Twenty-Seven Bones | Short Story

Imagine a person on any news website, any glossy magazine, any television advertisement. Done? I’ll bet it’s a face you’ve pictured. Am I right? Airbrushed, tinted, perfectly lit? The problem with faces is that they lie. You only need to watch the lips move to know that.

Hands, on the other hand…

Hands are where the real talking happens. I’ll bet any great speaker that you can name doesn’t perform with their hands at their sides. Hands are our most important props, pointing and punching and clenching and waving. Words are just incidental. Just background noise. Nor are our extremities limited to communication by gesticulation. What speaks to nerves better than gnawed-at cuticles? What stories do those calluses tell? What follies do those scarred knuckles and yellowed fingertips betray? Who are you trying to impress with your lavender-scented, regenerative, fourth-generation bio-lifting crème? We don’t need heart and lifelines to read what is written on those palms.

There is a reason our hands are placed on the ends of our arms; they are designed to bridge a divide between one person and another, sinewy telephone wires running between remote outposts. They can carry terrible messages, hands – the pull of a trigger, the thrust of a knife, the plunging of a syringe. Strangely, the distance provided by the humerus, radius, and ulna can also amplify the warmth that our waxen faces struggle to show. A hug, a lover’s kiss – instances where words simply are not enough to convey the transfer of feeling from me…to you.

That is how I feel as I hold my new-born son in my arms. My ragged fingernails are safely enveloped in the unblemished pudge of a baby’s fist, my faded track marks met by smooth parchment-thin skin. Marked meets unmarked. A chance to start anew.

Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, Whatever Keeps the Lights On, and Shooter magazine. He is an absentee member of the Glasgow Writers Group, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.

Not necessarily in that order

4 thoughts on “Twenty-Seven Bones | Short Story

  1. This was so brilliantly visceral, Matt! I’m amazed at your vivid contrast between the airbrushed falseness of a manicured face and the ‘gnawed-at cuticles’, the ‘scarred knuckles and yellowed fingertips’ that illuminates true character; great ending imagery between the baby and his father’s hands!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I just loved this, so much. Such a surprise ending, such a beautiful one at that. As Tom said, very visual imagery. Gave me heart-tingles at the end… in short, wonderful. Thanks for this brightening of the WP reader feed!

    Liked by 1 person

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