Showing posts with label Bill Hughes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bill Hughes. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Bill's Hand

Christened, William Woodruff Hughes, Bill was the second of the four Hughes children.  If Lloyd, the older brother, was the scholar, then Bill was the sportsman.  He loved to try his hand at everything and excelled at seemingly everything: bowling, baseball, tennis, even rollerskating.  Athletics came really naturally to Bill.

When Bill was 10 he scaled to unnatural heights, a tree in the Hughes family's yard.  Fern, his mother and the resident family photographer, ran out and snapped a picture of him up there.  Bill lived an exuberant life with many harrowing adventures.

When Bill was around 11-years-old, his parents had opened a grocery store.  All of the Hughes children worked around the store from time to time and on this day, Bill was helping in the meat department.  Pounds of beef and been placed in the top of a meat grinder and Bill was helping to push the meat into the grinder.

Bill kept after his job until the meat was ground.  Both the meat and the store were freezing cold, so Bill crossed the room and stood on a heat register to warm up. When Fern came into the room, she noticed Bill's hand was bleeding.

"What's the matter with your hand?" she asked.

Bill held his right hand up for both of them to examine.  Unbeknownst to him, with his hands numb from handling the cold meat, Bill had accidentally ground down his middle finger to where it was essentially the same height as his index and ring fingers.

Ever a practical woman, Fern ushered Bill out.

"You go over to the drug store and see what they can do to help you.  I've have to throw all the hamburger away."

When Bill arrived at the drug store, his finger was still bleeding profusely.  Not knowing what else to do, they tied a string around the end of his finger, and put him on a streetcar with directions to see a doctor.

As the finger healed, his nail grew out and curled around the end of his shortened finger, protecting it.  Bill was alway very self-conscious about that finger. He kept his hand in his pocket or curled up in a ball, so people wouldn't notice.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013


The words were spoken softly and gently, but they hit hard as if he were being slapped.

"I need you to come identify the body of your son," the mortuary owner said in that gentle way people attain when they constantly deal with death.  "Mr. Hughes?"

"Yeah," Lloyd replied.

"Sometimes when people he did, especially in intense heat--often, when they've been out of that situation for a few hours, their bodies turn coal black. There is absolutely nothing you can do about it.  But I need to prepare case."

Lloyd hung up the phone, grabbed his hat and coat, and drove to the mortuary.  In 1940, it was only days before Christmas--the holiday that would never happen in the Hughes home again. It was cold, but even with his coat on Lloyd felt eerily chilled. He had no real recollection of the drive to the mortuary, yet somehow he arrived.  He grabbed the heavy door handle and entered.  Lloyd was ushered back to where the bodies were kept.  Standing together with the undertaker, the body was uncovered.

Lloyd held his breath, grateful that the body was not an unnatural black and simultaneously devastated that he was looking at the body of his 19-year-old son.  There he lay, handsome as always, but now missing the spark that meant he was Bill.   Lloyd checked for Bill's right hand where his middle finger had been damaged in an accident and stood shorter than was usual.  On Bill's left shoulder was a one inch yellow butterfly tattoo.

"Well, that looks like my son," Lloyd said in his slow Iowa way.  "But then he's got that tattoo.   My kids all know how I feel about tattoos. None of them would have ever had a tattoo on them. I don't know what to say,"  He paused and spoke a little more quietly than before,  "I think that's my boy."

The mortician glanced at Lloyd.  There was no doubt in Mr. Hughes' face: this was his son.  "Thank you, sir, for coming in."