Interns, Scars, and Ivory Towers

::Note, this isn’t funny. My funny stories range from the literally true, to the “based upon actual events” kind of disclaimer you see in a Lifetime Movie. This is literally true, or as close as I can make it.::

I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and wan’t sure how to apply it.

Back in December, I interviewed interns for this semester. This one kid comes in. He’s got long hair and a bad scraggly mustache (so did I when I was his age, except I looked cool.)

He’s not dressed particuarly great for the interview (the position is sought after,) but aside from his laconic manner and appearance, he seems pretty smart. What I always try to do is just be friendly and get them to talk. You learn a lot about somebody if you’re willing to shut up, and the interview itself is good experience.

This kid though, doesn’t really know what to do, or how to sell himself in an interview. He remains aloof and gives me short answers.

“Why are you interested in working here?”

“Everybody says it’s good experience, and I should go for it.”

“How do you think this will help?”

“I’d like to get experience”

“What would you like to do? Interning’s a two way street. You do some of the boring jobs that free up our time, we return a portion of that time to you, according to your direction, and interests. What would like to do or learn with that time.”

“Get experience and stuff. You know help me, when I got a job.”

After 15 minutes or so, I figure I might as well wind up.

Now, I don’t know what motivates this kid to do this but he says “Can I ask you something?”

“Shoot.” It’s the first real sign of curiosity he’s shown.

“Why are your hands so ugly?”

Well, I’m taken aback. My hands are… Singular, and they sometimes get a reaction. The whole overture doesn’t seem like a particularly winning move to me though, and I’m surprised he’d make it.

I pause for a second, and look down at my hands. A lot goes through my mind in ten seconds or so.

There is pink keloid material along the insides of the thumbs to the inside of the index fingers. It got there, because when I was fourteen I babysitted, and didn’t pay attention as my charges poured turpentine, and toilet paper into a bowl, and added a match while the whole assembly sat on a shag rug.

When the flames hit the ceiling and the children yelled, I grabbed the bowl, walked to the bathroom, and threw it and some of my flesh along with it into the bathtub. Then I tried to put my hands out with a towel pieces of which had to be removed and whose pattern still remains on the scar tissue. It proved to be the most painful experience of my life. I went into shock and the kids called an ambulance. My hands had to be washed and scraped to minimize scarring and cull the dead tissue. I was congratulated on my quick thinking and sacrifice, but nobody asked me why I wasn’t watching the kids.

Some of the fingers, don’t have cuticles, and I still trim the buildup of scar tissue.

There’s another nasty scar where I drove a knife through my hand trying to peel a potato.

I like to woodwork and stuff around the house and farm, so there’s some more stuff there from that.

When I work out, I climb a thin rope. It adds calluses and improves my grip. My hands are strong and sinewy.

I used to box in College (I wasn’t good.) I still hit a bag, and that leaves it’s mark.

These hands legitimately saved two lives. They found a kid at the bottom of a swimming pool in the dark, and one time they refused to let go of of the reins of a horse when a child who I was teaching at a camp, got his leg caught in a stirrup and was being dragged, even though it pulled my arm from the socket (Yeah, he probably wouldn’t of died, but so what?)

When they held my newborn daughter, I knew that was the safest place in the world that she could be. They were excellent hands.

They’ve built a desk, and restored a car, massaged my wife’s tired feet and shoulders. Other things that I won’t bore you with.

They’ve been well-used, IMO.

I’m not usually sensitive, and I occasionally get remarks, but they are clean, and not really all that weird or unusual. Kids ask, as do adults. Sometimes I tell kids how I slew a dragon, and he breathed fire, and made the sword red-hot in my hands, but I held on and slew him.

If they’re old or precocious enough, they say “No, really?”

“I was an astronaut, and there was an accident. Now I have bionic implants, and a laser inside my thumbs.”

“No, really?”

“My mother was a lobster.” ::Clack, clack, clack. I move to grab them with my lobster hands and they run away laughing.

I got a whole bunch of 'em.

Sometimes they hurt, not badly. Sometimes they’ll get a little split. Someplaces don’t have feeling, and I have to be careful not to inadvertently injure myself.

You don’t notice them unless you really look though, and I usually keep them lightly curled.

Not really a big thing, and I don’t think about it. Everybody’s got a scar or two, and that’s all this is. I like them. They make me look tough, and maybe they mean that I am tough. There’s even an obscure reference to them in my user name.

All this stuff kinda ran through my head, when the kid asked “Why are your hands so ugly?” I was a little bit pissed, about the waste of time, and the obvious stupidity of the question in an interview situation. Mostly though, the kid pissed me off, just because.

I wasn’t nice.

I regarded my hands again, flipped them over, flexed them.

