Meg Stout

Creative Nonfiction

Meg Stout lives in Burlington, Vermont, where she likes her winters cold, her summers humid, and her arts community eccentric. She earned a BFA in creative writing from the University of Maine at Farmington and served as an editorial intern at Beloit Poetry Journal. Now a communications specialist and renewable energy advocate by day, she is also an active member of the Burlington Writers Workshop.


I have my mother’s hands: heavily lined, in proportion to my six-foot body, large enough to cup a basketball. The middle fingers angle out with a sharp bump, point away from my center. The palms are fleshy, pads of the thumbs like teardrops.

At the surgeon's office, my arms look sleek beneath the white lights. He asks if he can touch me, rests his thumb against my inner wrist. Inside: a peanut, a tiny cyst.

I am young. I put my hands through countless stressors: glass doorknobs, narrow cups of tea, the wire end of a slippery earring. Yards of merino wool, alpaca, cotton slub, synthetic yarn. Steering wheels. Handlebars. Bread dough on the second rise. With one hand, I punch it down and knead.

The doctor finds hardness all over my upper body: thick trigger points along my shoulders, curled ropes in my neck. Have you been stressed? He asks.

In the garden, my hands hover like honeybees. Clothed in rubbery fabric, they fly among the soil and greenery as I touch peppers, tomatoes, chamomile. Crabgrass is removed with a twist of the arm; tiny maples pulled by the stem. I finger a nubby lemon just ripening.

The aches begin deep in the arm, beneath the tissue. In the night, I wake with limbs still asleep—dreaming of pins and needles. The doctors don’t think I will lose my hands.

When considering loss, remember what has been touched: the hot yellow of a rubber duck melting on the stove. The fur of a writhing dog. Empty bottles at someone’s father’s funeral. Don’t consider the hands themselves, those unfortunate conductors.

I have not been stressed. I have been happy—happier, at least, than before.

The pain shifts like electricity: dances along a tendon, flips against a bone. From the outside, my wrists look the same as always, greenish veins mapped like roads, skin imprinted with texture.

Each night, I sheath my arms in synthetic black fabric, tilted metal, anoint them with oil and seal with Velcro.

To stretch the tendons, reach hands in front, then lift. Curl them into balls. Repeat. Bring them together against the chest, like a prayer.

Of course these hands are money. Of course they float each day across a keyboard, steer a mouse. Sign checks. Cook meals. Open doors. Crack windows. Shift into second gear. Comfort him.

Naked on the table, I ask the masseuse if she can feel it. Imagine clay, she says, then imagine stone.