New Year’s Weekend
on the Hand Surgery Ward,
Old Pilgrims’ Hospital,
Naples, Italy

Selected for the O. Henry Prize Stories, 2011

Outside, the neighbors were firing a pistol and setting off firecrackers in honor of the coming New Year. I decided to make a lasagna so I began chopping onions and I cut off the end of my thumb.

In Italy the emergency number is different for police and ambulances. I couldn’t remember which emergency number was which so I called a pediatrician to whom I had been giving English lessons and she called the ambulance.

The dispatcher started calling me, she kept asking me which building was mine and I kept telling her which one it was. I eventually realized the ambulance guys didn’t want to walk up all the stairs to my apartment, so I called my neighbor, Norma, to ask her to go down and meet them, but I accidentally called my ex-girlfriend on the speed dial. I don’t know if I hung up before it started to ring. The fourth time the dispatcher called, she said the ambulance guys were waiting at the bottom of the stairs. We began to argue. I told her I understood that they wanted me to go down but I was in one room and my thumb was in the kitchen. I kept saying, my thumb is on the cutting board! My thumb is on the cutting board with the onions in the kitchen!

People on couch
To continue reading please sign in.
Join for free