After my mother died a green hand started following me around. It galloped after me as I walked down the hall, the pads of its fingers making a sound like drumming on a desk, a trample of impatience. Scratching noises when I went to the bathroom, knocks on my front door in the middle of the night that, when answered, were the hand, thirsting like an outdoor cat for the warmth of my living room.
I took it to the pound but they refused to accept it. Who would adopt it? How do you euthanize something that doesn’t have a heart?
I called the exterminators and they suggested I use a bracelet for a collar and, since it was winter, buy it a glove.
I called my brother, and he said the same thing had happened to him, only he gave his hand a long bolt and a wingnut. Now his hand sits in his lap all day, screwing and unscrewing the nut from the bolt’s threads. Maybe, my brother suggested, you could try something similar?
I looked through my mother’s things, plucked a dented pack of Turkish Silvers out of a box, and tossed it to the hand. It caught them and placed them on the floor, its fingers tapping the lid.
“Those were my mom’s,” I said.
Tobacco leaves scattered as the hand crumpled the package and dragged it to the trash can.
I gave it my mother’s hairbrush next; for hours the hand tweezed white hairs from bristles, eventually offering me a steel scouring pad of strands when it was done.
Soon the hand was tunneling through the sleeves of my mother’s coats, frolicking among her hats like a frog in a throng of lily pads. Within a few hours it had formed two piles—piles that didn’t make any sense, stacked with my mother’s books, boots, pictures, half-used bottles of nail polish, chipped Cutco knives, unfinished quilts, a diary, a gun.
The hand pointed to one pile, then the other, then turned up its palm. One pile, the other—it wanted me to choose. I picked one at random and went to bed. In the morning the pile I didn’t pick was gone.
Weeks now, and so little of my mother’s belongings remain. Every night I fall asleep listening to the hand work, listening to the crunch and shuffle of things being dragged out of boxes, hauled to one of the two new piles rising from the living room floor.
Now when I dream it’s of the hand and not her. It drags me to the living room, places me on top of one of the mounds. I have to choose. But something gets miscommunicated, the hand thinks I want to keep the other pile, the one I’m not in. I wake gasping to a light knock on my bedroom door.
I call my brother, but when he picks up he won’t speak, won’t say anything at all.
“I don’t know what to do,” I say. “What should I do? What are we going to do?”
In front of me two piles wait. The hand points at one, points at the other, then turns up its palm. Points, points, palm.
On the phone the squeak of a screw turning, turning.