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The All-Powerful Hand

We are programmed to trust. We want to believe.

If you want to survive in the Gutter, eventually you get that shit beat right out of you.

The All-Powerful Hand by Jonathan French




He was lying there in the rank smell of urine and shit, stiff, like a fish you left in the back of a pickup too long on a hot day. With his pants and underwear at his ankles, it was almost surreal seeing him there, in the basement of the church where my family knelt and prayed, sang and danced. With an open mouth and eyes wide open, stuck, frozen in time, his face was mashed against the cold cement floor. It was so much to take in, standing there seeing him. I didn’t dare move nor make a sound. I just stood and stared, listening to the music and the people I knew to be good dancing and celebrating Jesus in all His glory in the sanctuary above. 

It was Willard, the retarded boy who didn’t like to be touched by anyone he didn’t know. He was Mrs. Dowdy’s grandson, and she had taken him to every church service I ever been to. His beard was one of wonder, one that could never be groomed due to his erratic violent movements. He sat often in front of me and my family, and I would peer at him and wonder what he was thinking, him moving his head as if flies were all about. He was unique, gray haired at an early age, with yellow and black teeth that were usually clenched. He had aged eyes that seemed to look beyond this world and into another. I admired him, admired his blood vessels that ran wild, standing out of his arms like markings on a map. I admired his strength of throwing people about when they would try to place hands on him. He was almost a superhero in slacks, Willard, the retard. Now he was beneath me, dead in a puddle of his own piss with people dancing above, unbeknownst to his new form.

A hand was placed on my shoulder coming from nowhere, startling me, almost like it was a hand of God himself. It was Brother Rick, dressed in black as always, holding me, reassuring me. Standing there we looked at poor Willard. 

“Dear Lord, what in the world was he doing,” Brother Rick said calmly, clenching me close, my elbow at his waist.

I was young and didn’t know a lot, but I knew it wasn’t what Willard was doing, rather what had been done to him. With tears in my eyes waiting to fall, my body tensed up with every movement of Brother Rick’s big hairy hand, working its way up my neck as I looked at the last of my mindless superhero. I thought I was special. I thought I was the only one. I thought if I could’ve been Willard I would’ve been strong enough, mindless enough, to fight back; I wasn’t, and neither was he.


Jonathan French is a well dressed skank. Of this story, he says: it is based on a man who molested children in Fulton, KY, during the '90's. He was a youth leader at a church I attended and to my acknowledgment is still in prison today. The mentally retarded man that passed away in the basement is very real. The aspect of how he died in this piece is fiction ... or is it? I'm not sure anyone really knows.