Thursday, 2 February 2012

Give Me Your Hand - Friday Flash

People keep passing me with broad beaming smiles and telling me how happy I look. I can't see the smile I flash back in response, but I know the flesh at the corner of my mouth, where the dark hue of the lips gives way to the lighter pigment of the face, crinkles desiccatedly. I have no handbag, so I have neither moisturiser nor salve to hand. I need a drink. But it's champagne only for my wedding reception and I don't think that's going to rehydrate me somehow. Besides I have a sweetly-sick taste coating the membranes at the back of my throat.

And now spun on to the dancefloor. Again those gleaming smiles detonate around us like paparazzi flashbulbs. My husband of ninety minutes takes my hand. We pause frozen in motion, like the two figures atop our tiered wedding cake. Waiting for the band to strike up. The miniatures cresting the cake await the sharp knife. For the spongy ground to be cut away from under them. Of course they don't, they're made from marzipan and have no thoughts at all.

In the stasis he clasps both his hands loosely round the nape of my neck. My lone island of exposed flesh adrift from the copious swell of fabric of the backless dress. (Actually it's not the lone flesh promontory, but he could hardly cup my cleavage in front of so many eyes). I had been rash in discarding my veil, for its train had at least filigreed my nape when pushed back from occluding my face. Another, gossamer membrane. My husband has strangler's hands. Big, clubby appendages that can entirely cincture my neck. Those bulbous fingers impressing their livid rage on my quivering, rasping flesh. The band hit the first chord.

I am whirled through a succession of sheepishly lupine grinning dance partners, as if I am a lot at a benign slave market. Naturally, none dare to embrace my neck. Settling instead for just above my waist with one paw, and either my shoulder, or hand linked in hand outstretched before us like the prow of a ship. Or an antenna. I scan each consort's clasp of me. For some reason I'm reminded of Ingrés' sketches of hands. But none of the mercantiles here possess artistic mitts. None of them are exactly callused either. No horny handed sons of toil in this gathering.

My father-in-law of one hundred and forty minutes cuts in for the next dance. His grip is encased in leather gloves. To conceal or cushion fingers curled by arthritis. Our dance too is emotionally stiff and painful. His leather cracks with each motion as we alter our bearing on the dancefloor. I hear this above the din of the music since his hand cups where my clavicle meets the shoulder close to my ear. Or do I only conceive that I can hear it, because its menacing appearance strikes a resonance that plucks at me like a harp string? I scrutinise the wrinkles in the animal hide and imagine the cracks in the human flesh they house beneath. I wonder if they mirror one another. Like the impression of a death mask. I know arthritis to be a degenerative disease.

My husband of one hundred and fifty minutes has the hands of a strangler. But for how long I wonder?

15 comments:

ganymeder said...

Wow, so cryptic! Doesn't bode well...

Helen said...

This piece leave the reader wondering what if? Very descriptive writing and takes the reader around that dance floor with her.

Nice work!

Denise said...

Heartbreaking! She should have made a stand and not got as far as the alter let alone the first dance.

Carrie Clevenger said...

Nice, leaves one with all sorts of possible outcomes.

louisebroadbentfiction said...

Love your writing-style but I needed some hint at an explanation of why she had married him. Or maybe the hint needed to be tad clearer. But just a tad. Subtlety works in your favour.

Eric J. Krause said...

Good story. Leaves many questions, but that's a good thing. I wonder if she knows she's married into a family of stranglers or if she's only guessing. Was she threatened with being strangled if she didn't go through with this? Because she certainly doesn't seem to want to be there.

Sulci Collective said...

thanks guys. It's fairly open, but to my mind it's only with the intimacy of his hands around the back of her neck that she makes the uneasy connection about him having strangler hands. I think the wedding is just so stressful, you are so put upon by a crowd when possibly all you want to do is be alone with your beloved, it's that contrast between public and private intimacy. I think it all just overwhelms her and she makes these negative associations

Sonia Lal said...

Sounds like she never wanted to marry him. Strangler's hands? Wonder if the hubby is a murderer.

Tom Gillespie : @tom_gillespie said...

suffocating unease and terrifying prospects .. a great short ..full of menacing insinuation

Deanna Schrayer said...

Marc, I know I've bound to have said this many times before, but...well, this is one of your best! I love it, and the "explanation" of sorts you give in the comments is just what I felt her feeling throughout. Funny how we work so hard planning a wedding - for months! - and once the day arrives it's all we can do to stand (or dance) around and be jovial.
Fantastic imagery!

Icy Sedgwick said...

Sounds like she doesn't really want to be married at all! And I have to wonder...how does she know what stranglers' hands look like?

Jack Holt said...

A family of stranglers? Love it.

Tim VanSant Writes said...

Nice job showing how the stress of the day wears on her.

brainhaze said...

Owwwww I like stories that leave you wondering and questionning things - nice work. Great descriptions too

Virginia Moffatt said...

This was really interesting, so much to ponder. Has she made the right choice? Is her husband going to succumb to a degenerative disease like his father? Is she just wired and being unkind. Brooding.