Pat Chapin

It took me a while to notice his hands at all--funny, seeing as how they had run the length of my body many times before I ever watched them at work. We fell in love, married, bought the ranch all in the same year. We would fix the ills and deficiencies of the old place weekends and after work, he said; I could help him. I could not imagine how, but in those days, I thought he could teach me anything he wanted me to know.

So it was I learned, in theory anyway, hammers,screwdrivers, wrenches and saws, how to operate a posthole digger, notch logs, the proper way to solder, and how to glue pipe and fittings. As I watched his hands perform these tasks, if it is possible to fall in love with a separate piece of a man, I became enamored of his hands at work. I was quickly relegated to helper, handing him nails, holding one end of a board, and as we worked, a deeper eye within my soul loved his hands making things.

He was a handsome man then, but his hands were ugly, a roadmap of hard labour, the long elegant fingers beaten spatulate at the ends, and the knuckles splayed and flattened into ropy knots of bone and sinew. His nails all bore multiple white scars and ridges, and the palms' short lifelines were blurred under callous. The fingertips, though, were smooth and knowing, pulling lines tight just so, fashioning tiny intricate knots or guiding a hot tip to marry solder and surfaces. The muscles flowed and rippled like water over the backs of his hands lifting boards, and re-arranged themselves into cabled cords, settling back as he hammered them into structure.

We would break for lunch and he would peel an apple, talking about something else, and offer me pieces. He always ended with a single red spiral of skin, letting it drop into the sawdust at his feet, his hands never considering it was just yet another thing he could make.

First published: May, 2004
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