The Hand Game
Submitted by B.E. Scully
Woods just outside of good ol' Sunbury, PA
One of the painfully enjoyable delights of my childhood was “The Hand Game.” My dad and I would stand facing each other, sometimes with my hands on the bottom facing up and his on top facing down, sometimes the other way around. Without so much as a fair-warning “Go,” the person whose hands were on top would flip them over and attempt to smack the hands of the person on the bottom. If you were on the bottom, you had to be fast enough to pull your hands out of the way to avoid a double hands-smack down.
Dad was almost always fast enough to avoid getting a smack, and I was almost always too slow to avoid not getting one. And dad, being the former hard-as-nails Green Beret that he was, wasn’t about to throw the game just to let me win. If I wanted a genuine hand-slap on Dad, I had to earn it.
Dad was so tough and stubborn, in fact, that he was sure that after he died he’d be able to come back in the afterlife for one last stand.
“Send me some kind of sign,” I’d always tell him, as eager to impress him with my courage as to actually get a sign from the after-life.
Then right out of nowhere one day a massive heart attack came and took Dad to the other side—just the way he’d always wanted to go, fast and fuss-free, if a little sooner than any of us expected.
When I came back to the old house to help Mom with the arrangements, I was up at the burn barrel getting rid of some old papers and documents when I decided to test Dad’s mettle. It was a deep winter day in Pennsylvania, which meant that it was pitch black by six o’clock at night. The shadows from the forest that surrounded me on all sides crept closer to the leaping fire.
I stared into the forest that Dad had loved so much and spent so much time in and suddenly I said, “O.K., Dad, give me a sign! I’m ready! You always said you’d give me a sign, and here I am waiting for it!”
And instantly from out of the forest darkness came the sound of steady, crashing human footsteps—not a leaping deer, not a scurrying raccoon or a wandering cat, but the unmistakable tread of human feet. Or at least, once human feet.
I stood there as long as I could as the footsteps drew closer. Then I threw down the fire place poker clutched in my trembling hands and ran as fast as I could back to the lit safety of the house.
After I had calmed down and armed myself with a flashlight, I went back up to the burn barrel and called out for Dad, but he was nowhere to be found. Just like he always had in life, Dad had done exactly what he said he would—he’d given me the sign, and was probably right now having one hell of a laugh in the afterlife at the sight of me high-tailing it away in blind terror.
Dad had come back to win The Hand Game one last time.