- Holly Searle
- London, United Kingdom
- Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.
Sunday, 2 October 2011
Hands - By Holly Searle
The idea for the following short story Hands was inspired by a combination of two factors; Max Bygraves and my love of hands and their own personal history which is often overlooked.
Now he was retired, Joseph Culloty wondered how he ever managed to work a fifty hour week with so much going on in his life, although he was glad that he was, retired that is.
Martha had woken him with a kiss this morning and he embraced it and her as he always had and did with the wholehearted knowledge that he still had the woman he loved, in his arms, in his life and in their bed.
As usual Martha had left him with a further kiss and a cup of tea in bed as she was off out to meet their youngest daughter Ruby for lunch.
Joseph liked the fact that Martha was able to spend time with their daughter and that they enjoyed their time together, it made him smile.
He drunk his tea and listened to the silence in the house. The air still held a trace of Martha’s scent that formed the trail of her momentary former presence before leaving for the day. He liked that as well.
He moved his body from beneath the cover of the duvet and stood up and stretched his arms above his head and felt the twinge of sleep’s stiffness in his back. He didn’t for one moment think this might be his age as at fifty-five he didn’t feel old, he felt lucky.
Today he intended to finish his latest project.
Being retired at a younger age had afforded him choices that had made all of his working life worthwhile.
It was a pleasure not to be confined by time or a train timetable (or in a train for that matter), gridlocked in traffic or held hostage by harsh weather conditions that had always made his commute home a nightmare.
No, he’d finished those chapters of his life and had managed to turn down the corner of a page just past the half way point of his own personal novel.
No, not old at fifty-five, but just beginning to explore the heart of the story, where all the threads of his narrative had started to join up and the conclusion was still a mystery and a far off destination.
In the bathroom he studied his naked reflection in the mirror. Even though the unnatural light was a flattering ally, he took this into consideration whilst making his inspection and came to conclude that he wasn’t in too bad a condition. His body was still toned and defined rather than an out of control heap. A closer look at his face revealed a network of lines and creases. Distinguished Martha called it laughing at his vanity, weather-worn he thought, laughing at himself. He could do with a shave, but decided that as he didn’t need to and because he quite liked his dark rural appearance and the fact that Martha had vocalized her own appreciation of it, by making that “Grrrrrrr” noise as she rubbed her face against his in bed earlier that morning confirmed his decision. “Grrrrrrrr” he said to his reflection.
He showered and dressed and made his way downstairs to the kitchen where he made himself another cup of tea. He had been a coffee drinker once, but now he found that he preferred tea. It was less urgent and intrusive somehow.
He looked out the kitchen window at the day and liked the lush greenery of the garden and the peace it generated.
With his mug in hand, he opened the kitchen door and commenced his now route to work as he crossed the garden and arrived at the door of his humble work shop that he had built for moments such as this.
As he opened the door he was greeted with the familiar warm smell of wood and sawdust (or tree snow as Ruby had called it when she was little).It was a dry and embracing smell that was both friendly and tactile towards him and his senses.
He placed his mug on his work bench and switched on the radio.
For years he had designed and overseen the construction of buildings as an architect for so many people. Mostly they had been domestic. Other people’s visions of the space that they wanted to inhabit. He had taken pride in most of what he had achieved for them, but he would be lying to himself if he didn’t admit that some jobs had been taken on purely for monetary gain.
He drunk some of his tea and considered what he needed to do today. In the background the radio filled the vacuum of movement and created what he like to think of as an unobtrusive assistance.
This was interrupted by the sound of the cat flap as Moss made his way into the workshop and jumped up onto the workbench.
“Hello fat cat” Joe said stroking him as the cat made its way to his usual spot and sat down. Moss was a good workshop companion, quiet and non judgemental but not without wages. Joe had a packet of biscuits on a shelf above his workbench from which he sourced half a digestive for the expectant Moss. He dipped it in his tea so that it was soft and easy for the cat to consume.
Moss waited patiently while Joe went through this tried and tested means of consideration and then ate it and helped himself to a drink of water from the bowl on the window sill that the workbench rested against, then looked at Joe hopefully. “Maybe later eh?” Joe said to him and Moss sat down and blinked at him in acknowledgement of this offer.
Set for the day, Joe turned his attention to the item that rested on the floor. No one knew what he was making. It was something he had wanted to do from the moment his eldest daughter Grace had announced she was expecting his and Martha’s first grandchild.
