In many ways, Doug is a classical Romantic. He is not a flower and candy bearing man, but he loves the wild, unmanageable wilderness that is our yard. He is a complicated Lord Byron. More than anyone I have ever known, Doug idealizes the past. I love Doug the romantic. It amuses us both when his basic nature conflicts with mine.
From the many dusty piles and boxes of Doug’s important things, two small mannequin hands with magnetic backs have escaped to become a part of our daily life. Those hands help Doug feel connected to people long gone. Sometimes, Doug glances at the hands and recalls a piece of a memory. Usually, he just unconsciously feels comfort and connection that cannot be described. I know how important the tiny hands are to Doug. I just don’t feel the same about them. Every single time I look at those hands, I hear the words to “The Monkey’s Paw” in my head.
It doesn’t matter how many decades have passed since I read that very short story in my childhood classroom. Apparently, that story came into my life at the exact moment that my world was opening and the result was a misogynistic tale of consequences permanently etched into my brain. Those small hands look exactly like the monkey paws in my imagination. Every few days, they appear somewhere and I quickly avert my eyes from their evil lure. I use anything within reach to swat them toward Doug’s desk. Sometimes, I nudge them into his area and other times, I cover them with a stray jacket or towel. If I am lucky, I do not hear them knocking and scratching from their haphazard resting place.
Doug looks down and sees the small hands from his childhood memories askew on the floor. He gently picks them up and puts them on the front of the clothes dryer. He is deaf to the sound of my scream a few hours later as I am startled by the gruesome paws. It will be several days before he discovers the hands hiding in the corner, under his jacket. He will calmly place them at eye level, just inside a door, so that the hands reach out for the next person who unexpectedly opens that door. He won’t hear the resulting shriek of terror.