The left hand prides itself on being more refined than the right hand. Yes, it is in fact a little slimmer, the knuckles are not as knobbly, and the skin is even a little smoother. But, says the right hand calmly, think of all the work I’ve done that you haven’t, over the years. Well, says the left, I’ve been there alongside you all the way, helping. But think of all the things you can’t do that I can, says the right. Think of all the skills I’ve developed. 

The left hand hasn’t worked as hard as the right. It is usually the assistant. It braces and steadies the carrot while the right hand cuts. It braces and steadies the notebook while the right hand writes. It braces and steadies the whole body in a crouching position while the right hand scrubs the floor or digs in the flower bed. True, there are some things they do together in a balanced way. For instance, they play the piano together. But here they are not equal: the left hand is quite effective at repeating a chord over and over, even a broken chord, but not very nimble in the sixteenth note passages, not nearly as nimble as the right. The right hand points that out.

Now the left hand is hurt. Its fourth finger has always been especially weak and can’t move very independently. The left hand has always been frustrated and ashamed of how clumsily it plays. Though in fact, the left hand is aware that by the highest standards, the right hand’s own sixteenth notes are not all that even or fast.


Watch Lydia Davis and other Issue no. 234 contributors read from their work at our Fall 2020 launch event.