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4H

VIEWS: 16 PAGES: 7

A short story is presented.

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									                     MICHAEL MARTONE




                     4H

                     Hands

                     I heard a story once about a boy who, with his own hands, felt through
                     the mass of steaming alfalfa in a windrow looking for his father’s
                     fingers cut clean off by the baler. His father had walked back to the
                     yard to sit in the metal glider and wait for the helicopter but not until
                     he had the presence of mind to tell the boy to find the fingers some-
                     where in the hay. “Put them in the cooler with the chemical ice.” The
                     boy dumped the lunch on the ground and got down on his hands and
                     knees to sort through the grass at his feet.
                          I was all alone when my own hands in their gloves slid off like
                     gloves as I monkeyed with the bean header on the gleaner. My father
                     had gone to town. My mother was at church. My hands were gone
                     somewhere in the idling red machine. My lunch was in the cab. The
                     sky was blue. The machinery had crimped the flesh enough to staunch
                     the heavy bleeding for now. I held my arms up away from my body
                     like you see doctors do after they have washed up, turned and walked
                     on up to the house.
                          At the county fair each year I showed an animal or two curry-
                     ing the coat of the steer, ratting its tail into a cloud, raking back the
                     white lick on the forehead one hundred times. The judge slaps the
                     rump of the winner and leaves his handprint in the smooth fur. The
                     animals give a kick or two. And later, the auction is a field of waving
                     hands. That night in the show ring us kids chased the pigs, tried to
                     tackle them in the mud. We clawed at them as they ran between us
                     and through our legs. I had one in my hands, all slime and scum, and
                     then it tore away from me.
                          That boy found most of the fingers, placed them one by one in
                     the palm of his hand, then dropped them, one by one, plopped them
                     down on the bottom of the plastic cooler, on the frozen plastic pack
								
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