The Hands of Leroy

Georgia Highway. Photo: James K. Galloway

At least ten thousand hours must have passed during the moments wherein Leroy’s eyes, glazing, caressed barred moonlight shining through his cellar door, waiting for nothing.

Lurching through the dirt, Leroy dragged on a raincoat and drifted to the wall where repeated memories pinned bleached white linens on lines, sagging in the shadows.

With rigid hands, the pins were released from the ceiling, through which steady lamp rays glared down at him.

Leroy, with a sigh, cast into the basket the efforts of this day and crawled upon the staircase, as high as he should go. Quietly, he crossed himself, looked sidelong down the hall, and once again descended to that low, dark place of his – that sunken hole where headlights were his daydreams, self-awareness, longtime friends who came to visit, and curious observers who, meandering, scanned across each tickmark, scratched into the wall.

There, alone is where he paced until a shrieking bade his call. Fighting tears of agony, Leroy called up to the voice:

“Yes, mother?”

“The stains are out, but did you wear your raincoat?” she demanded lightheartedly.

“Yes, but I–”

“You will clean them again,” ordered the unforgiving voice. “And I should hope Father returns home quite unaware of this.”

Leroy’s hot heart fumbled for a tempo when his hands began to sweat. Headlights on the staircase! Happens once a day!

With pocketed mittens grasping, through his jacket, all the sheets he could, stumbling through the darkness, tripping through old mud, Leroy threw up his bare hands to catch hold of loose wood. In a panic, he saw black scratch marks ripping through the light. The sheets! So filthy from his germs.

No dinner was served, no laughter heard, not even the sound of stomping – the stomping of goodnight. Just a boiler’s timely click, and her orange flames flickering on like the toxic eyes of delusion: A wall with a mouth hole for a bed, where Leroy found solace from the harsh staring of the blank rock walls that stood tall all around him. And before crawling into the maw, the hand of Leroy etched, with bleeding, splitting knuckles, another tired line into the stony face of his crumbling friend, his cracking smile.