The woman believed everything happened for a reason. She had to else she’d go crazy. She’d found her young boy face down in the pond out back. She reckoned he must’ve been trying to free the duckling tangled in the grabweeds when they snagged her son, too.
Her husband said she shouldn’t have been baking rhubarb pie. He took to drink and planting flowers — black and purple ones that yellowed as they ripened on the woman’s arms and legs. She refused to continue to let him make her body a garden.
After a sharp-edged storm, the dazed woman found herself at the pond calling for her son. She closed her eyes, and when she opened them, she was at the woodpile holding the fisted hand. When she massaged it, the fingers relaxed and waggled. That’s when she realized it had to be the hand of God. What else could come back to life?
The woman carried the hand wherever she went. One day she was by the pond when a snake slithered at her feet. The hand fell on it and startled it away.
That evening the hand of God was on her lap as she sat in her creak-wood chair and crocheted a doily. She accidentally hooked the needle in the palm of the hand. It flipped down and rapped its knuckles on the floor. The woman almost could hear it shrieking. She was surprised it felt pain till she remembered she was created in the image of God.
The next day a chill billowed from the west. The woman was bringing wood for a fire, and when she pushed open the door, a mouse dashed in. The hand leapt from the woman’s shoulder, crushed the rodent and drug it back outside. At first the woman was surprised the hand of God would be so brutal. Then she thought of her son and knew there must be a reason.
Running low on fresh vegetables, the woman went to the farmers’ market in the village. There she saw a stranger with only one hand. For a moment she wondered if he might be God. She felt foolish when she realized the man was missing his right hand, and the one hidden in her basket under a doily was left. Then she felt foolish again: Maybe God had two left hands. But then she wouldn’t be in God’s image.
Befuddled, the woman departed the market without paying for the rhubarb she’d put in her basket. Unfortunately the neighbor’s boy saw what she’d done. It was the same boy that the woman, while at the woodpile a few days before, had seen chucking rocks at ducks on her pond. The woman had run, waving an axe, at the boy. Now he got even by telling the constable about the rhubarb.
Back home the woman realized she hadn’t paid and planned to return to the village the next day to do so. She was cutting the rhubarb leaves from the stalks, the hand of God keeping a safe distance on the creak-wood chair, when there was a knock.
The woman opened the door. The constable accused her of not paying for the rhubarb then gasped and charged past her to the hand. What have you done? he shouted. But even after the woman offered to pay, the constable took her to jail.
The woman was sentenced to hang. In her cell, she awaited her fate and wondered why the hand of God had abandoned her since she’d been locked away.
On the day of reckoning, she sat on her bunk and prayed to see the hand one last time. When she felt something crawling up her leg, she looked down as the hand hoisted itself onto her lap and waggled its fingers. The woman wept with joy and took the hand of God in hers just as a key jangled in the iron door. Escorted by a guard, a priest entered the cell.
The woman interlocked fingers with the hand as she walked to the gallows. The priest beseeched her one last time to ask forgiveness for committing a mortal sin. I’m but an instrument in the hand of God, the woman said. Then she smiled and climbed the steps.
Image – Michelangelo Buonarroti [Public domain]