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The doll is odd, carved out of wood, with long arms and huge hands. Little Sarah named it Mr. Hands and loved the doll until the day she was murdered. Now her mother, Lucy, discovers something amazing about Sarah’s doll—it allows her to control another Mr. Hands. This Mr. Hands is a living, terrifying being with horrendous power. At Lucy’s command he will do whatever she tells him—even kill. This is Lucy’s chance to see justice is done. She decides who will live and who will suffer a horrible death, and Mr. Hands...
The doll is odd, carved out of wood, with long arms and huge hands. Little Sarah named it Mr. Hands and loved the doll until the day she was murdered. Now her mother, Lucy, discovers something amazing about Sarah’s doll—it allows her to control another Mr. Hands. This Mr. Hands is a living, terrifying being with horrendous power. At Lucy’s command he will do whatever she tells him—even kill. This is Lucy’s chance to see justice is done. She decides who will live and who will suffer a horrible death, and Mr. Hands carries out the sentences without mercy. But once Mr. Hands is unleashed, will anyone be able to stop him?
Ronnie (as everyone called him, though he would have preferred R.J.-R.J. sounded like someone cool, someone strong, someone others looked up to; Ronnie, on the other hand, was the name of a sometimes-friend you called whenever your A-number-one friends were busy and there was no one else to call, but we're getting off the point) couldn't remember a time when he hadn't been the odd one, the strange one, the one the other kids always whispered about and from whom they stayed far away unless it was absolutely necessary they interact with him, like for a school project or if the others in their clique felt like terrorizing or beating up on him.
Had any of them known about Ronnie's special talent, his unspoken facility, his-and let's call it what it was-his particular power, they might have been much nicer to him.
Try as he did, Ronnie could never figure out whyhe was able to do the things he could do. He didn't ask for it, this ... ability he was born with. Most of the time he didn't even understand it, not really, because every time he felt as if he were getting a grasp on what exactly this ability, this facility, this power could and couldn't do, it would reveal a new facet to him, and leave him twice as confused as before.
Ronnie was never one hundred percent certain how he came to posses this power, but one night he heard his mother talking on the phone to one of her friends-this was on a night that Daddy was out at the bars with his friends from work-and Mommy mentioned something about how Daddy had hit her "as usual" while she was pregnant with Ronnie and she'd fallen down the short flight of stairs that led from the back porch to the patio in the backyard. "I thought for sure I was going to lose the baby," she said to her friend. "I landed right on my stomach. The other kids came running to help me, and all of them were so scared.... "
Ronnie was the youngest of five children, the one who had to make do with hand-me-down clothes and toys, but he didn't mind, not really. The only thing that he minded, the only thing that bored him to tears, were the trips he and Mommy had to make to the doctor four times a year. The doctor would make Ronnie take all these tests (match the wooden shapes to the proper holes; what does this blotch on the paper look like?; name the animal; can you recognize this word?) and then ask him all sorts of questions about school and what he watched on television and could he add two and two and what about subtraction.... Geez, it was dumb; but Mommy seemed to feel better after these boring visits-well, if not better, exactly, then no worse, and that made Ronnie happy because he loved his mommy.
Daddy ... not so much. Daddy was stingy with his affection but generous with his fists, at least as far as Ronnie was concerned. The other kids, well, Daddy was real nice to them; but Ronnie, Ronnie he didn't like, and after a few drinks never hesitated to tell him. "Never wanted you," he'd say; "You were a fuckin' mistake," he'd say. "Damn, you little half ree-tard, I wish you'd never been born," he'd say. Ronnie learned to ignore it-especially after he discovered his special power.
It happened the day he heard Mommy talking on the phone with her friend about how Daddy had knocked her down the back porch stairs. Mommy had started to cry, and Ronnie came into the kitchen so quietly that she didn't hear him, and he touched her hand. That was all. But it was enough, because in an instant he knew everything, he knew all about the hurting.
Mommy was supposed to be using something called a diafram but she'd forgotten to put it in so she and Daddy had made Ronnie one night (he wasn't sure what "doggy-style" meant, but that's how he'd been made) and when Mommy found out, she waited eight weeks before she told Daddy, and Daddy had been mad and hit Mommy real hard and then dragged her out the back door and hit her again so she'd fall down the porch steps and land real hard, land facedown on the concrete patio, and Daddy shouted "That ought to do it!" and then went back inside to open a fresh beer because it helped him to not worry about the layoffs at the plant that everybody knew were coming while the other kids came running to help Mommy, and one of the neighbors, Mr. Wade, he'd insisted on driving Mommy to the hospital where she sat in the emergency room for four hours before a doctor saw her, and that's when she'd found out that Ronnie was okay but something had been damaged in her you-ter-us so she'd have to make weekly visits to her obeey-gee-why-en to make sure nothing went wrong, but when it came time for Ronnie to be born something did go wrong, Mommy lost a lot of blood and the doctors had to perform a sissy-air-eyan to get Ronnie out and then do something called a history-ect-omy on Mommy so she couldn't have any more babies (that part made Ronnie very sad because he thought it would be neat to have a baby brother or sister someday) and ever since then Daddy and Mommy hadn't had any secks or even kissed and Mommy was so lonely....
