Knuckles

Updated on February 20, 2017

Knuckles

The man sitting across from her had massive, knotted hands. Susannah first noticed them when he had grasped the handrail on the train ceiling to steady himself as he scanned the half-empty train for a seat. They clasped the cold metal like bear claws. The train had lurched, and the old man nearly lost his balance before settling heavily into the seat across from her. Now he was seated with his gnarled, leathery hands folded gently in his lap, staring blankly ahead, as if he was cradling something precious and fragile between his palms.

She looked down at her own hands, thick palms and short fingers. She had never liked her hands; they were too stubby and masculine. She fidgeted with the sleeves of her sweater, pushing them back down her forearms and attempting to stretch them further over her wrists.

Just last week she had gone with her fiancé Robert to look at wedding rings, and at the end of the day, exhausted and frustrated with herself, she had simply told him to surprise her. She wasn’t sure if she trusted Robert’s judgment when it came to jewelry, but the truth of the matter had been that she didn’t really like any of the rings she tried on. Behind the pristine crystal of the glass they were elegant and shining, with slender gold or silver bands, but when she slipped them on her fingers they became garish and gaudy, like the costume jewelry her grandmother used to let her play with as a girl. She hated the way the flesh of her fingers looked against the hard refined metal. Robert told her that every one of them was beautiful and she had smiled at him, thankful for the words. Of course Robert would say that.

The train rattled noisily along the track, leaning slightly with the turn. She stole another look at the old man’s knotted hands. She saw that he was not wearing a ring, but upon closer inspection, she noticed a stark white tan line on his left-hand ring finger where his wedding band should have been. She found herself wondering incongruously how he managed to get the ring over his swollen knuckles.

She recalled the hands of her grandmother—delicate fingers and thick knuckles, covered in thin, almost translucent skin. Her joints had swelled with arthritis as she aged, while the meat of her fingers seemed to melt away, allowing the rings to shift haphazardly from side to side. She was constantly twisting her engagement ring around to make sure that the diamond faced the right way.

The month before Susannah’s grandmother died, she had been so thin and sick from the cancer that walking to the bathroom unassisted had been impossible. Susannah could still see the thin angles of her body and the pink cloth she wore around her bald head. Susannah and her mother came to visit her often, and Robert joined them when he could. Her grandmother loved Robert, and would always ask after him when he didn’t come. One such day, when Susannah and her mother were the only visitors, she had looked up at them from her hospital bed with those happy, but profoundly tired eyes, filled with unusual determination. She made some joke about the pain killers and then asked after Robert, as she always did. When Susannah told her that he was working, her grandmother tried to take the rings off her fingers. She told Susannah that even though she had worn them all these years after Susannah’s grandfather died, she wanted Susannah to have them for her wedding day with Robert. But, no matter which way she twisted the rings, she had not been able to pull them over her swollen knuckles. She called for a nurse to bring some soap, but Susannah and her mother insisted she keep them. Neither wanted to admit the truth of the situation. Taking the rings would be like saying she was already dead.

When she did pass away, after months of pain and chemo, Susannah’s mom asked the undertaker to collect the rings, but he told her apologetically that he would have to remove her finger to get to them. Her mother, ever a superstitious and squeamish woman, had glanced at Susannah with pleading eyes as the color drained from her face. So Grandma had been buried with the rings still on her hand.

Susannah knew that her grandmother had wanted more than anything to live to see Robert put those rings on Susannah’s hand at the altar, but she hadn’t made it that far. Susannah felt a pang of guilt. She and Robert could have pushed the wedding forward, as her mother had suggested, but it all had felt too rushed. The world was tightening around her and she couldn’t quite force herself to push forward. It was selfish of her—the wedding would happen anyway. It was going to happen soon, very soon. What had been the point of waiting?

Soon she would be married without her grandmother’s rings and without her assuring gaze in the audience. Someone could probably remove them now, Susannah thought gruesomely.

She briefly studied her own hands again before glancing across the aisle of the train. The old man was gone. She hadn’t noticed him leave. She hadn’t even noticed the train had stopped. She looked down at her hands again, and supposed that, though they were very plain, they were still young and capable. She opened and closed them carefully, flipping them over and bending them again. She hoped her wedding rings would get stuck on her fingers too.

Questions & Answers

    Comment Below

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • fpherj48 profile image

        Paula 

        21 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

        Extremely well-composed short-story! As difficult as flash fiction may be, you have made it appear quite easy. That's talent! Love this tale. Peace, Paula

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        21 months ago from USA

        This is superb. You are an outstanding writer.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, letterpile.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://letterpile.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)