Death in the Family

With apologies to Charles Addams

Thing breathed a contented sigh as Esmeralda buffed the nail on his ring finger. As a disembodied hand, he didn’t exactly know how sighing worked, but the fat muscle at the base of his thumb relaxed, and he counted that as a sigh.

Esmie chatted while she worked. She knew just how to put Thing at ease before a big scene. She’d even learned sign language, which led to wonderful long conversations about life, show business, and the writings of Franz Kafka. She’d brought Thing a Braille copy, and he’d read until his fingertips were raw with curiosity and potential.

Kyle, the production assistant, stuck his head in the closet door. “Thing, you’re on in five.”

Working for base union scale and acting as barely more than furniture in most shots, Thing didn’t rate a trailer. But Esmie brought a lamp and a lovely table to the closet, and it sufficed. He shot a finger gun at Kyle and tapped a few conflicted steps across the screen of his iPhone. His investment portfolio was up two hundred points, but on the news of a new hands-free, voice application for Amazon. Damn you, Jeff Bezos.

Esmie powdered him pale for the shot, and he delighted as the puff danced across his nakedness. Sometimes he wondered if they’d catch on and make him wear a glove, but for now, it was total freedom as he scrambled about the set in bold defiance of the network censors.

Today would be difficult. Fencing with Gomez challenged him as nothing else in life. True, he held a distinct advantage. There was a great deal more of Gomez to slash into. But the old fellow was keen with his blade and every bit as masterful as Thing. Many a bout left him hanging from the hilt with the tip of his rubber prop sword buried in the ceiling, while below Gomez laughed his haughty laugh and twisted the famous mustache.

Gomez. That gold-digging nobody. Claiming the family for his own when everyone knew Morticia was the true guiding darkness of the family. It was her inheritance, her immaculate sense of style, her wit, her charm, her spiders. All wasted on that nincompoop. But no, Thing told himself, Gomez was a fellow thespian and came from good stock, a family line that went back to vaudeville.

“Want a lift over to the set?” Esmie offered.

He circled his thumb and index finger into a quick OK, then scrambled up her arm to her shoulder. She giggled. He found it seductive.

Hitching a ride also took care of one of the great dangers in Thing’s world. Nobody on set looked for a free hand strolling on fingertips through the lighting cables. This season alone, he’d nearly been stomped twice by inattentive grips heading about their work.

“Thing! Old hand! How are you!”

He could feel the false sincerity of Gomez’s greeting. It was a trap. He was certain. He hopped to the side table and flashed his trademark OK.

“Good to hear it!” Gomez flexed his rubber sword. “Today, we battle once again, my good sir!”

Think slashed his index finger through the air to indicate he too, was ready for stage combat.

“Places!” Raoul, the director, shouted through his megaphone. “First marks! Quiet! Speed! Sound!”

The camera and sound teams just off set, echoed their readiness.

“Action!” Raoul yelled and backed from the shot.

“Ha! Ha! En garde, my friend!”  Gomez brought the saber to his nose and saluted.

Thing flexed and leapt to the grip of his blade. With a deft flip, he vaulted the saber to the ready and crossed Gomez’s blade with a flash of silver.

It was supernatural, to be sure, but something about the balance of the sword allowed Thing to defy gravity when fencing. It was a fantastic sight: a hand in concert with the saber, floating, thrusting, parrying, and slashing, four feet off the stage floor. 

Gomez grinned, and his eyes twinkled. He danced forward, his off hand on his hip and posture perfect. “Ah-ha!”  He shouted and swept the table lamp shattering to the floor with a wayward slash. 

Thing parried the backhand and thwarted another cut. Then another. The dull thuds of their rubber swords became more rapid as the two combatants battled back and forth in front of the fireplace and over the armchair.

Thing crashed his blade down the length of Gomez’s sword, and their hilts collided as the combat reached a crescendo. They staggered around the room, locked together.  Man against hand. Hand against man, until, with a colossal effort, Gomez threw Thing and his blade back across the room, breaking the spell and sending his opponent skidding to the base of the staircase.


“Ha! Ha! You nearly had me, old hand!” Gomez huffed. He’d sweated through his makeup and doffed his saber in salute.

“Cut!” yelled Raoul.

Gomez grinned and casually tossed his blade to the propmaster, but it never made it. Esmeralda was stepping through to check on Thing when the point of the supposedly harmless rubber saber pierced her neck. She hissed a scream and fell to the stage floor.

Thing was to her in an instant. Yanking the sword away and releasing a fountain of blood from her jugular. In desperation, he threw himself on the wound, trying in vain to staunch the torrent. Esmeralda’s eyelids fluttered away her life.

Covered in blood, Thing turned slowly to Gomez. The leading man was collapsed across the set in the armchair, unable to move as the shock of the deed overwhelmed him. Thing curled into a fist of rage. He flew across the room, clapping himself to Gomez’s throat in a grip powered by years of fingertip pushups.

Gomez struggled but to no avail. Even the mighty Lurch could not pry the hand away. With a wheeze, life drained from Gomez Addams, and he slumped to the floor.

This Halloween would see the culmination of that tragedy so long ago. Arthritic and liver-spotted, Thing slumped in his tiny prison cell. A few memories papered the wall. A parole that never came. A Reunion Special he’d missed, a made-for-TV event. Instead, draining legal battles and tonight, the final act would play out. A minister arrived, but Thing waved him away. There was no need. He was at peace with his fate.

He trudged the long gray corridor, his thumb hanging limp at his side. His lawyer waited and delivered a silent, slow shake of his head. The Governor had chosen not to intervene. A high profile, emotionally charged celebrity case, in an election year? Thing wasn’t surprised.

The room was sterile. The single table and the giant window on the far wall. Beyond the glass, witnesses. Reporters. Lawmen. An overweight middle-aged man threw himself at the window, slamming a fist against the glass and screaming silently against the soundproofing.

Pugsley? Of course. Years of therapy hadn’t overcome his loss of a livelihood. The no-talent hack who couldn’t even find work as a punchline, but blamed it all on Thing. Now you can face your own failings Thing thought as he deliciously raised his middle finger to the washed-up child actor.

The door opened, and the technician in the white lab coat arrived.

“You ready?”

Thing responded with his final OK, and the world went dark as the executioner strapped him in and attached the positive and negative leads.

Fate deals a cruel hand, but only a hard, cold world would sentence one to the electric mitten.

Happy Halloween!

– Colin

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