Out of Hand (excerpt)

“Not that one Mummy!” I screamed, as she smacked my right hand. “That one didn’t do anything wrong.”

I nursed my sore palm under my arm, trying not to let it touch the other one. The bad one.

***

We used to have such fun together, Mummy and me. She never minded getting dirty or scratching her knees, crawling around with me in tents made out of old sheets. We were explorers and the dirty grey dog that came through the hedge was a wild animal, hungry for our blood. Mummy hid behind me and we held our breath while it sniffed around the tent.

If it rained we made pictures out of gummed paper shapes on the kitchen table, singing along to Listen with Mother on the radio, or had fierce battles with my soldiers on the floor. We always ended up throwing them at each other and rolling around until we were hot and thirsty.

When Daddy got home I’d run to meet him and he’d sweep me up over his shoulder, swinging me round until I was giddy and nearly sick.

“Put me down, put me down!” I yelled. But I didn’t mean it.

At bedtime he made up stories about me and the grey dog called The Tales of Prince David and The Shining White Dog and I thought it would go on like that for ever.

Everything changed the day my sister appeared. All she did was sleep or cry from morning ’til night and I had to spend every day with Nanny because Mummy was too busy or too tired.

Nanny was kind but she was old and it wasn’t the same. She said she couldn’t get down on the floor because of her hip, but it looked all right to me.

Even Daddy was different and always promised to swing me round tomorrow, when he was feeling stronger.

“You’re getting so big,” he said, “I can hardly lift you off the ground.”

But he didn’t even try. My bedtime story changed to Prince David, Princess Katy and the Shining White Dog and I didn’t like it nearly as much.

I lay in bed wondering why they got her when they already had me. How such a small, useless thing could spoil everything. I stopped looking forward to the next day because I knew it would be just the same with people smiling but not really seeing me at all.

***

They kept my sister in a huge black pram that blocked out the sun. It was too high for me to see inside but if I stood on my toes I could feel her under the blankets. Sometimes, when I touched the soft warm flesh, I couldn’t help squeezing it. And somehow my hand just kept on squeezing until that awful cry filled the room. I wanted to hear it but it had to stop before Mummy came in, so I rocked the pram as hard as I could. It was always my left hand that hurt the baby and I punished it until I wasn’t cross any more.

“I don’t know what to do with him,” Mummy cried when Daddy came home. “He used to be such a good boy.”

He sighed and shook his head. “Why don’t you send him to nursery? It might be just what he needs.”

They didn’t understand. I didn’t need anything new. I wanted things back the way they were.

So Mummy dragged me to nursery with all the other children who were getting in the way at home. I wasn’t surprised that my left hand got worse, even though the right one tried really hard and drew lovely pictures of small people in dark forests. But while the Aunties looked at them, my left hand wrecked the other children’s work and smashed their crayons. At lunchtime ‘Leftie’ snatched everyone else’s food and threw it on the floor. The Aunties put up with him for three days and then told Mummy not to take me again. I smiled inside until Mummy flashed her danger eyes at me and I knew I was in trouble. A cold runny feeling spread from my tummy down into my legs.

***

The complete story is published in Triclops. To order a copy, please go to the link below.

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