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Cold Hands of Joy

Michael Snellen

By Michael SnellenPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 4 min read
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Cold hands of faint, sinuous veins, of pale and saggy skin, of broken colorless fingernails dig into the ground and lift up dirt and a maze of roots. He is nearly bald with grey hair growing out of his ears and nose, and his eyes damply wet against the dry air, and his face full of deep lines. With a hunched back and weak folded knees, his hands are shaking and digging with soft and calloused fingers in the cold dirt at the edge of a park.

The sun is bright yet still the grass is cold. The smell of eucalyptus fills the air. A mockingbird moves back and forth, back and forth overtop the soft colorful beds of burgeoning, youthful spring flowers. Cheerful children pass by the old man not noticing him, mothers feel pity for him. A slight breeze calms the heat of the afternoon sun. Upon the flowers, the old man falls over and dies.

. . .

With small hands, I dig in the dirt and lift up a slimy worm. To my mother I show the worm and she laughs and smiles.

She died when I was young. I have forgotten what she looks like. She died before I could ever thank her for how she cared for and loved me. She died before I could form memories. Did I ever love her?

On the shore of a lake, the sun so bright and blinding but warm, the endless horizon of the lake encompassing all eternity, I kissed my wife and proposed to her. We had only one child, but one so precious. So it was, as the sun was collapsing and the daylight fleeting, our love was forgotten. All we took for granted was taken away and I would never look at her the same again though I wanted to, though I tried to light a spark with the cold embers of the past, the woman I loved was gone, so soon, so soon, she was gone.

The days of my youth, I do not like to think of them. I was neglected, an outcast at the home I went to after my mother’s death and father’s disappearance. The other boys never learned my name, but how many times I wanted to say theirs, just to speak to them, just to fit in, just to feel like I was there. The caretakers were impatient with me but I don’t blame them. There was no helping me. I was everything I did not want to be.

I worked at a humble job for many years. I bought an old house and made it beautiful. I painted it blue. I lived there for many years and still live there now. As the city grew up all around me, and the world changed, as people changed, I stayed the same.

Cancer, the doctor said. I was not prepared for what that meant. I grew restless in my skin, my blood burned and my face was hot. Many years ago, I would have said that I was not afraid to die, but that was before I understood what to die meant, before I knew what dying felt like. I am afraid to die.

It was many years later, all had changed, but a secret yearning was within me that I did not know. I saw my father with the same eyes I saw him as a boy with but he looked different, so unrecognizable. In his casket he lay, his skin almost melted, his eyelids peacefully closed. How I spoke to him silently in my head, only wanting a word from him, a quiet word, and how I touched him only wanting him to touch me back with the hands he must have held me with as a crying baby and calmed me with. I watched his casket go down in the ground behind a group of people, behind the family he created after he left me, behind his son.

It was not too soon after that I was digging in the dirt, underneath the birch tree, beneath the tangled grass strands so soft, into the home of the earth, a resting place for the dead. As the fallen rain crawled down my face, tears dropped from my eyes. I felt sad. I had never known in all my life such despair. With each handful of dirt, I was opening up the ground and burying myself at the same time. I was too poor to afford a proper burial. I couldn’t pay for someone else to do it. With my cold hands, I buried my child.

I waited in my chair, staring. I forgot that I had existed. For days I passed along as a ghost in all my actions, as an outsider to my thoughts. Dissociated, was my vision; dull, was my heart with terrible sorrow, and left me had my soul. It was not until I began to dig, until I began to plant flowers to bring joy to the young, to the old, to the broken, to the happy, to the mother, and to the father, to others like me, to everyone who could see the flowers unfading color, that I remembered what was joy.

Short Story

About the Creator

Michael Snellen

An audacious young writer.

email: [email protected]

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