I have a real monkey’s paw in my bedside cabinet. It sits in there, alone in the dark and obliviously indifferent to the concept of being careful what you wish for. My great-uncle Job had a job as a tea salesman, journeyed out to Assam in the thirties, and returned with a small dismembered hand which had once been attached to a langur. They were plentiful in those days of empire, endangered now of course.
Anyway, I got married last month to Jennifer. It was no whirlwind romance- we had known one another since school, on and off, and like the two outcasts we were then, eventually found the glue that stuck us back together. We all find our own level, sooner or later.
Jenny died, though, just eight days ago. We had our honeymoon in Stonehaven, strolled along the grey promenade where the North Sea stretched its chill upwards to the concrete wall where we walked. We wrapped up just like mum said but that didn’t stop Jenny dropping dead from anaphylactic shock. She had ordered her epi-pen and I had only nipped out to get a paper. I got back to the room to find her fitting and red and throttled by peanuts in a biscuit.
I buried her and just walked straight home. Oh, friends and family were what you would expect after the funeral- solemn and sensitive. Come with us, this is no time to be alone. But it was a time to be alone.
She never knew about the paw. It cannot possibly work, of course, but naked grief and desperation can make a man wish all sorts of things. Believe all sorts of weirdness. I have it in my hand now. It is grey and leathery and sad, no power in there surely.
I wake at just after three. The night is so quiet outside, even the trees still. I hear no traffic, no sirens, no voices of revellers below. I switch on the light and feel tears at the corners of my eyes. Can we cry in our sleep?
I open the cabinet and take out the petrified paw. I hear in my head the distant calls of a langur. He jumps from branch to branch among the trees, rustling and doing that wide monkey smile. I close my eyes and, holding the paw, make the wish that Jenny can once again be alive. Here, in our bed where she belongs. I let go an involuntary chortle. I smile and catch my face in the small mirror on the bedside cabinet. Jenny is still not in our bed- her side is cold and deserted. The old clock, inherited and mahogany, creaks its own existential struggle. I lay back down on the bed, dropping the paw on the sheepskin rug. She is not coming. The front door remains undisturbed, no slurping, earthy steps of the risen dead are ascending the stairs.
Silence sits with me, filling my head, my ears, with nothing.
So, why, tell me why, is there a faint, oh so faint, tapping at the window. You rise, both stupefied and hopeful, to open the curtains...
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Garry Stanton is an Edinburgh-born, Fife- based writer and musician. He has, like most creators, tried many other endeavours but has found them all deeply, or even vaguely, unsatisfying. He is a published songwriter and poet, and has written two novels, currently languishing in the cosmic slush-pile. Oh well.