Spring 2008, Volume 4

Fiction by Larkin Weyand

The Hands of a Man

The staccato roll of the bell sounds. My teacher shuts up and dismisses us. Shoving my scribbled and crinkled notes into my fattening binder, I hurry. I like my Creative Writing class, but I got important business to tend to today. C'mon zipper. C'mon, I beg. A shoe cobbler from my hometown had replaced my uncooperative zipper this past fall, but now again the zipper's teeth refuse to bite and hold onto each other. I zip and zip. Back and forth. Back and forth. My life-time guaranteed Jansport book bag gapes open wide and presently useless. Maybe Mom had kept the guarantee card ensuring free replacement. I don't know. Ah yeah wait. We'd already looked for it. That's why we went to the shoe cobbler. Oh no! There she goes.

Her dark lacy curls bounce off the back of her neck. Her movement rolls so effortlessly that I doubt she is wearing shoes. I check her feet for skates but she wears shoes. Only shoes? Ha! If she wears them they are the shoes of a goddess!

Someone holds the door open for her as this apparition of beauty glides behind the cinder-block wall and escapes my attentive view. Darn! I could have held the door open for her. I could have walked with her. It could have been me! My roommates are counting on me today. I'd talked all the talk; today I was actually going to do it! I was going to walk with this mystery of grace. This mystery of ummmphhh. This woman. Today, I was to learn her name. Blasted book bag! Right now, I could be... oh man... I got to pee!

The fumbling contents of my book bag juggle as I scurry to the local Men's Room. I labor under the suppressing weight of three Norton Anthologies this semester. Today, the only good they were to me was to look at William Butler Yeats' eight-lined "Down by the Salley Gardens." I've carried over 7500 pages of the world's greatest literature in my bag today and only studied eight lines of it. C'mon! How about a double coupon next time I have to pay tuition?

I push open the bathroom door. In the nick of time I barely get the falling contents of my bag braced against the tiled floor before they spill into puddles of what probably is not water. I stand erect to use a urinal when to my horror, I discover I have to wait in line. A line! People wait in lines to shake the hands of famous people and to throw up in rides at amusement parks. But to use the urinal at the Humanities Building?

I flex my body in weird places. I cringe my lips. A few more seconds. I can make it. I can make it. Okay... okay... HA! Mr. Wrangler jeans is lifting his hand to flush the toilet and I'm next in line. Ha! Yes... ahhh no... He’s just scratching his thigh. C'mon! Oh wait! Mr. Roly-Poly Offensive Lineman just flushed his urinal. Okay, finally. C'mon Mr. I Could Feed A Small Country of Starving Cannibals. C'mon! You flushed the urinal. Why are you still standing there? He's still tucking in his shirt and buttoning his fly. Shouldn't you do that before you flush? Have a heart for the next guy in line. Finally. Mr. Wrangler Jeans is done. His thigh itches no more.

I step up to the watering hole. My zipper opens as if by knife! Maybe Jansport should trade secrets with the Faded Glory Jeans Company. Then I could be walking with Creative Writing Girl. Right now I could. Well, maybe it's a good thing. I'd still have to pee.

Mr. Offensive Lineman rolls over and I am now joined by a guy that had to be a skate-boarder in high school. He might have even been a stoner. He has that retired stoner look. He pees in the neighboring urinal. Sandy blonde locks of hair curve off his neck and sweep across his ear lobe. A graying white bill of a ball cap slick with wear throws a shadow across his protruding facial features. We stand staring at the wall. We pee together. The only sound is the hiccup of new fluid accumulating in the urinal.

We finish together. I button my fly and zip my zipper and in the process throw a sideways glance at my peeing-comrade. He does the same. Quickly, we each return our gazes to the task at hand: namely fly buttoning and zipper zipping. In effect my comrade’s stolen glance tells me, "I am quite heterosexual.” I silently hope that my eyes immediate return to my fly conveys a like message from me to him, for I am fond of girls, particularly Creative Writing Girl.

