For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“The Hands of the Blacks”

Luis Bernardo Honwana


I don't remember now how we got onto the subject, but one day Teacher said that the palms of the black's hands were much lighter than the rest of their bodies because only a few centuries ago they walked around on all fours, like wild animals, so their palms weren't exposed to the sun, which made the rest of their bodies darker and darker. I thought of this when Father Christiano told us after catechism that we were absolutely hopeless, and that even the blacks were better than us, and he went back to this thing about their hands being lighter, and said it was like that because they always went about with their hands folded together, praying in secret. I thought this was so funny, this thing of the black's hands being lighter, that you should just see me now — I don't let go of anyone, whoever they are, until they tell me why they think that the palms of the black's hands are lighter. Dona Dores, for instance, told me that God made their hands lighter like that so they wouldn't dirty food they made for their masters, or anything else they were ordered to do that had to be kept quite clean.