Ronnie smiled at her and left the kitchen after that because it was too sad and confusing. He was almost six years old that night, and if he understood nothing else, he understood that the boring visits to the doctor made Mommy ... if not happy, then at least not any more sad, so he decided that he wouldn't whine and complain about going to the doctor or riding on the short bus to school or getting upset when the kids called him a "ree-tard" or a "sped."
He wondered, though, if there were anything he could do to make Mommy's hurting stop, but he couldn't think of anything.
Then one day he was out in the backyard playing by himself (he was the Green Hornet spying on a bad guy) when he spotted a small bird lying on its side, twitching. He crawled over on his hands and knees (didn't want the bad guy to spot him; the Green Hornet was a phantom, he was invisible) and saw that the bird was bleeding.
Ronnie stared at the bird for a few seconds before reaching out to touch it, and as soon as he did, he knew what had happened: there was a neighborhood cat whose owners didn't feed it very often, and they were mean to it most of the time even when it rubbed up against them and purred in hopes they'd pet it, and this cat (Reuben, that was its name, but how Ronnie knew that he didn't understand) would run outside any chance it got to get away from its mean owners, and sometimes this cat felt mean itself, and it had been feeling mean earlier today when it hopped the fence into Ronnie's backyard, and it was feeling meaner when it saw this little bird on the ground poking around for worms, and it felt the meanest of all when it pounced on the little bird and tore into its neck and clawed one of its wings until the thing almost came all the way off, but then the Rueben heard one of its owners calling for it, and they'd sounded worried, like maybe they'd be nice this time, and Reuben had run off, leaving this bird lying here.
And the bird was hurting.
Ronnie was very careful, very gentle, as he cupped his hands and slid them underneath the bird and lifted it close to his face, and no sooner had he looked into the bird's eyes than he knew: that the bird was in agony and was going to die a slow, terrible death; that the bird was a mommy-bird; that she'd been gathering up worms to feed to her children in their nest; and-worst of all, most terrible of all-that the baby-birds were going to die from starvation because Mommy was never going to return. (For an instant Ronnie flashed to the mommy-bird's view from her nest, and he thought he recognized the street she saw, the one with the tree where her starving babies waited for her to come back.)
But first thing, he had to make the hurting stop; so he did the only thing he could think of-he grasped the mommy-bird by her neck and quickly snapped it to the side, hearing a little crunch at the same moment the bird's eyes glazed over and her body went limp and lifeless in his hands.
He sat there and cried for almost half an hour before finding a spot to bury her, and then-not telling Mommy where he was going-set off to see if he could find the street with the tree where the bird's babies were waiting for her, so hungry.
He walked all over the neighborhood, and even went beyond, looking for the tree, but he never found it. He cried himself to sleep for almost a week because he knew that the baby-birds were all dead, having starved because Mommy didn't come home and he hadn't been able to find them. He cried so much that Daddy stopped hitting him (for a little while, anyway) and Mommy called the doctor to see if she and Ronnie could get in to see him a week early.
The visit went as most of them did; the tests, the pictures, the questions-only this time the doctor kept asking Ronnie if anything was bothering him, if he felt sadder than usual. Ronnie knew it wasn't right to lie to someone, but he couldn't figure out a way to make the doctor understand what had happened without sounding like a "ree-tard" or a "sped" ... so he said everything was okay, he was just having bad dreams. The doctor nodded his head and made the hmmmm sound that he made a lot whenever he saw Ronnie, and then took out his square gray pad and began writing on it. Ronnie knew what that meant: more pills. That seemed to be the doctor's solution to everything: the gray pad and pills.
The doctor asked Ronnie to go out to the waiting room and oh, by the way, would he please ask his mommy to come back here for a few minutes? Ronnie did as he was asked.
Mommy was back there an awful long time and Ronnie quickly became bored with the toys and back issues of Highlights for Children, so he looked around the waiting room to make sure no one was watching him (no one was), slipped out of his chair, and made his way outside like a phantom, like he was invisible, like he was the Green Hornet.
