The Little Hand

Sarah Thunell


Dedicated to the memory of
my mother, Deborah Thunell (1959 - 2015)


It's 1996

And I am getting good at telling time

I move my chair to face the clock

and Mr. Somea lets me

He knows I'm waiting

For the little hand to reach ten


The other kids are loud

as they cut out sight-reading words

with safety scissors

 when where

 which word

 you  yours


They didn't notice how long it took the big hand

to go around once

Feel the sweep of each synthetic jacket sleeve

as Neighbor Ann held one hand, tugged a cuff,

and then the other


Notice how poorly the overhead light

saturated the four colors

posters, cubbies, pencils

red, yellow, blue, green

Or how, by the time the big hand pointed

at the window, the sun took over


They're still loud until lunchtime

And I don't know anything


I don't know if operations

are bloody

Don't know the sound a scalpel makes

if any

when the surgeon cuts into her head

I know other things


That sometimes medicine works

sometimes it doesn't

And when people go away, they don't

always come back the same


Mom can't hear on one side

and sometimes the headaches make her cry

or cringe

and sleep all the time

I know it's a disease and it has a name


Eight months later my vocabulary

includes the word "seizure"

But I don't know what it looks like

On the sidewalk across the street from the school


I know I can run really fast up the hill

I'm not sure but I think it's okay to interrupt people in the office there

to scream,

"My mom fell down"


I know it'll take twenty years

before the sound of sirens won't remind me

of Mr. Somea kneeling down

"What's the matter? What happened?"

and the look on his face as he turned from me

and ran down the hill


It's 1996

And my dad's friend is buying him Mexican food

in the UCSF hospital cafeteria

In 1992, when my brothers were born

Well, I heard the news of Jeff's lung cyst

Made Dad throw up


But I only heard that from Momo

All Dad ever said was he had Carl's Jr that day

In 1989, when I was born

Well, he had a really good turkey sub from Togo's

And he'd already had to tell time for years