Tiny Hand Man

by Greg Shemkovitz

The car lurched forward and, with one eye open, Everett held two fingers before him, a tiny man running along the landscape careening past his window. As the car sped up, his fingers hopped over shrubs, skittered along a stone wall, and leaped over approaching obstacles like some primitive video game.

“And the dishes,” his mother said from behind the steering wheel.

“They’re just dishes,” his father replied.

“Exactly,” his mother said. “And you’re too lazy to help clean them.”

“Lazy,” he said. “There you go. Again with my weight.”

“This isn’t about your weight.”

“No? Then what is it about?”

“You would have to ask.”

Everett’s fingers could hardly keep up, sprinting with long strides like a wide receiver in an open field as the car went faster. But there was no clear path for Everett’s tiny hand man, now vaulting over an old lady with a dog.

“I have to explain everything to you,” his mother said.

“Yes,” his father said. “You do. Go ahead. Tell me why I have to make excuses for your crabby attitude!”

“Just shut up!” his mother cried. “Shut up!”

The car came to a red light and Everett’s parents both glanced over their shoulders. He held his hand in place, the tiny hand man catching his breath. Neither of his parents said anything, just turned their sad faces forward again.

The light turned green and soon his fingers were trotting along the edge of a country road. Everett’s parents resorted to mumbling at each other and soon his fingers began to race again, trying desperately to keep up with the car, until suddenly the tiny hand man did not clear a mailbox at the edge of a long driveway. The metal box ripped from its wooden post and tumbled along the shoulder.

Everett looked back to see it disappear in the distance. What had he done? He looked to his parents who were starting to bicker again, unaware. Everett brought the tiny hand man back to the window, and he was off and running again, dirt kicking up from the ground where Everett’s fingers gained traction. The tiny hand man sprung over the next mailbox but then caught a low-hanging branch on his way down, snapping it from a tree.

Everett pulled his hand down and held it against his lap in terror. How was this possible? What else could his hand do? He looked around the car, his parents barking sharp accusations into the windshield. Outside, the sun was setting. He lifted his hand again and closed one eye. Instead of running, this time he simply dropped a finger down into a passing cornfield. His parents began to yell, the car moving quicker, stalks and leaves and ears of corn spitting into the dim sky. Everett slowly lifted his finger from the corn and brought it back into the car. He traced the window’s edge and the passenger seat headrest. Spying still with one eye, he brought his finger over to the rearview mirror, where he could see his mother’s frowning face. And he gently pushed up the corners of her mouth.

Greg Shemkovitz writes and teaches in North Carolina. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Echo Ink Review, Foundling Review, Gihon River Review, and Prime Mincer.

When did you realize the power of the tiny hand man? What other powers might yet to be discovered? I was a bored little boy, sitting in the “way back” on yet another eight-hour drive to see very distant relatives. The roadside landscape begged for adventure. Or maybe I was doing all the begging. With nothing more than my hand, a soundtrack of Paul Simon or Marvin Gaye–depending on who between my mother and father had control of the radio–and a lot of miles still to go, I learned that the mind holds a great deal of power in changing the way we see the world around us. It took a few decades to discover that it matters more how you use that power, and I’m still trying to figure that out.

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