The doctor's office was in a strip of doctor's offices located across the parking lot from the hospital, so there were always lots of cars and people coming and going. Ronnie liked to watch the people as they came and went, so he found a bench and sat down and for a little while had a grand old time just watching the people. Then he became aware of the sound of someone crying nearby.
He looked around and saw her, sitting two benches away from him. She was a lot older than he was-maybe even in her twenties-and she was kinda fat (not really fat, just a little, all of it in one spot where her tummy was) and she was holding a bunch of square gray pieces of paper (pills, pills, pills) and she seemed so sad.
Ronnie stared at her for a minute, looked around again, then jumped down off the bench and walked over to her.
"How come you're so sad?" he asked her.
The woman looked up at him and wiped her eyes, then tried to smile. "Oh, hon, I'm ... I'm okay, really." Then she looked around. "Where's your mommy?"
"She's inside talkin' to the doctor. He's tellin' her that I ain't ever gonna be real smart like the other kids." And this was true. Ronnie had overhead the doctor and Mommy talking once; the doctor had said something like "He'll never be older than ten or eleven, mentally and emotionally...." Ronnie didn't understand what the doctor meant by that, and as the days went on, he didn't really care.
The crying lady stared at him for a moment, then blew her nose into a tissue she was holding. "Don't you say that, hon. You're going to turn out to be just fine."
Now her smile seemed less sad. "Promise." She stood up, gathering her purse and square gray slips of paper, and offered her hand. "Show me which doctor's office you came from, okay? Let's get you back so your mom doesn't worry."
"'Kay," said Ronnie, and then noticed how her belly bulged, like she wasn't fat at all. "Hey-you gonna have a baby?"
She looked shocked for a moment, but then the smile came back. "Yes, yes, I am."
"Can I ... can I touch it?" asked Ronnie. He'd seen a lot of people do this before, that is, ask if they could touch the woman's belly to feel the baby before it came out.
"Why ... oh, what the heck? Of course you can, hon. Go right ahead."
Ronnie wiped his hands on his jacket to make sure they were clean, and then placed both of them on the woman's protruding belly.
And he knew. And it scared him. And it hurt him. And it made him sad. And sick. And he made a wish. He wished away the hurt of her unborn baby and, he hoped, the nice lady herself.
He looked up at her, nearly in tears, and said: "Mirror, mirror, tell me true / Am I pretty or am I plain?"
She stared at him for a moment, looking as if she hadn't understood what he'd said, and then asked: "What did you s-say, hon?"
Ronnie could tell that he'd scared her, maybe even made her think he was weird, a ree-tard, a sped, and he didn't want that, she seemed so nice, so he just shrugged and said, "Nothing."
She took him back to the doctor's office, and met his mother, and they were nice to one another, and before she left, the woman knelt down and gave Ronnie a hug and said, "My name's Lucy, hon, and I hope my baby grows up to be just as sweet and considerate as you." She rose to her feet, wished Ronnie's mom a nice day, and walked outside.
Ronnie was too confused to speak for several minutes after this encounter, because the ability, the facility, the power had just revealed a new and frightening facet to him.
We need to leave him right here for the moment; a confused, lonely, damaged little boy watching a young woman named Lucy walk away from him. Oh, they'll meet again-in fact, they'll meet two times more before our story is done, though only one of them will remember the other.
But for the moment, we need to leave Ronald James Williamson standing here, in the waiting room of his doctor's office, clutching his mommy's hand, watching a pregnant woman named Lucy walk away.
The thing to remember, though, is this: at this precise moment, both of them are feeling confused and helpless. It unites them, binds them together; a nearly invisible silver thread running through time and space, alive and vibrating, feeling their every breath, their every heartbeat, their every thought and want and pain and need. It knows them as well as they know themselves, perhaps even better than they know themselves, and it will never allow them to separate.
Never, ever; now and forever.
Excerpted from Mr. Hands by Gary A. Braunbeck Copyright © 2007 by Gary A. Braunbeck. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Posted July 28, 2012
This is an overall scary quick read - I mean the storyline is easy to figure out, thr characters are a bit shallow BUT it is agreat little scary book to read late, late one one night when the bumps & thumps in the walls are keeping you awake! I gave it 4 stars because it did hold my attention all the way through!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted August 17, 2007
I'm sure it may be thrilling, but honestly, what is with that cover? I give this book four stars just for having the least frightening cover art ever.
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Posted August 26, 2009
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Posted July 15, 2009
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