Hands

by Marina Bonanno

His hands were rough calluses and splinters. Uneven nails misshapen. He held the head of the tweezers between two blunt fingers. Donning pharmacy readers, he still couldn’t see the wood sliver buried deep. It smarted. Under golden orb of the yellow kitchen light he kept on a dimmer, the youngest peered, fingernail touching dirt embedded into scales of skin. “Maybe if you washed your hands…” He jerked his hand back from the singe that stung, sulking “I did!” Heavy work boots stomped out of earshot. She startled in alarm.

He pitched the burnt lightbulb from rough fingers toward her post holding the ladder, the driveway now semi illuminated by a fluorescent beam. His other hand held the wooden ladder in a secure grip. The glass shards impacted unceremoniously, blood coursing from wound obscuring the extent of damage. Daughter sat fretting under a light not on dimmer now. Room silent, save the questions from saucer eyes watching in dread. Mother sat still as stone while thick fingers pulled pieces from flesh with tweezers, unskilled and impatient.

A black and white newspaper underneath a jar holding turpentine. A soiled rag in dark colors, edges fraying. An old brush with a laminated handle touting an irregular wood grained pattern. Abrupt instructions delivered through jerky movements and gruff commands, “Use the turpentine to clean the paint off.” A Dickies uniform in drab olive, a color of unease, inspired belts of Kermit’s, “It’s not easy being green” or spontaneous chases as the green monster. Rolled up sleeves on arms laden with thick untamed hair. A jangle of keys in palm.

The mixing doesn’t remove the stains. The brush won’t come clean. She doesn’t how to do this right. She hadn’t asked what to do if. Liquid spilled onto asphalt through newsprint too saturated to absorb questions.

Hiding upstairs when he returns and cleans up the driveway. Workman’s hands cover mistakes, transform miniature shutters black, paint turquoise accents onto plain white background.

She tries to explain the mess, though lacking the soggy words that had pooled onto pavement outside. But inside, that house, she knows she doesn’t care for it.

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