The Hand

I know what you’re thinking. If you find the bones of a human hand in the raised bed of the house you rent, you should…read more

I remember it clearly. I had decided on planting a herb garden in the raised beds on the patio out the back. It was not long after my mother had died. She had always wanted a herb garden. The garden beds had been completely unused since I arrived. I had turned the soil that day and was looking at it from the kitchen window. I could see something snowy white in the blackness of the soil. It pricked my curiosity. Then I ate dinner and forgot about it.

I live alone.

I went to the work the next day and somewhere, somehow that fragment of an idea crossed my mind. So when I went home, I went out to the raised bed and I dug around it. That little piece of white. It was not as white as I remembered, more a cream, perhaps it was how the evening light had caught it.

I rent this place.

It was a bone. How odd? A bone. I dug a bit more. There were more pieces, more fragments. I kept digging and by the end, I had all the bones for a human hand. I had found the skeleton of a whole human hand. I know what you’re thinking. If you find the bones of a human hand in the raised bed of the house you rent, you should…

I didn’t.

I took it inside. I gently washed the dirt off it, just like I had seen on that forensics show on the telly. I even got out an old toothbrush for effect. I felt like an archaeologist. I wished I’d had a white coat. I told myself I had not found a whole body, just a hand and what was the harm in keeping it. The next day I went shopping.

I bought a box.

A glass one, clear on all sides, I searched skeletons and I laid out the bones exactly as they should be in the box and then put it on the shelf. I ate dinner. I watched the telly. I tried not to look at it. But it was like- it was calling me. After all, this hand, hadn’t it stretched up from somewhere deep in the soil below to find me. Hadn’t it sprung through the soil of its own volition into my field of view.

Sometimes.

I took it out and sat it on my knee and stroked it. That hand that belonged to someone else. That elegant fleshless skeletal ornament. It was quite beautiful. Then suddenly the lease finished. What to do, the herb garden was thriving. I pulled up what I could to take with me. I packed my things into boxes. It was late summer, time to move on. All the time, there was the box with the hand, on the shelf. The hand that had given me so many nights of comfort in front of the telly. But it was someone else’s hand.

So I left it.

In the box.

On the shelf.

When I moved out.

Because it wasn’t mine. Because the next person might be lonely too. And I think that’s how I came to be here, people say. They say such bad things.

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