The Hands of a Samurai

Jennifer Fliss

My father’s hands held many things. Grasped, grabbed, gripped. Around a throat. Around a bottle. Around the trigger of a gun. On the computer. Stirring a pot of stew, the air weeping with cayenne and cinnamon. Thick. Calloused. A gold band that holds him hostage. Wiry hands. No, his hands aren’t wiry, but thick with wiry hair like weeds on the pale skin. His hand throws bottles, knives, punches. They are paler than the rest of him, naked and fat. But the wiry hair is all over his corpse, even still. He was dying before he died. He was hopeful before he was hopeless. Around and around and around, the macabre—a dance, a thought, a corpus. His entire life for this. My entire childhood for that. His thick fingers could squeeze your arm until it turned pale pink, then white.

He used those hands to hold onto the samurai sword that was meant for decoration. In the dark, in the night, he pretended he was a samurai. Silently, he went through the motions. I saw reflected in the window, his body—large and undressed. The blinds were open. The urban dark landscape punctuated by lit up windows across the street. Other nocturnals. Others with fears. I stayed quiet around the corner. He thought everyone was asleep. He raised a stone foot, placed it down almost gracefully. He flicked his wrist and I envisioned an enemy’s head lopped off. I padded back down the hall, to my bed, to warmth. He tried for grace, but I still heard the mass of his foot as it landed in the cushion of the carpet. I imagined I could hear the fatal switch of his wrist, as I fell asleep and dreamed dreadful things.

Jennifer Fliss is a Seattle-based fiction and essay writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, The Citron Review, Necessary Fiction, The Rumpus, Hippocampus and elsewhere.


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