I never wanted to sell hands. I had never thought people would want such things until a lawyer told me I had inherited my father’s hand shop.
I hadn’t spoken to my father in years, so I was surprised that I was even in his will. Then again, who else would have received the shop? He had no other children.
I wanted to sell the shop, but according to the will, I had to sell the rest of the inventory first. No reason was given. Maybe my father was punishing me.
I moved back to my father’s home in Madison and went to the address the lawyer had given me. I parked the car in front of the three-story brick building where the shop was housed. In the front window was a pair of women’s hands with open fingers. “THE HAND SHOP” was painted on the front door.
Inside, hands of every size and color lined the shelves on the back wall. My mouth dropped. I needed to sell all of these?
I spent the rest of the day cleaning. While dusting the shelves, I wondered, When did my father open this shop? Why hands?
The following morning, I took down the “CLOSED” sign and unlocked the door. Within an hour, I had my first customer. After some small talk about my father, she grabbed a pair of muscular men’s hands.
“Oh, these are wonderful,” she said. “Ever since my husband died, I’ve had to do all the chores on the farm myself, but I’m not very strong, and I can’t afford to hire anyone. These hands will help.”
I replaced her hands with burly ones that were too large for her small, delicate frame. The palms didn’t line up with her wrists. Still, her face beamed as she paid me. “Your father would be proud.”
Word spread about the shop’s re-opening and business was steady. My customers purchased hands that didn’t match the rest of their body. Men bought women’s hands. White people bought black people’s hands. Sometimes my customers wanted smaller hands, sometimes bigger ones. After a month-and-a-half, I only had the hands in the window left.
I wondered what made people want new hands, so just for kicks, I replaced my left hand with one of the women’s hands. As soon as it had joined with my wrist, a chill ran through me. I smiled, then I put on the women’s right hand. I held them up to the mirror and turned them several times, studying their smooth, white skin. Even though they were a little too small for my arms, they felt right.
The bell above the door rang. A man walked in. His hulking frame and his white hair reminded me of my father.
He scanned the empty shelves before asking, “Do you have any hands?”
I looked at my new hands, then my old ones lying on the desk. “I have one pair left.”