|I stare at the hands.|
My father's hands are just now beginning to show his age, slight wrinkles appearing, but they remain strong. They are permanently tanned after years of foreign holidays and a few months backpacking round Europe when he was a young man. The palms are near-smooth and a healthy pink. The fingernails perfect and well cared for.
On the middle finger of his right hand is a callous, formed over years of using a pen. My father writes - in a way - for a living and refuses to use a typewriter.
The skin whitens on his fingers as they wrap the thick leather belt around themselves.
I hold out my own, little hand, balled into a fist. Quickly and sharply he brings the tough leather down across my knuckles, once, twice, three times. Each time I try to take my hand away, but his strong hands are quicker.
Tears well up in the corner of my eyes but I don't take them away from my father's hands. He lets the belt unravel, drops it on the bed. His hands reach out for me, the fingers splayed and I flinch back. The expected slap doesn't come. Instead the fingers wipe away my tears and I feel the surprising softness of his skin.
His hands pull me to him and I go willingly, accepting the hug.
"You won't do it again, will you?"
"No dad, I'm sorry."
He hugs me tight and the childish anger and hatred I felt just moments ago dissolves into the strong love I have for my father - and his cruel and loving hands.