, drop the poker.”
“Had you not stared for so long at my glove, then perhaps I would let you go. But, you’re too much like me. Your fascination will push you to action. Unlike Mr. Percy, however, I will privilege you with a glimpse of what lies under the glove. For that is what you really want to see after these years of service, isn’t it?”
I dropped the poker and put both hands behind my back slowly pulling the fabric away at each fingertip, all the while never losing eye contact with Tom Wells. He trembled in the corner, sobbing. With the glove finally removed, I leaned closer to my victim. Then, I placed my left hand into our shared field of vision.
My hand no longer looked recognizable! The daily bleaching had turned the outer layer of skin into a transparent sheath with exposed blue veins. Beneath this veil, the hand muscles looked rosy-white with small patches of black dots littered in their tissue like thousands of little bugs. No fingernails survived; instead the skin outlined my distal phalanges. I shrieked out of horror and clutched my left wrist while dropping to my knees. What ill hate had befallen my hand? I sobbed and clutched the disfigurement.
Without realizing, Tom Wells had raced out of the office into the freezing wind. I looked around frantically for the white glove to conceal the disfigurement before the police would arrive. However, the glove was not where I had dropped it on the floor. I started knocking over chairs and books from the shelf. Then, I heard a slight crackling from fireplace near the door. Looking into the twisted flames, I saw a small fragment of burning fabric disintegrating around a charred pearl buckle. Tom Wells must have thrown the white glove into the fire before taking his hasty leave, thereby exposing me for who and what I had become.
Nick Seifert is currently a Master of Fine Arts student at George Mason University studying fiction writing. He also holds a Master’s degree in English. In addition to writing, Nick has lived in Minneapolis, New York City, and South Korea working over thirty-seven jobs in that time. His fiction has appeared in St. Cloud State University’s multicultural literary magazine Kaleidoscope and will be featured in an upcoming issue of The Echo Ink Review.