“May I see your hands?”

He held them out, and I took them in mine, making him aware of their rough texture and strength. His hands were clean, pretty soft, and plain. No real scars. No evidence of anything. Blank, like everything else about him.

I released them.

“I don’t think my hands are ugly,” I said softly and reasonably, as if trying to make a great point. “I think yours are.”

“Really?” He asked. “Why would you say that?” He looked at his hands and was reassured, and on firm ground. I think he thought I was an idiot. Maybe I was.

“What have you done with them?” I asked. All of a sudden we were both embarassed. I had no right. I didn’t know shit, when I was 20, and I still don’t know shit now. Weren’t the only words out of the kid’s mouth a request for experience? He knew his need. What was I doing.

He got it though, I’ll give him that. “I’m sorry.” he said, “I shouldn’t have asked.”

“Don’t worry about it. I didn’t mean to do that (I did though.) Just a strange day.”

I ended up taking the kid as one of the interns because I felt bad. I wish there was a happy ending, but my first impression was accurate. He’s unmotivated, and disinterested. He’s doing time for his resume.

I think about this sometimes on Tuesday’s and Friday’s when he’s there. I read a lot into it, perhaps wrongly.

I started on a moral here, but it sounds really stupid and pretentious. Make of it what you will. Feedback welcome.

Scylla . . .

Whatever the hell you do with the rest of your life, please keep writing. I am not easily moved to tears.

Damn. Kids say the darnedest things. What he said sounds about right for an intellectually curious, extroverted five year old.

Of course, that this genius has survived to (I assume) college age without getting his ass pounded into the pavement is a testament to his luck and other’s patience.

Scylla, your hands are the most beautiful hands I have never seen.

I hope someday to see them, shake them, and if you’ll let me, kiss them.

They are magnificent.

I opened the reply window thinking that I’d make a point about that kid. How all he had to do was open his mouth to show that he was a person of little substance, while all you’d have to do to prove your strength as a person is to hold out your hands.

But…I don’t know. The points are already there. It doesn’t do me any good to spell things out. The fact that that kid is out there, blundering through his life thinking his attitude is “clever” or something saps me of my will to moralize and pontificate.

Let me chime in with Persephone, then, and say that your hands are beautiful. There is nothing else to say.

I think I can say without a doubt that was one of the best things I have read in a long time. It is far from “stupid and pretentious”.

I don’t know what else to say, or even what I could say, to convey what I felt when I read that post. I guess I will have to let my silence speak for me.

Scylla, only your superior writing talents could make your boneheaded hire of a vulgar, slovenly slacker seem inspirational and omniscient. :smiley:

Scylla, like the others, I’ll let my silence speak for itself. That was one of the most moving things I’ve read in a long, long time.

Thank you. From my heart, Thank You.

Marathon Man?

You are a humanitarian, blessed with more patience and understanding than I would have shown. You are also an excellent writer.


Nice piece of writing - simple, yet evoking a wide range of feelings and thoughts.


that was a great, evocative story, and a post on a different level from the norm. Congratulations to you for opening up your soul to that undeserving kid, and to probably equally undeserving us.

Scylla, the more I get to know you on this here board, the more I become convinced that you are a giant of a human being. So, take THAT! xx, maggie


Are you published? You should be.

On a few occassions, Scylla, I’ve wanted to shake your hand for some things you’ve had to say. (Other occassions… well, let’s not talk about those. :wink: )

But now I can truly visualize it.
And I would be proud to do so.

Wow. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.


<see above>

Be well.

I envy the kid you described in the story. I was lucky enough to have some epic-sized role models around me at that stage in my life, and they had a huge impact on my attitude and way of thinking.

From what I’ve seen, I can’t imagine anyone being around Scylla and not being deeply affected. It sounds like this may be just what that kid needs. It wouldn’t be the first time someone’s life has changed because they asked a stupid and impertinent question.

Lucky kid.

Scylla your response to the kid was great. Hopefully if put in a situation again like the one you described, the kid will think twice before making such a comment. I really hope he thought about what you said to him and it made an impression on him.

I’m honestly too embarassed and grateful to say anything.

You should remember that there also about 2500 posts floating around this board that conclusively prove I’m a total asshole.

Would the reference be to Scylla, the greek monster in The Odessey with legs that are dogs? Maybe that the paws of a dog might be similar to your “paws”? Just a WAG.

Scylla, you write wonderfully. Maybe this shouldn’t be in the Pit.

Btw, I would give anything to meet someone who wrote like that. Especially when they are a bearer of a Chair of Ultimate Power.

You got it, and also from the sequel Brothers. That Scylla trains his hands for a specific purpose, and they have an odd appearance. He considers himself a rock (on his good days)