The scene shifts in time and space fluidly, and
there are no set changes. Anya is simultaneously
telling stories at the children’s library and in
conversation with Jane at various points in their
relationship. Jane functions as a narrator and
speaks to the audience directly, as if she were
telling a story like Anya is, only to adults, not
children. She too often breaks off to converse
with Anya, ignoring the audience. *Italics
indicate a character speaking to other character,
non-italics is to the audience or an unseen group
It began on dark winter’s night...
All of her stories started this way.
..the snow fell gently about a far away house...
Always the winter. No one was haunted in summer I
...where there lived a man and a woman...
This too was constant, man and woman in the house, man
and woman in the snow. I asked her about it once,
whispered it to her late at night in bed. I said, How
come its a never two women?
Oh, don’t politicize it, babe.
(She kisses Jane playfully)
She would say. But I couldn’t help it.
...lived a man and woman and their baby, whom they
loved very very much...
The first few lines of the story were always so fucking
happy. I felt bad for them, this man, woman and baby,
so happy, and then again and again, one dark night...
One dark night...
As if there were nights that weren’t dark
...there was a knock on the door...
A knock on the door of the house in the woods with the
man the woman and the baby and probably a dog, though
we never heard about him.
...and behind it loomed a mysterious woman, cloaked in
horse blankets as dark at the night.
When Anya first started telling her stories at the
children’s library, the mysterious woman wore a coat
with many pockets, like my many pocketed cargo pants. I
thought that a coat with many pockets probably wasn’t
period and told her so, but she said
Period? You’re thinking too much, the story is doesn’t
have a specific time. When did you think it was taking
I’d guess like, early 19th century. But she knew what I
Don’t read into this, Jane.
Why does she have to have a coat with many pockets,
when you’re always making fun of all of my
pockets? How can I not "read into it"?
She has to have pockets to keep all the hands she
collects. That the whole point of the story, she says
’Would you lend me a hand’ and then she really gets the
kid’s hand, chops its off, y’know, puts in her pocket,
and then the man grabs her, but she escapes and he only
has the coat, and he find all the hands...
I’ve heard it before.
So they bury all the hands, and the little children
ghosts run around and try and kidnap the baby, but
I was there. I know what happens. I’m always there.
The kids love it. I mean, the regulars know what’s
coming, but they love it too, they fall dead silent
when I’m like, "He reached into the mysterious woman’s
coat pocket and--
The kids are terrified of them.
They like being terrified.
They like being braver than their friends. You can see
them looking around to see who’s the most scared. But
they probably go home and wet the bed at night. My god,
why are you grinning?
Ghost stories are good for you.
I disagreed, but I let it go. The fact was, Anya was
good at the stories, the same ancient Russian beauty
that I loved in her so much made her ghost stories
stark and terrible and somehow richer.
They opened the door slowly out into the dark and cold
night to reveal a tall, and beautiful woman...
a lanky, and hollow woman...
a deep, and distraught woman...
a sad, and lonely woman...
dark hair and green eyes,
broad nose and flat feet
lover who took everything about her and made it
grotesque. Anya. I know it’s me in the stories. Why are
you telling them? When I sleep beside you they’re all I
can think of, the stolen hands of children claw me in
my sleep. But you know that isn’t how it happened, you
know that it was only one hand, and it was a mistake.
You know that everything is okay now, why are you
telling these stories?
Its just a story, Jane. You were just the inspiration.
So yes, the mysterious woman is often tall like you.
And she also like clothes with lots of pockets.
Pockets. Safari vests, cargo pants, coats.
Just the coat, yeah.
This isn’t helping me deal with things, Anya.
What do you mean, "deal with things"? How have you not
dealt with things? I thought you said everything worked
out, that everything’s okay now.
It is okay now, but I shouldn’t be fodder for your
It’s an entirely made up story! No one connects it with
you at all!
You do. You know you do.
I should leave, snacks are almost over.
I’m not at a point where my life should be ruled by
snack times. I should be back in Nigeria.
Nigeria-shmeria, you should be here.
Anya had met me in a post-Africa slump, following my
dismissal from an organization that sent medical
professionals to other countries to provide free and
economical healthcare where it was needed most. I went
to Nigeria as a surgeons assistant, but when I got
there, the doctor and I split up to cover more clinics.
Not exactly kosher, but we thought it was right. The
town I was working in had a massive gangrene outbreak,
whether from a bacteria growing the plant or our camp’s
introduction of junk food into the local diet we can’t
say for sure. But there were swollen hands and feet
everywhere, and not enough medicine to go around. So I
had no choice but to cut a lot of hands off. Better I
do it sterile than they do it with a machete. I didn’t
feel great about it, but it was genuinely my honest
choice, and I didn’t think much more off it than I did
when I helped women abort their babies or told the
families of old people there was no hope. I wasn’t
happy, but I made peace with it, and the village did
too, but the organization didn’t, and I was asked to go
home. So I did. I told Anya the story of the hands by
way of explanation when she found crying in front of
the painting of a be-handing in the art museam. She
thought it was hilarious. I cut off too many hands, so
they sent me back to New York.
That’s too rich, that’s too rich.
How could I not return her smile? She was radiant.
Have you eaten lunch yet?
Yes, but I’m happy to watch you eat. And a few months
I spend so much time here, I ought to just move in, and
we can split the rent instead.
It was good. Between us we had four good hands. But
guilt, that co-habitual ghost and ever present shadow,
would not leave my side.
But you thought you were doing the right thing.
Maybe I thought wrong.
It isn’t as if you were holding onto them. It isn’t as
if you were a hand collector.
We couldn’t help but giggle. But then,
...on a dark winter’s night...
There came a wanted ad seeking storytellers for the
...in a house in the deep woods, there lived a woman
and another woman. And the house was an apartment where
they were threatening to cut the power if the bill
There came a soft knock on the door...
And behind it was the land lord. So one of the women
took a job at the children’s library...
The woman was clever, and though she cared deeply for
She’d have to face the the mysterious woman to keep
them in bread.
She loved her family very much...
So she begrudging accepted the hands in her pockets.
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