Pivoting our right feet, we each turn from our mutual urinals. Being closest to the entrance door, I walk sideways to take advantage of the sink's pink soap and warm water. Yes. Soon all boyish bacteria will be cleansed from me. Content, I walk. But two steps into my sink-bound journey, I am bumped by my newfound friend, my peeing comrade. He brushes by me and opens the entrance door. He stands there holding open the door and waiting. He waits for me. Tensing my face muscles and stilling my tongue as if by Novocain I scream mentally, "Thank you very much for holding open the door for me, but I am going to wash my hands with warm water and pink soap. I am going to cleanse my hands of the germs men so often acquire as they use the urinal. I will not leave this bathroom with dirtied hands and neither should you!"

Skater-boy grunts and turns. The door falls closed behind his body of fleeing contamination. I wash and dry, using one paper towel only. I am friendly to the environment. I wonder if Creative Writing Girl uses only one paper towel after washing her "snow-white hand." If she truly does use only one paper towel, I just may marry her.

But first, I have to catch her.

I attempt to gather up the erupting contents of my backpack. Books and papers spill everywhere. Forget it I say. I pound my chest. Carpe Diem. I leave it all behind.

As I run, I reflect on how class did go rather well today. Creative Writing Girl now knows who I am. Every class, we work on ways to start a story when you don’t know what to write about. Today we had to make a list of Pet Peeves. I’m a good writer so when the teacher asks for volunteers, I always volunteer. I hate it when people don’t. When I stood in front of the class, Creative Writing Girl bit the eraser on her pencil and smiled. She looked a whooped actually.

Here are the Pet Peeves people really liked:

Shaking hands with people who have warty hands

Girls with man hands

People who don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom

People who bite their fingernails incessantly

·      People with androgynous names—names like Tracy, Kelly, Terry, Bailey, Alex, Jessie, Riley, Taylor, and the worst of all, Pat. 

Call me picky if you like. I am nothing if not a man who knows exactly what he wants.

I caught Creative Writing Girl start to smile when I read the bit about androgynous names. She probably knew some boy named Madison or some girl named Drew. I could mention that to break the ice.

Outside, it is a beautiful spring day, the season that poets always say breeds new love. Now, it’s time for some new poetry—a love scene starring me. Summer is coming. Maybe today a little Shakespeare recitation will be in order.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate

Creative Writing Girl’s “eternal summer shall not fade.” Of that, I am certain.

I double-time it toward the bell tower hill where I believe she lives. Okay, I know she lives here. I’ve done my homework.

I turn the corner around a large prickly evergreen when fifty feet ahead of me on the sidewalk, I can see her—her and the Skater-boy from the Men’s Room . . . holding hands.

Does she know Skater-boy’s hands are unclean? I must warn her of the sodden crust of filth she presently holds in her hand.

I grab a copy of the school paper from a nearby rack and pretend to read while I follow behind. I inch closer and closer. I hide behind light posts and bronze sculptures and baby strollers until I’m only 20 feet away, 15 feet away, 10 feet away. I can almost hear what they’re saying.  

They are talking about Creative Writing. Today’s class.

“There is this funny boy who always volunteers to read his stuff, even when it’s total crap. (Ouch!) But today, his stuff was actually very funny.”

She lists 25 of the 26 things I listed as my Pet Peeves. The only one she forgets to mention is how I detest people who think Walker Texas Ranger is the best show on television.

When I read my list in class today, the teacher asked for the story behind my not liking shaking hands with people who have warty hands. I shared the story of a boy named Ryan. Creative Writing Girl is telling Skater-boy the story now.

I was one of the six dancers in the play Oklahoma. I was partnered with this boy Ryan who happened to be quite a little lady’s man. When he talked of his love life he’d put this chocolate deepness into his voice—like that of a Latin lover. He’d list the chapters of his book of love for me: Chapter 1: Juliana. Chapter 2: Roxanna. Chapter 3: Yolanda, etc. etc.  He had this huge wart on the palm of his right hand. I guess his charm and good looks and maybe his voice compensated for the wart. Girls still held hands with him. I could always detect a bit of apprehension in the faces of those girls when they first held hands with Ryan and Ryan introduced them to the volcano in his palm—a feature he’d named Helen. I know the queasiness the wart caused me. As dancers, we often held hands for the numbers as well as the curtain calls. I’d feel Mount Wart Helens gyrating against me like a dried out carrot, like a scab, like the tongue of a cat.    

