- Seamus McCarty’s hands were made for work, rough-hewn tools that had never caressed a woman’s cheek, rarely made a wasted move. They picked potatoes and stashed money, then grappled with ropes during a sea crossing that saw softer hands fall still. In the new country, they built things; first wooden toys then ice chests then automobiles. They continued to stash money until they were able to use a stack to purchase a dealership. The next stash bought a second, the next a bank. By the time they started to soften, these hands could differentiate denominations by feel alone. Late in life, they held a crying newborn.
- Liam McCarty’s hands bore scars from the factory floor, scars that had faded to pale lines against the surrounding tan. They placed a bourbon rocks back on a ring on the blotter. Their fingers ran along a line of numbers on a spreadsheet, then pushed buttons on a desk phone. They pointed, they poked chests. They gripped the wheel of a sports car, they fumbled with one bra clasp in late afternoon and another before bed. They traced the dimples of a golf ball and steered the rudder of a fishing boat. Later, one cradled a yellowed photo while the other held a middling report card.
- Jack McCarty’s hands pulled a classmate’s pigtails, cupped a pair of dice, clenched into fists to lash out. They rarely held a schoolbook when a remote control was within reach. They were held up in protest against work as much as they carried it out. They were used to punish more than to embrace, to strike more than satisfy. These hands were adept at flipping quarters, at popping tabs, at rolling twenty-dollar bills. They took. Money slipped through them with ease. These hands shook others to seal deals of questionable wisdom and more questionable legality. They waved dismissively at the housekeeper’s news that the boy was his.
- Luis McCarty’s hands never held a toy, rarely brought something sweet to his mouth. They never flipped a Frisbee, never gripped a bat with the purpose of hitting a ball. They grasped many doorknobs behind which was a place to sleep, but never a home. They were stained yellow from nicotine. They destroyed; they did not build. These hands knew their way around a gun. They knew how to take what wasn’t theirs. They rarely held these things for long. They gripped cold, steel bars and plastic trays. They were free, then gripped the bars again. This time for good. They never knew the warm touch of new skin. Never cradled. Never calmed.
- Seamus McCarty’s hands were made for work, rough-hewn tools that had no time for a woman’s touch. They cracked books and clacked keys. They pinched pennies and planted seeds. They pounded nails and sawed boards. They never held a drink. Cupped a smoke. Popped a pill. They pressed against the floor in a pushup. They gripped a barbell. They pinched more pennies. Then dimes. Then dollars. They wrote plans. Their fingers ran along the columns on a bank statement. They clenched into a fist in celebration. They would never, ever hold a baby.
"Shirtsleeves" © 2014 by John Kenyon