Working-Man Hands


When I was a kid growing up in Encinitas, California, we had a garden in the back of the house. My mom spent hours walking around barefoot back there, and I was amazed by the tough, rubbery calluses she developed on her feet. They were like a magical protective layer which enabled her to walk over rocks and prickles that made me howl in pain.

Cut to my Red Cross adventure. About ten days ago, after almost two weeks on the job, hauling and cleaning Cambros, serving meals, and putting together snack bags, I started to get this weird feeling in my fingers. They were raw and red, with diminished sensation in my fingertips, and no matter how much hand lotion I used, they remained dry and hard. I actually found myself sucking them like a kid to make them feel normal again. It didn’t work.

It was only the last day or two in Mississippi that I realized what was going on. I had developed calluses on my fingertips from all that hard labor. My soft, effete cartoonist hands were gone. In their place were tough, leathery working-man hands.

So what am I to do with these new paws? I kind of miss my old ones. I never realized how attached I was to my sensitive fingertips, the way they held a pen or pencil, or caressed Sari’s cheek. Now I can’t stop pressing my fingertips against each other, feeling the rubbery outer shell. A friend of mine told me the calluses won’t last, probably not more than a couple more weeks. A little time spent at the drawing table and computer should bring them back to normal.

But what should I do with these blue-collar mitts while I have them? Enter an arm-wrestling contest? Engage in a bar fight or two? Suggestions are welcome.

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