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Hands on Fire

Salvatore Difalco

For the first ten years of our marriage, we held hands when we slept—usually my right and your left. It was new to me, this holding hands, even a little strange, but I thought it lovely. And I thought it was something never to be admitted in public. I have never liked those couples that reveal all their silly intimacies to the world. How annoying they can be, cutesy yet always edging toward a marital skirmish. Some things should be kept between two people. Then one night you would not hold my hand. My hand is too hot, you said. That sounded odd to me, but I respected your decision not to hold my hand that night, and the following night. On the third night, I questioned you about your hot hand. If your left hand was hot—for as mentioned you often held my right hand with your left, though not always—it suggested your right hand’s availability. Both hands, you declared, holding them up before you, palms out. What I observed then took me aback. Your hands were in flames. I jumped back for a fuller picture of this phenomenon. Although your hands were in flames, they were not being consumed. I saw neither smoke nor did I smell the stench of burning flesh. I asked if you were in pain. Of course I’m in pain! you cried, waving your hands. Frankly, I didn’t know what to do. I asked if I should call 911. You shook your head violently. What are they gonna do? you said, erupting in tears. I asked if we could perhaps cover the hands up somehow, the visual disturbed me. But then I gathered I had said too much; instead of gloving or cloaking the flaming hands or running to the bathroom to dip them in water, you reached them out and grabbed my throat. And while I didn’t feel the heat or smell any smoke, you made it known the full degree of your annoyance.

Salvatore Difalco is the author of five books, including The Mountie at Niagara Falls (Anvil Press, 2010), a collection of micro fiction.