I lift Gabriel’s ball sac with my left hand, scrub the shit that stuck to its sides off with a wet wipe. I use the wipe like a tweezer to pick out the little bits stuck to his pubic hair. He’s lying on his back. His useless, hairless legs stay wherever I put them. I dreamt about my grandson last night, again, he says. Gabriel’s brain injury left him with Alien Hand Syndrome. His left hand moves independent of his mind. His ‘pet hand,’ we call it. Or his ‘angry hand,’ depending on its mood. It crawls around like a skeletal mouse, or a bird without its plumage. It white-knuckle clamps onto the bed rail. He tries to unclasp its fingers with his right hand. We usually try to ignore it. He was wearing big Wellington boots, Gabriel says, jumping up and down on my coffin. Gabriel takes tablets each morning to stop him drowning on his own saliva. If nobody watches him, he spits them out. He frees his left hand and it crawls over, plucks a feather from his wing. On your coffin? I said, were you sleeping in it? His left hand latches onto my little finger, its heat radiating through my glove. I were dead, dan, he says, his speech like suffocation, dead like I am now.
Dan Melling is a writer, originally from the UK. He holds an MFA in poetry from Virginia Tech University and teaches creative writing at John Moores University, Liverpool. His work has appeared in Juked, X-R-A-Y, Fanzine and others. He co-edits Damnation literary journal and sometimes tweets at @melling_dan.
Art based on a design by Steve Anwyll.