Creative Writing Girl laughs deliciously as she finishes my descriptions of Ryan’s wart. Skater-boy laughs too. I’m so swept away listening to her talk that I’ve failed to recognize where we are. We’re on the long stretch of sidewalk leading to the crosswalk on University Avenue. There is a brick wall on one side and an empty parking lot on the other. There are no good places to hide. By the time I realize my mistake, she sees me.

Her hair flows like long stalks of grain in a strong wind—an ocean of it. A few reddish-brown locks fall into her face. She swipes them away with a gentle brush of her hand. The constellation of freckles on her nose makes me wild, but I calm myself.

“Hey, I was just talking about you,” she says.  


She lets go of Skater-boy’s leprous hand and holds out her hand for me to shake. It’s a beautiful hand—radiant and small. The nails are flawless. They shine from under some clear polish. She wears no rings or bracelets. She’s just as God made her—perfect.

But what should I do?

Should I take her hand into mine, and indirectly hold the unclean hand of Skater-boy?

Should I tell her how Skater-boy doesn’t wash his hand . . . how she should go wash her infected hand now . . . how she deserves more than this baggy-pantsed outhouse can provide?

I look to Skater-boy. It is obvious that he recognizes me from the Men’s Room. His eyes narrow into thin black slots. I’d pump those slots full of quarters if he’d just leave.

Perplexed, I place my hands on my hips while Creative Writing Girl keeps her hand held out like an arrow in a fresh carcass. “What have you been saying?”

“I was just telling Addison here about your Pet Peeves—how funny it was.”

Skater-boy’s name is Addison. Wow! Tie me down and kill me with a toothpick. “Oh yeah?” I chuckle.


“Do you have any Pet Peeves?”

“Oh yeah, lots and lots—lots of the ones that you mentioned actually.”

“Like what?”

“Like when people don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom. That’s absolutely revolting.”

I immediately lock eyes with Skater-boy, excuse me, Addison. “Really?” I say. Addison stares back at me with the eyes of a frightened puppy. He gently shakes his head from side to side. He mouths the words, “No. Don’t.” I look down at the unworthy hand that has been holding her hand. My eyes hurt. It’s like reading in a dim light. I can hardly see it.

I’m just about to say the words that will claim this beauty as my very own when Skater-boy says, “Ryan, let’s go.”


Her name is Ryan? A boy’s name?

“Excuse me,” I say. “Is your name . . . Ryan?”

She confirms that it is. She laughs this fetching little laugh and sighs, “I know that probably bothers you from what you said today, but what can I do? It’s my name.” She’s perky now. “I don’t have any warts though.” She shows off both of her hands.

Here is this beauty with a man’s name and this slob-boy with hands of contagion who has been yoking his imperfection with her perfection. All the smiles are gone. Even this perfect girl is suddenly confused. Our mouths open like holes in the sky but no one talks. Our hands, some filthy, some clean, some heavenly hang at our sides. No one knows what to say. 

Skater-boy sees defeat in my eyes. He reaches out his hand of filth and wraps it around Ryan’s hand of beauty. The smirk on his face is as long as a wire.

“See you in class,” says Ryan as they leave.

I barely get up my hand, still smelling of pink soap, to wave good-bye. All I can think is “That was a close call,” and I’m so lucky,” and “Good riddance.”

Back at the Humanities Building, I gather up my literature books from where I’d left them in the hall. I hug them. Someday, I will kiss the beauties spoken of in here. I’ll hold hands with the metaphors that aren’t really metaphors, but flesh and blood.

The promise of poetry . . . will be mine. 

BIO:  Larkin Weyand recently won the Reader's Choice Award on funnydisasterstories.com. He received an MFA in Creative Writing (2003) from the University of Maryland. He works as a teacher at American Fork High School and as an adjunct at Utah Valley State College. He lives with his wife and four children by the freeway in Utah.