This Hand, on this Wrist Affixed

The Word: Hand

This hand, on this wrist affixed, will remain until the end.

This hand, that held the first pen, rudely fisted, crabbed with the unnatural gesture of those early A’s and B’s, over the sample characters with arrows illustrating the proper direction, Aa, Bb, blue-lined sheets in landscape-format, triple-ruled for the edification of the beginner, paper so cheap the splinters lay embedded like flags. This very hand once struggling to ape those shapes.

This hand, that marveled at the lines of early corduroy, that touched a rosepetal for the first time, astonished at the velvet plush. These fingertips that traced Grandma’s face, that sneakily examined the satin cummerbund of Mommy’s cocktail gown. That cut Mary Jane’s hair with scissors as long as my forearm. Mischievous hands, sensitive, sensual, they stroked the silk edges of all my blankets into shreds. This thumb, that I sucked well beyond the age of cuteness. How many stuffed animals has it fondled to threadbare cloth, gloried in the the doily edges of cut-lace collars topping how many velvet party dresses? Ripe with the beloved scent of horse sweat and sweaty saddle-leather, intelligent with the mysterious grip of double Pelham reins looped between the fingers just so.

This hand. Its lines of fate have changed over the years, like rivers rerouting through flat countryside, although the fingertip whorls of identity remain forever fixed. Still small, child-small, but now boasting weathered backs dotted with freckles. The nails far cleaner than they ever were, but still short, unpolished, the facets of time marking them like ’80s disco glass.

A fortune teller reading my palm at a party once identified me as a writer. Did she actually read the lines, I wonder, or spot the bend in the index finger, the unmistakable cant, the way a pen will alter the hand that holds it after years of hard service, that bend, with the corresponding slight callous on the opposing second finger, where all those pens have rested. My profession written there.

The hand that laid out a thousand hands of tarot, hungry for future. That wrapped around monkey bars and men alike. Backpack straps and suitcase handles, letters of acceptance and rejection, mailboxes full and empty, receivers of telephones bearing great and bad news. That touched the beloved hands of lovers, friends, parents, children.

Ah, her little hand in mine. Clung often to just one finger.

The hand also slammed a thousand doors, gave people the finger, flashed the peace sign, hitchhiked, indicated the door with a thumb. Held innumerable glasses while conversations glowed in long evenings, burnished and bright, gesturing extravagantly. Shook hands with the great and the forgettable, a few treasured beyond all–hands that also held pens, that also spilled ink.

The oceans of ink these hands have poured. The pages they have turned in a half-century’s Alexandria of books.

Hands shoved in pockets so they wouldn’t betray me. Pointed and clung, twirled two ropes in cadence, double-dutch, and played those intricate schoolgirl clapping games, “A sailor went to sea sea sea…” The hand that fed this body, all these years. How many spoons, and forks and knives? One spoon in particular, a silver baby spoon incised with birds, which I still use for sugar, the pleasure of wrapping my hand around it one more time. The windows it opened and closed, their mechanical variety of cranks and latches and levers. The zippers and buttons it has worked. The ten thousand meals it cooked. Peeled and sliced and chopped and stirred. Lit a city of birthday candles.

That finger, there, third finger left, for two decades wore a wedding ring–oak leaves and acorns. Its trace still visible. Like a freed slave’s cofflemark. And in an additional adornment to the slight rightward bend in the right forefinger, a flag of skin, where I sliced it open cutting a galley of type in a newspaper’s production room, when I was trying to be a writer.

This hand that caressed a lifetime of lovers, that held my only child, that made her laugh, tapping the tip of her nose. So many diapers. Now it caresses a late-life love, smooths his hair, unkinks a shoulder.

I love to think of just the warm sand that it has sifted through its fingers, like silk, like time, flowing.

As I grow old, so will these hands. They were there for everything. They drove the first car, a monstrous insect-green Fury III owned by Fairfax High’s Driver Ed, which stalled between two blind curves on Laurel Canyon. They’ll drive the last car too, whatever and whenever that will be.

To think alone of the alarms they’ve set, and silenced.

This hand, this very one, will see me through my last illness. This hand. When this life drains out of me, it will still be there, even then, this hand at the end of my arm. At the edge of the blanket, folded across my breast like a stilled wing. Someone will cover this hand with tears–my lover, my child? It will be buried with me, it will lie under the earth with me, just there. It gives me comfort, somehow, to know I won’t be alone.

Part of a semi-weekly series of short short stories based on a writing exercise, The Word. “Inspired by a simple word, chosen at random, write a two-page double-spaced story, using the Word at least once.”

Next week’s word is: EAR

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10 Responses to “This Hand, on this Wrist Affixed”

  1. Marie Brown Says:

    Beautifully written!

  2. This is my absolute favorite post so far. It’s gorgeous to read, and I have often thought about my hands in this fashion as well–lovely to see it put into words!

