One Hand Guides the Other

Trent England

I was in the car when the autism came on again, and I tilted my head to drain it out. My sister was driving and asked how it felt. I said it was like hands invading a piano, tuning it. She asked about the car in the lane next to us, but she did not want to know the truth. She only wanted to know what face the woman was wearing who was getting it from behind in the backseat.

I do not get to speak much, but when I do, I like to be helpful: "She is wearing a donkey mask with dim eyes. The mask is polymer with silicone paint, and held to her head by a thin elastic white cord. Two donkey ears stand up when the mask occasionally bumps the glass."

Somewhere, if not the floor of the car, there were abandoned walking hooves, a retractable tail, dying donkey heart.


My autism took me to Town Day, where people approached the autistic tent with belaboring problems. They asked for their lost children. Watches needed to be fixed. Will the lights above us flicker out at dark or will they pop? Are you aware that six percent of the beer is tapped with drugs? Have they done away with the lost and found box?

I was asked by the Head Autistic to look for the box. I looked under things, behind things. By things I mean: chairs, helium tanks, children mummifying each other in silly string. When I finally found it, it was a large paperbrown box with tape and marker print, stored behind the stage of a traveling magic act. It stuck out of the black border that draped down from the stage, valance and discretion.

In the box were a number of wonderful things. A glass eye unscathed and dusty. Two quarters from the year of my father’s pre-war birth. The manuscript of an autistic man wrongly imprisoned for rape. A twenty-dollar bill. A girl’s notebook of grades, which I flipped through, validated. A vial of fluid marked with a sticker and on the sticker the word AUGUST. Two ticket stubs to the zoo. Two bullet shells and a key on a key chain. One hollow donkey suit with legs and hooves shaped for the crawling human form.

In the foot hole, a sticker, and on the sticker the phrase NO SHOES.


In the middle of the tents was a church, unsure of its place in Town Day. There were no signs, no open doors. No grinning minister at the steps with a palmful of tracts. I walked in and saw at the altar a canvas attached to two beams, and a painter hanging his legs off the scaffolding.

A woman approached me to explain the painting, and pointed to the gray brown back of an ass. "It’s a painting of Palm Sunday. But there’s something else, though." I don’t understand or need or want or have any business with art, but I did not tell her this. She pointed to the pencil work in the still unpainted half, men standing over a baby on a pedestal. The lines were going dirty with neglect and heat, and the canvas had warped at the corners. The church smelled of linseed oil and the nature of painting, and the painter leaned forward grunting and giving animal detail.

"It’s a protest painting," the woman said. She explained it to me. A baby is born and eight days later a man of God removes the foreskin of the penis. If no such man can be found, then the parents settle for a doctor, and the organ eventually grows into this offering, sets the baby on a path of righteousness and hygiene. The baby forgets the excess skin ever existed.

I asked why God created foreskin if he just wanted it cut off. She giggled and started to answer, but before she could, the painter climbed down from the scaffolding and walked up to us. He smelled like July between five and six in the evening. He still remembered his own circumcision, because it happened when he was thirteen.

He had been away at a summer camp when his parents arrived with a man of God, claiming the command had simply slipped their mind and they were now trying to do right. Counselors and a couple of older boys from camp held him down while the skin was removed. Later, as he lay prostrate on the basketball court, his father sat down on a basketball and said the counselors were replacing his painting classes with two hours of sports.

The court smelled like the handful of rubbing agent the man of God had applied to his organ to numb the pain.

I do not get to dwell on my thoughts much, but it made me think of my autism, and how it is like a basketball, one that has more than once been used to deliver bad news. It too has been kicked around in the sand in an afternoon of sunny hope, and like sand it shifts from left to right, makes formations in the bed, remains for days, to be worn in a sock and aggrieve at the worst possible time.