Sunday Stories: “Purple Hand Man”

Traffic light

Purple Hand Man
by James Jacob Hatfield

for Bud Smith

The average length of a stoplight in an area like this is about 33 seconds. I’m counting while the man with purple hands slows down the car. Rolls down the window. Fires twice on the guy in the passenger seat, three times on the driver, twice on the backseat. Then gone ahead and wrapped the searing hot barrel with a towel. Puts the car in park. Extends himself as far as he can out his own window. Uses the butt of the gun like a hammer to shatter the window. Tosses the gun and towel into the lap of the guy sitting front passenger. Drives away in silence. The purple hand man is staring suspiciously at the steering wheel. He can’t look at me in the rear-view mirror. During jobs like this, he monitors his body instead of controlling it. Killing is something that the purple hand man does. Not me. I don’t do anything. It’s like the purple hand man hijacks my body. Then when is it’s over it’s whoosh back to reality. He peels off the nitrile oxide gloves and I stuff them into the mouth of an empty soda can, then he puts on a new pair. He picks up the Polaroid camera in the passenger seat. He takes photos and before they develop, throws them into a photo document mailing folder with the recipient address already written and postage already paid for. He peels this second pair of purple gloves off too, and I stuff them in the soda can again. Then drive. I toss that purple hand man in the soda can into a recycling bin outside the entrance of the hosptial where mom is.


James Jacob Hatfield has appeared in X-R-A-Y, Maudlin House, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Barely South Review, Chaleur Magazine, Havik, and others. His novel “VCO” is currently being serialized by Vol. 1 Brooklyn. He is the creator and curator of the Gemini Sessions Substack. He lives in Durham, NC.

Image source: Tim Gouw/Unsplash

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