The Handshake Trick

A canny cousin taught me the handshake trick.

I was ten or eleven. Small for my age, but quick

As a flash, after a smiling approach, I could duck

Beneath my arm and get the affable chap

Locked in a Half-Nelson. Thing about tricks is


You shouldn’t use them too often. This I learnt when

I approached a strong young American, hand

Extended, smile applied. He took that hand and

Had me floored. Saw it coming, Howell.

Pinned beneath him, head against the concrete,


I broke down, shamed in front of everyone.

Of course they cheered, the lot of them. I know

I got what I deserved. But how could I tell anyone

What contempt I felt then for myself? It

Was sickening. That was the end of my trick.