  3. Marleeo Says:

    Brilliant.

  4. Alisa Wood Says:

    Wonderful, wow! Thank u so much for your writing. I will read again and again.

  5. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!! You know it’s good when you wish that you had written it yourself!

  6. so beautiful, and so thoughtful, all the things our hands have done and been–great job capturing this!

  7. You are indeed turning me inside out. Made me look at my own hand and wonder how many creases and designs and purposes they have – a doctor, a writer, even a cashier, brushing another’s fingers, another’s hand.
    I love the bitter-sweet ending. It’s melancholy, yet uplifting. I believe all you’re stories have a touch of that. And for that, I thank you. For changing me, entirely.

  8. Caroljean Says:

    Dolly

    Daddy was smiling and waving around his big polyester sleeves. Mallory’s mom said they made him look handsome like a pirate, and then she gave me a ruffle on the hair and went to the kitchen to cut up the birthday cake.

    Before Mommy left for Nashville, to record another album with her band, she sewed pockets inside those sleeves. Daddy let me pack them before every show. I tucked in a bunch of paper roses, a special coin Daddy’s mentor had passed on to him, a couple of playing cards, and the long, rainbow strand of scarves that he had rolled back up into a wheel after the last birthday party. I made sure he didn’t forget his fake thumb, his wiggly wand, or his top hat.

    Mallory was kind of a snotty snob with these surly Elvis lips for everything she didn’t like, which included me. But one of the perks of being Daddy’s assistant was that I got to go to birthday parties I wasn’t invited to.

    For our first trick, I sang “Happy Birthday” while Daddy whipped the paper roses out of nowhere and flourished them before Mallory’s greedy face.

    “Hey,” she said. “They don’t even smell like roses.”

    Daddy looked at me funny because I was supposed to spritz them with Mommy’s perfume, but I guess I forgot.

    Next Daddy let Mallory rip a card in half and then he made it whole again. It was the three of hearts.

    Daddy made scarves come out of his nose like snot and all the boys who were standing in the back laughed and laughed.

    Next, I whisked up the special levitation board that was wrapped up in a sparkly blanket. Daddy took it from me, put it on a couple of chairs, helped me climb up, wrapped me in the blanket, waved his arms and jerked the board out from under me. I knew it looked like I was floating in thin air, but it didn’t feel like it. Everyone “Ooh’ed.”

    For the last trick, I uncovered Daddy’s fancy top hat and I tipped it to show that it was empty. Daddy tapped his wand on the brim of the hat and said his abracadabras, plunged his arm into it and pulled out Mommy’s white bunny, Dolly. The kids said “Ahhh,” and clapped like crazy, like they had never seen anything like that before.

    Daddy and me bowed, and Mallory’s mom called out that it was time for cake and presents.

    All the kids ran to the kitchen, except for Mallory; she ran up to my Daddy and asked if she could pet the bunny. I hoped Dolly would pee on her, but she didn’t.

    Mallory’s mom set a place for me at the table, with my own slice of cake and paper cup of punch; she even pulled out the chair for me, and called me the second special girl of the day. She almost walked away and then she fingered my gold locket, like she was trying to pinch it off.

    “That’s beautiful.”

    “My Mommy gave it to me.”

    “Of course she did,” she said, and then she ruffled my hair again.

    Mallory ripped open all of her presents like she was starving for them. I think she got everything I ever wanted.

    Daddy let me hold Dolly in my lap on the way home. She was so soft, a portable cuddle. I wiped my tears off on her fur.

    Daddy took one hand off the steering wheel, and reached for me, his heavy fingers brushed my leg.

    “Let’s stop for some rocky road ice cream,” he said.

    Rocky Road was mine and Mommy’s favorite ice cream. Daddy was the best magician ever, and Mommy was really on her way to being the best country star ever. We really believed that.

  9. Hi, Janet: Believe it or not, I still cherish the note you sent me on note paper adorned with an alligator, long before your fabulous novel “White Oleander” was a runaway hit. You’d attended a reading I did near UCLA, where I taught writing for 10 years. Sixteen years ago, I moved to Portland, Oregon. Here, I’ve had a career in journalism for national interior design magazines! Who knew??? Now I also run an ad agency (www.blackstoneedge.com) as art director, stylist, writer, and film editor. I, too, had my palm read way back when I was a young actress. Another actress, who had been brought up by Gypsies, read it.”I see a triune between the ring and little finger – that’s a gift and very rare,” she said. “You’ll leave this career and become a writer,” she added, firmly. I laughed. “English was my worst subject!” I said. Low and behold, I went on to write short stories, scripts for soap operas, movies and TV, before seguing into this field. So happy to see you still writing novels, et. al. Happy Easter!! And bless you for writing so beautifully.

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