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I am Holding Your Hand

MYFANWY COLLINS

It was Christmas Eve and Jessie was hallucinating. She was ten and her tonsils were infected, but she would not be one of the lucky ones who had the operation to remove the dangling bits and then live on ice cream afterwards. No, she would suffer through with the help of antibiotics. Her tonsils would not have a chance to grow back.

Jessie's mother had her tonsils removed as a girl, but they grew back, a fact Jessie found both disturbing and titillating. That humans might have body parts which grew back. Could this mean there was a cure for death?

When she was much older Jessie would be on a subway with a fellow from Germany. He would tell her how his body had become covered in lumps when he was nineteen. Upon investigation the doctors found that the lumps contained hair and bone and teeth. He had absorbed his own twin while he was in the womb.

But Jessie had no twin, absorbed or otherwise.

Her throat ached, her fever spiked. It was the first year her father was not there on Christmas Eve channeling Louis Armstrong on their way back from midnight mass. Instead, he was in his apartment across town. Earlier in the day he'd had the girls over and brought them one after the other into the bathroom and showed them the presents he had gotten for each. Jessie's big sister would receive a stuffed kangaroo, which Jessie coveted. It was small, its fur velveteen. She thought it would work nicely with her Barbie's. They might travel to Australia. Skipper might meet a priest in the Outback. Fall in love.

Jessie would spend Christmas day on the couch, sweating, seeing things that were not there, listening to her mother play the new Neil Diamond record over and over until it seemed Neil Diamond had been absorbed into their living room and family.

When her father came, he would bring her a present. A Bert, but no Ernie. Bert was not too much smaller than she was, his head pointy, his clothes removable, but best not removed as underneath he was featureless-a stuffed pillow.

How old was Bert? Wasn't he a grown man? What an odd choice. His expression was curmudgeonly, unlovable. She feigned appreciation, though her only feeling toward Bert was pity. He was like her father now, living a life without the company of women.

Her father would die in May, in the night and alone, with not even Ernie by his side to hold his hand, to tell him to hold on. No Ernie to remind him of those times when he was loved.

Remember when you were a boy? You had a white pony and a wide-brimmed hat. Think about that pony, that hat. Focus. I am holding your hand.



Myfanwy Collins believes you will shoot your eye out with that bb gun. Her work is published or forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Saranac Review, Cream City Review, AGNI, The Jabberwock Review, Swivel, Caketrain, and other venues.