Magical Hands This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 13, 2012
Most everybody has hands, but the shapes, colors and muscles are different. I want to talk about my uncle’s hands – a farmer’s hands – not because they are special but because they do more work than many.

My uncle is my mother’s oldest brother, so he inherited my grandfather’s farm in China. He is a small man with a tough body. His hands are especially big and strong. Nobody wants to grasp them because the feeling is like something cutting into yours.

When you see his hands, you know how much work they do. They are black in color and their skin is the roughest part of his body. It looks like the bark of a tree, and the nails always hide some dust. His hands have deep lines and calluses. When I ask, “Why don’t you use some lotion?” he always answers, “Next time, I put it.” But he always forgets.

When I was a child in China, I thought his hands had magic. His hands could make wine, cook, carry me on his shoulders, throw me up and catch me, bend big wooden stakes. When he did that, he always teased me, “If you are not doing good in school, I will bend you like this wood.” I always escaped from him.

Whenever I saw him, his hands were holding tools and doing something. Sometimes I would follow Uncle to the farm, which connects with the hills. Uncle would speak, “Go to another place and play. When I finish, I will call you.” I’d run on the soft soil, and when I was tired I would sit and watch Uncle. He dashed down the crop on a huge barrel; the wheat fell in the barrel like rain. I loved the sound of the wheat falling down. Sai, sai, sai. When he finished hitting the crops, he put the wheat in bags, then threw them on the rickshaw. He put me on the rickshaw, too. Then he pushed it home, his hands shining like gold under the afterglow.

Time shifted like water. When I was in ninth grade, my mother told me to work with my uncle because I failed the final test needed for me to continue in school. I went to the garden with my uncle. He asked me to go to the other side and extract some sticks from the soil.

I thought it would be easy, but soon my hands felt burning pain. I looked and found a red point on my palm where a blister had appeared. The sun was hot and the garden was like an oven. I felt impatient, and pretended to have a headache. He teased me, “Weak boy, rest under the trees.”

I sat under an apple tree, watching Uncle. His hands moved like a machine, down and up. The sticks gathered in the ground like a hill. The sweat soaked his shirt. When he finished most of them, he sat beside me and asked, “You okay?” I said yes. I watched his hands and said, “Your hands are like metal.” He smiled, then said, “When you work hard, even the needles can’t hurt you. Come on, let’s finish.” I felt so ashamed when he clasped my shoulder because I had tried to fool him.

Through rain or winds, Uncle takes care of his crops. He uses his hands to make his crops grow. He also gains people’s respect. His hands might look ugly, but even gold cannot compare to them. I admire him for having the kind of hands that will never change, but will stay strong and rough.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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