Play # 53: How Many Fingers?

The play takes place in a therapist’s office.  The therapist is holding up his left hand, showing his patient four outstretched fingers.  The patient, a comely young woman of about twenty-five, is gazing at them impassively.

Therapist (earnestly):  What do you see?

Patient: Your left hand.

Therapist:  Expand upon that.

Patient (wearily): Your yellow, papery left hand.  Your palm is as creased as a lady’s fan, and your nails could use a clipping.

Therapist (irritated): No, no.  Tell me more about the number of fingers you see.

Patient (puzzled):  More?

Therapist (gently):  Yes.

Patient (frowning with new concentration):  Your fingers look like a picket fence—which must mean that you wish either to exclude me from your world or, more likely, enfold me in it.

Therapist (astonished):  Upon my word, that’s far too much!  I just wanted you to tell me how many fingers you saw.

Patient (bored):  I saw all of them.

Therapist (impatient):  All what of them?

Patient (coldly):  All there was to see of them.  Don’t  patronize me, Doctor.

Therapist (at his wit’s end): Listen, do you see one finger or two, or three, or four?

Patient:  I’ve told you, I’ve seen them all.  Doctor, you’re beginning to bore me.

Therapist (becoming ever more fascinated, not to say aroused): I have another idea.

Patient (yawning):  Yes?

Therapist (excitedly):  Yes.  [he holds up his right hand and extends three of its fingers]  How many fingers do you see now?