View Full Version : A Man's Hands

November 30th, 2011, 02:32 PM
The body lay still in the middle of the room. A once strong man now limply lay within a wooden casket. His eyes were glass marbles and his skin flushed too red, like a cartoon or a mannequin. The work done on the body was amateur, at best and possibly rushed. Once strong and aggressive like a Pit-bull of human species, now lay limp and confined. His glossy stare seemed to lament the ceiling and the lines walked past him as I watched person after person talk into it.

Your humble narrator stood still with sore legs, standing by the casket and talking to everyone as they walk past. Most with tears in their eyes, some with blank stares talking into the casket.

"Sorry," some said, "Sorry we never talked."

"I love you," some said, "I'll miss you."

The music was sad, but cheesy. It seemed too gaudy to be a funeral. Some must have known it was kitschy, and lowbrow. I certainly did, but I kept my lamentations to myself. Even his suit seemed too colorful and hastily bought, like he had never worn it in his life except for maybe his wedding. His calloused hands indicated that he shouldn't even own a suit.

The weeping woman in the front row wasn't his wife. They had long since been divorced and she had been with another man for years now. She was crying out of obligation, not love. Yet, it wasn't exaggerated, it was a perfect act. She wasn't sad for him, she was sad for the child they had raised together who now had to go without a father. The child who would never again get to play catch with his father or learn to hunt.

Deep down, though, she knew that was okay. The man with calloused hands had used his hands to do more than just paint and build. He had used his hands to hurt. His hands had thrashed and torn and beaten and broken. His hands had killed animals and lashed out at friends. The dead, solid skin on his hands were a testament to his ill will.

If I were to look outside I would see the other man, who waited in the car. He felt nothing but shared the sorrows of the woman he loved. His hands were soft and fat, not the hands of a working man. The only callouses he had were from gardening.

The man's father stands grimly in the back corner of the room. He had not approached the casket, in fact he could barely look. A man of advancing age, his hands had been damaged by time and a saw-blade that had taken off three of his fingers. His hands had once been used to dominate his family, but now remained pathetic relics of who he once was. He had only fathered one son, one dead son.

The body was still stiff. Many looked on to the open casket, waiting for some signs of life. None showed. The coroners knew he was dead long ago and the wake was mostly for the sake of the people- we all knew he wasn't going to come to, but some hoped that modern science was as uncertain as it was in the past. His mother silently hoped for him to gasp loudly, and for his eyes to go wide. We all sat confined to the small room and eventually the priest and some friends stood up and gave speeches. They were all very by-the-book.

"Brian was a good friend." One man stated solemnly, "He was also a good hunter." The man wasn't lying, Brian was an excellent hunter. His life's achievements lay in stacked trophies that lined the man's walls. Trophies that would later be sold and wear away in basements (or be melted down for metal.) "He was the best bow-hunter we've ever seen, he used to be able to fire on pheasants in flight and take 'em down." He sighed and stammered. "You know..." He paused with a quiver, "I never thought I'd be doin' this for ol' Brian."

The speech was cut short. He couldn't finish. He went to sit down. His hands were identical to the hands on the corpse, with callouses in the same places. Secretly, I wonder if he used his hands to control his family. He wasn't a bad man and he really was hurt inside, but a part of me knew that inside there was a man who worked just like Brian did.

One by one, people leaked out of the room. The first to leave did so quietly, almost as if they were coming back. I remained at the front, staring at the crowd and occasionally the casket. The man who had given the speech came up and caressed my soft, pale hands with his. "If you ever need anything, just give me a call." He gave me his name, but I have long since forgotten it.

My hands were much littler back them, and much softer. I wore thick, coke-bottle glasses and had big buck-teeth. I was a "wimpy little shrimp" who "needed someone to make a man out of me." My hands had been forced to kill, just like the corpses.

Back in the woods my hands grasped onto a rifle, the cold morning air went into my lungs and I breathed out what felt like blood. Focusing though the scope, I spotted a white-tail doe.

"Someday, son" Brian said, "I'm going to teach you how to use a bow."

"Dad, I'm scared." I replied shakily. I had never fired before and my mother had been arguing with him about me learning to hunt.

"If I don't teach the little shit, he's going to grow up soft, just like that pecker you're screwing!" He had yelled last time.

"What if he breaks his shoulder, Brian?" My mother had stated with a combative tone, a tone she had never dared to take before. "He's a little boy for chrissake!"

Now, though, he looked at me and said "Fire."

With a whimper, I pulled the stock into my shoulder and pulled the trigger. A thunderous bang rang through the air. Yelping, I dropped the rifle.

"What's the matter? You going to grow up a wuss?"

"My shoulder!" I yelped.

"You're fine." He had said.

"I'm hurt, dad!" I had replied.

But I wasn't hurt. I was smacked.

"The doe is the one that's hurt," he had said, "you're going to learn to do that better."

Soon, the relatives followed the casket to the dig site where the priest spoke again. The casket was now hoisted above the ground by a mechanical system. The pistons lowered it down slowly and I took one last look at the man who had taught me to kill.

December 2nd, 2011, 07:33 AM
I enjoyed reading this. The speaker (the son) comes off as cold, viewing the entire scene with a technical gaze. Creating a narrator like this adds, I think. My recommendation would really be to keep that consistency throughout, even as he turns to his relationship with his dad. As I read it now, he becomes a bit warmer in his tone, and a far more emotional. That shift can also be good, but at least when I read it, I want a greater context (i.e. a larger story, really). Keeping it short, at least to me, reads more enjoyably if the narrator remains almost removed. Just my two cents, however, so take it for what it's worth!

One last note - I would change 'littler' hands to 'smaller' (I think littler is an awkward word), but again, just my two cents.

December 3rd, 2011, 01:34 AM
I agree with Nolan, the emotionall detached narrator needs to be consistent as it works really well and maintains viewpoint throughout.