Martha had asked him if he was working on a private commission “Of sorts” he had responded and winked at her. She was as curious as the cat that watched over him now, but not as easily distracted by a digestive biscuit. “I don’t want to show you until it is finished” he had offered her. Unlike Moss, Martha had given him a blank look and hadn’t blinked at all.
As he finished his tea, his attention was taken by the radio and his face broke into a smile as he lent over and turned it up a little. Laughing he said “Well I’ll be Moss!” The cat’s ears twitched at the mention of its name (and probably in the hope of further biscuits) as Max Bygraves deep nasal tones sang out from the radio.
“You need hands to hold someone you care for…you need hands to show that you’re sincere..”
Joe hadn’t heard this song in years. He stood and listened and was transfixed. Not by the vaudevillian production it conjured up, but by the song and the memories associated with it that he had long since forgotten.
He saw his father clearly singing and comically miming the actions of the words to him when he had been a small boy.
“…When you feel nobody wants to know you, you need hands to brush away the tears”
Both of them laughing while his mother protested telling his father not to get him all hyped up before his bedtime. His father had ignored her and had dealt with her jovial protests by taking her in hand (literally) and had made her dance with him which had made a small Joe laugh even more as his parents took a turn around the kitchen floor. His mother had laughed as well and telling his father to behave himself with a smile on her face as well as in her dance steps.
“When you hold a brand new baby..you need tender hands to guide them on their way”
Joe looked down at his hands and thought about his babies; Grace, Hannah and Ruby. He called them his three muses and Martha had asked “And what does that make me?” “Why a Goddess of course” he had replied. “Charmer!” She had said laughing.
He held his hands up and inspected them. Just like his face they had a used look about them, but they had worked hard for him and the thought suddenly occurred to him that they were also a record of his history so far.
“You need hands to thank the Lord for living and giving us this day..Let’s dance ladies and gentlemen”
It was a profound thought that moved him. They had held his mother’s hand to and from school until he was old enough to be aware of the childish nature of this action. The thought sadden him as he would give anything to feel her hand in his once more.
“You need hands to show the world you’re happy..and you need hands when you have to stop the bus”
Happy hands, when had his hands been happy? When he had held Martha’s for the first time and then placed a ring on her finger after she had agreed to marry him. When he had rested them lovingly on her huge pregnant belly (more than once) and had held his babies proudly for the entire world to see. They had built sandcastles in the summer (sandy hands) and snowmen in the winter (icy hands).
They had placed reassuring plasters on the cuts of his crying children, they had taken photographs, written postcards to his parents while he travel and dialled numbers from far away telephones to let his loved ones know he was safe. They had worn gloves (how many?) for warmth and safety; they had learnt to tie his own laces with pride as well teaching his children how to tie theirs. They had wound up watches and clocks and had, on request, zipped up his wife’s dress for numerous special occasions as well as having to unzip them again, he smiled.
The had defended him and had demonstrated his frustrations over the years, they had signed cheques and paid bills, had removed splinters, drawn up plans, driven cars, decorated Christmas trees, pushed prams, peeled potatoes, painted walls. They had given away his daughters to their soon-to-be husbands.
“But the hands we love so dear are the hands we love to hear…are the hands you give to us”
They had certainly shown his appreciation over the years. He had always found clapping a primitive sort of action. They had clapped at speeches (some deserved, some not) at graduations and at the end of expensive productions as well as his children’s various school nativities.
“Everybody, are the hands that you give, Everybody, that’s nice, thank you, Thank you ladies and gentlemen, thank you”
The song ended and Joe leant over his workbench and turned the radio down.
“Thank you Max” he said. Moss stirred at the sound of his voice and Joe blinked at him.
He turned his attention to the unfinished object on the floor and moved towards it and trailed his hand across its finished surfaces. It felt smooth and satisfying to touch. Once he had waxed it, the crib would be finished.
Joe was pleased with it, pleased with what he had produced and all he had achieved. He imagined Grace’s new baby sleeping in the crib and thought about its own tiny hands and its mother’s gently rocking it to sleep.
He turned back to his workbench and reached for the tin of wax that was on the shelf and placed it on the bench. Then he gave a grateful Moss another piece of biscuit and set about his task while the spirit of Max Bygraves lingered in the workshop and his heart.