A friend once told me the only part of the human body that doesn’t turn to ash after cremation are knuckle bones – like little Jacks, small concaving squares with the durability to withstand temperatures reaching above 1,5000 degrees Fahrenheit.
My dad’s knuckles are fat. From growing up on a farm and playing basketball for the last fifty years, my dad’s knuckles have been jammed in nearly every finger. I will often notice him squeezing the knuckle on his ring finger, sub-consciously measuring the worst of the bunch, trying to make sense of the pain it shoots up his hand.
My dad has had three wives now, but I don’t think a wedding ring ever went easy over his enlarged knuckle. I imagine once he got the ring over the joint, he left it there without ever taking it off; only removing the metal-hoop after my mother died and the other two rings after each kicked him out, both times in mid-winter.
Maybe my dad strokes his finger not only to ease the pain, but to touch the soft space just after the middle knuckle where a wedding ring typically sits. Like a phantom limb still stings and aches, maybe he feels metal where there is skin, maybe he is remembering what is left when something ends. Perhaps there is comfort in momentarily covering what is now bare as bone.
Jessica McDermott received her MFA in creative nonfiction writing from the University of Idaho. Currently, she teaches writing and coordinates writing tutoring in Denver, Colorado. Her most recent publications can be found in Manifest West’s 2018 literary anthology, Transitions and Transformations and on the Our Positive Planet website. One of her greatest joys is being a twin to Josh.
Knuckles was first published in Issue 7 of Apeiron Review.