Magic Hands

Originally published in The Colored Lens in April 2014 (link)

Maite straightened a piece of red cloth with her palm, caressing it as if
it was the skin of a baby. She pulled the dim lamp closer to make it shine
brighter on her workspace. A ball of yarn made from leftover pieces was
crumbled by the lamp’s foot.

Today, she couldn’t hate Mr. Pierre more even if the bastard were to walk
in through the door right now and spit her in the face. One day, she
thought, one day…

“Good for nothin’,” she mumbled under her breath, as she picked the proper
needle from the sewing kit.

She stuck the thread thorough the needle’s ear in one shot, just like her
mama taught her. She chuckled. Mama… If she were here all those bastards
would be screaming in pain right now.

But mama was dead and Maite was out of a job.

Where is that damn picture
? Maite rummaged through her pocket and took out a pack of photographs kept
together by a rubber band. She shuffled through the photos until somewhere
in the center of the pack, pulled one photo out of the pack, and leaned it
against the lamp’s leg.

Pierre. What a piece of–. Maite slapped herself over the mouth. We don’t
use those words, mama used to say. If we do, we become like them.

Maite grabbed a handful of yarn and arranged it in a ball on top of the red

She glanced at the photo– not that she had to, but that’s what her mama
taught her. Always look, she used to say. It’s your eye that drives the
power. Let the image seep inside your head, Maite, and the energy will come
through. From your eyes it will flow into your fingers and into the needle.

She grabbed the corners of the cloth and pulled them together over the
yarn. She held it tight with her fingertips and stuck the needle in it.

It usually took her about twenty minutes to make one, but today there
wasn’t a lot of time. She glimpsed at the crib, stuck in the dark corner of
the room. She needed this one, she needed it badly. No one else but her
cared, especially Mr. Pierre.

Maite clenched her teeth and continued to sew.

At the end of fifteen minutes she put the red doll next to Mr. Pierre’s
picture. Maite smiled. Mama would’ve been so proud.

The clock ticked louder, signaling the top of the hour. 8PM. She only had
fifteen minutes.

She grabbed the doll and the photo and ran into the enchanting room. She
put both gently in the center of a circle made from colored sands, on top
of a metallic tray. She dropped a few locks of hair on the sides and lit
the sands with a match.

As the colored salts burned slowly, releasing a sweet smell of burned
sugar, Maite closed her eyes and recited the magic poem, the one passed to
her from generations. She waved her hand through the smoke and sprinkled
drops of olive oil through the air.

Ten minutes later, Maite was exhausted. Her chest was heavy and her breath
bitter. The salts had burned completely and the doll lay there unmoving,
like a dead man in the middle of a forest fire.

She took the doll and ran back. 8:15.

The phone rang and she grabbed it after the first chime. She looked at the
crib, bitting her lip. The baby was still sleeping.

“Hello?” a voice said in the receiver.

“Yes, I am here.”


“Yes, Mr. Pierre, I am. How much today?”

Her heart skipped a beat. What will be the level of humiliation today, she
wondered? Will it be enough for milk, at least?

“Ten dollars,” the man said.

She lifted her brows. That wasn’t half bad.

“Oh, thank you–”

“Cut it out, Maite. I’m in a good mood. Don’t ruin it. I don’t have time.”

She bowed, instinctively. “I understand, sir.”

“Did you fix it? Last time–”

“It’s brand new, sir, brand new.”

Silence on the other side.

“Okay, then. Go ahead, the usual.”

Maite pressed the speaker button and put the receiver on the table. She
grabbed the red doll and turned it face down. With her fingers, she began
to massage the shoulders and lower back of the doll.

Pleasure sounds came out of the phone. “Oh, that’s good, Maite, keep

Maite continued to massage the doll, her eyes fixated on the kitchen knife,
only ten inches from the doll’s head.

Her heart pounded a few times, pumping hot blood in her temples. She
extended one hand toward the knife…

The baby giggled in the crib and turned on the side, his sleepy face
pressed against the crib’s bars. Maite looked at him, her hand suspended in
the air.

“What’s going on there?” Mr. Pierre screamed. “I am paying for two hands,

Maite grabbed the knife and threw it far away from her reach.

She gestured a kiss toward the crib and put both her hands back on the

“I am here, Mr. Pierre, I am here,” she said, tears dripping on her cheeks.

Mr. Pierre responded with a moan.

The baby continued to sigh in his sleep, and Maite continued to cry. She
cried because she couldn’t wait to see the baby’s face when he’ll drink the
good milk tomorrow.