TAMPA — The first time Jacqueline Wimbush got into a fight and lost a fingertip, doctors managed to save it.
Not this time.
Wimbush, who has a history of brawling, lost the tip of her left ring finger to another woman at a busy East Tampa meat market Monday, Tampa police say. "Right now it's gone, and there's nothing I can do," she fumed Wednesday.
The separation began Monday before noon when she entered the Aliana Meat Market and took a number, awaiting a butcher's attention.
It was No. 53.
The market, sandwiched between the Hope gas station and an African-themed bazaar, has an outside mural of a cornucopia filled with pigs, hens and cattle. It empties onto the earth like Noah's ark in reverse. The store sells oxtails, beef hearts, cow heads, salted pig tails, hog jaw and burnt cow skin.
Wimbush, No. 53, usually came to the market on Sundays but wanted pork chops. She planned to cook them along with chicken wings, black beans, yellow rice and Cuban bread for her children.
She was on her cell phone when a woman she didn't know entered the store and took the next number, No. 54.
Her name was Pamela Bumpers, police say.
But soon, a person holding No. 51 gave up and left Bumpers the ticket.
A butcher saw this and skipped to Wimbush's No. 53.
That seemed to upset No. 54 — Bumpers.
Bumpers bumped Wimbush, police say.
Arms flailed. Punches landed. Wimbush says she reached toward Bumper's face — and felt a crunch.
"When I looked at my hand," she said. "I saw she had bitten my finger off. And my finger was on the ground in front of me."
It was detached just above a pink French tip fingernail that had been scheduled for a manicure that afternoon.
People screamed, and the staff behind the meat deli separated the fighters.
A friend picked up the fingertip and the staff put it in ice.
An ambulance took Wimbush to St. Joseph's Hospital, where she said she waited several hours with her fingertip in a red biohazard bag.
It felt a little familiar. In 1996, she said she fought another woman at her sister-in-law's house. The woman bit off the tip of Wimbush's right middle finger. A plastic surgeon's skin graft saved it.
But this time, a St. Joseph's hand specialist numbed her finger and amputated part of the bone.
It was the finger Wimbush, 39, hoped a man would someday put a ring on for the first time.
"Why my finger?" she asked Wednesday, her left hand wrapped in pink bandages and her finger in a splint. "I don't know who's going to put a ring on a nub."
She works in day care, where her hands help children with puzzles and art. Before that, she assembled Big Macs and Whoppers at Burger King and McDonald's and punched keyboards and phone pads as a telemarketer.
She's been in some fights. She was arrested 30 times and served prison time for charges including robbery and grand theft, state records show.
In all that time, she never bit off anyone's finger, she said. The worst she did was scratch a woman's face.
"I guess there aren't any rules in fighting," she said, "and I'm a prime example."
Bumpers, too, had prior arrests. She's 33. She pleaded guilty to aggravated battery in 2001, state records show.
Now she faces a felony battery charge.
Released from jail Monday, she did not respond to a request for an interview.
In her booking photo, she looked at ease as she faced the camera.
And showed her teeth as she smiled.
Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or [email protected]