|Waking up with one hand gone put Harrison in all sorts of compromising
positions. He had to open a defiant jar by clenching it between his knees,
for example. And before that there was the rabid screaming, the panicked
running from room to room. He finally realised he was regaining his composure
when he became angry and saddened by the lack of a response from his neighbours.
His walls were tissue thin. He could have been being murdered, at high
volume and extremely protractedly. Did no one care anymore?
Harrison wasn’t without feelings but he disliked any displays of emotion likely to knock hairs askew or provoke a sweat. For this reason, and perhaps also to avoid going insane, he set about dealing with his new affliction with a pragmatic, even a distinguished air. He studied his smooth nub: a pink cueball, no puckers or clues of severance at all. Disbelief at that which was plainly set before him was not something Harrison bothered with, and he soon found himself attending to regular matters as best he could. He took longer to reply to his e-mails and chose not to wear a tie, but after two days of acclimatisation he put himself back into circulation, meeting his friends at a fashionable mock-boho fusion restaurant. They cooed at his deformity.
“Does it hurt?”
“Can I touch it?”
“Is it catching?”
Paul Butler, who saw money sloshing about in everything, asked Harrison if he had considered getting an agent: “The talk-show circuit’ll eat you up. You’ll make millions with a book and film deal, endorsements. Perhaps you’d consider volunteering for some revolutionary new surgery or other? Do you fancy yourself as a cyborg? The people they choose are usually such trash; idiots who ask to go back to their broken selves when they find out their new limb or appendage was once in the service of a killer or pervert. Do you miss it? Has it affected your sexual appetite? Are you a different man to the one I saw for dinner last Tuesday? Should I distance myself from the new Harrison?”
Harrison ordered a Thai curry, for ease more than flavour. After two cocktails he left, having successfully convinced his friends that he was still the same person despite the change. He was tired, having worked much harder to be funny and more interested in their lives than normal.
A day or so later, relatively happy in himself but still wary of the unforeseen consequences his unique situation could throw at him, Harrison went to see his ex-girlfriend at the hospital where she practised. Seeing her always made him feel sorry for himself, even though it had been him who had broken with her. In light of his current straits he regretted this decision even more than usual. He had already played out several one-handed romantic scenarios in his head on the journey over, and was now fearful of becoming a target for violently caring, cardigan-wearing women. Harrison realised, astutely, that he would be wise to compensate for the loveliness of his disability in certain situations. God knew the last thing he wanted was a vast-breasted wet nurse in hot pursuit. Not that he normally mingled with such people, but he reasoned that you couldn’t ever be too careful, especially when your appendages were disappearing.
Sarah strode in to the consultation room, the hospital’s calming ambient chorus of bleeps and squeaks calling briefly through the door in her wake. She was still breathtaking, he thought, self-consciously shifting his nub beneath the table. She was recording notes into a Dictaphone as she entered. She clicked STOP and smiled. Although Harrison had not come to her for answers, was in fact merely dropping by as he had said he would, he could not help but admit to a feeling of disappointment when, twenty-seven minutes later, he left the hospital without Sarah having once mentioned his lack, despite his having brought it above the table-top roughly seven minutes into their conversation. At one point he actually waved it around to illustrate the general shape of something he had seen at the Sunday markets. He didn’t pretend to know the scientific mind well, and her’s at all, but he had expected at least some professional interest.
Harrison went to a play that night with a pretty young woman whom he had met on a roller coaster earlier in the month. He had felt trepidation at having to shout his approval of the performance in favour of clapping, but by the interval had elected that, the first half having been so poor, he would not express any approval whatsoever at the play’s end. He had never been so relieved by bad drama. The cast featured a heartthrob Hollywood actor proving his worth. Throughout, Harrison fingered his smoothness in the creaking darkness.
At a late supper with friends near the theatre Harrison denounced the
play at length. He found himself wondering, as his own speech lessened
to a background drone somewhere out beyond his eyes, why one’s vocabulary
was so much fuller when it came to attacking something or someone, as opposed
to the palsied lexicon of praise. Paul Butler had been busy.
Paul fumbled in his jacket pockets for his palm pilot. Harrison chuckled at the idea of a show, but of course wouldn’t countenance it. He’d sooner strip off and run naked around this restaurant, he said, than have his life turned into a lurid peepshow. And why all this interest? Because he suddenly had only one hand? Ridiculous.
Paul was easily offended, and took Harrison’s well-meant jibes as personal attacks. Grabbing his wife as though she was a haversack he made his apologies to the other diners sharing the table and left. Harrison raised rueful eyes to his date. Was what I said so wrong? he asked.
“No, Harrison, I agree completely. Although I think you’re wrong about the show – I think it sounds like a great idea.” Deciding there and then to never again go number hunting at amusement parks, Harrison left a generous tip and escorted the woman home.
Three years later, when the ratings for Harrison’s Hand were
beginning to bottom out, Paul Butler was the only one to get his own follow-up
sitcom. That lasted a season-and-a-half, but he still does the odd infomercial.
Harrison once awoke believing that his hand had returned, but it was only
a bunch in the sheets.
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