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“Dorothy, your hand!” Josh Wyman says when his wife of 42 years enters the kitchen. He jumps up from his chair and bumps the table.

“Josh, your coffee.” Dorothy blots the spill with a napkin. Her silver hair grazes her shoulders. A bit of a modern day hippie, she wears flower print moomoos and believes in the healing powers of patchouli oil. She’s slender — no mean feat for the wife of a baker who brought home day-old bear claws before he retired after decades of rising when dawn was still snoring. 

“What about my hand?” Dorothy says. 

Josh, whose own stomach is rounded as a donut, lifts his wife’s left arm by the elbow. “It’s … gone. We have to go to emergency. We —”

“Josh, are you ok?” Dorothy holds up her arm. “I’m fine.”

Josh slides his hand down his wife’s wrist and squeezes. He tries to feel the hand he held in movie theaters when they were dating, the slender fingers that interlocked with his stubby ones when they took long beach strolls on vacations before Jennifer was born. But it’s no use. 

“I swear, Dorothy, your left hand’s missing.” 

Dorothy pulls her husband close. “Honey, you’re having some kind of spell. Or maybe cataracts. When’s your next eye exam?” She steps back. “I’ll prove it.” She holds up her left hand, puts her right behind it and makes a peace sign. “If my hand’s not there you should be able to tell me how many —”


“Wow. Lucky guess.” She holds up four. Josh is right again. Dorothy pours herself a fresh cup of coffee and sits back at the table. “What in the name of Timothy Leary is going on?” She looks into her cup. “Did you spike our coffee?”

“That would be one of your tricks, not mine. Do you feel OK except for your hand?”

“I’m fine, and so is my hand. Both hands. I have an idea.” She puts her right hand, the one Josh can see, under the table and holds up three fingers. “How many?”

“How many what?”

“Fingers, Josh, fingers. How many am I holding up?”

“No idea. Do you think I have X-ray vision? Or I’m a mind reader?”

“I thought we should rule both out.”

“I think you have to admit I’m not seeing things. Your hand is gone.” Josh goes to his wife and kisses her on top of the head. “Don’t worry, Honey. They make wonderful prosthetics nowadays. It’ll be like you were never gone … your hand, I mean.”

“I have another experiment.” Dorothy goes to the refrigerator and takes out an orange. 

Josh gasps as the fruit seems to float a couple inches from the end of his wife’s left wrist. When she tosses the orange into the air and catches it, he starts hyperventilating.

“Sorry, Josh, I didn’t mean to freak you out. Look, I’m putting the orange in the fridge.” She sits back at the table. They both start to sip their coffees then stop, look suspiciously into their cups and put them down.

There’s a knock at the door followed by their daughter’s voice. “It’s me.”

“In here,” Josh says. 

Jennifer comes into the kitchen and pecks her father on the cheek. To Josh, she looks just like her mother did years ago. “Think I’ll have a cup,” his daughter says.

Josh stands, grabs the coffee pot and dumps it down the drain. “It’s … steeped. Nasty.”

“Oh … OK.” Jennifer hugs her father. “How you feeling today, Dad?” 

Josh motions for his wife, who goes to Jennifer and waves her left hand in front of their daughter’s face. No reaction. His daughter must not see the missing hand … That her hand is missing … That … Josh sits back down. “Not great, Sweetie.”

Jennifer puts her palm on her father’s forehead. “Don't think you have a fever. Maybe you need fresh air.”

“Your mother used to take your temperature that way. She was as accurate as a thermometer.” Josh smiles at his wife.

Jennifer sighs. “Dad, Robert had to go to his office for a while. When he gets back, we’re taking Robbie to his Saturday soccer league then out for pizza. Join us.”

Josh looks at Dorothy and sees she’s becoming entirely translucent. “No, no, no.”

“Please, Dad. It’ll do you good, help get your mind off of Mom.”

Josh continues staring at Dorothy. She’s so faded he can see the kitchen curtains directly behind her.

“She wouldn’t want you to spend weekends cooped up in this house with your memories, Dad.”

Josh looks back at Dorothy. She flashes him a peace sign and blows him a kiss. He hopes his daughter will understand if he can’t go.

“We’ll pick you up around eleven. Better wear a sweater.”

Josh sees his daughter at the door then returns to the kitchen. “I’ve made another pot,” he hears his wife’s voice say. “My special blend.” 

Josh sips his coffee and sits quietly for several minutes. By the time his cup is empty, his own hands are starting to fade. He hopes Jennifer will understand.



David Henson and his wife have lived in Brussels and Hong Kong and now reside in Illinois. His work has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions and has appeared in various journals including Pithead Chapel, Gone Lawn and Moonpark Review. His website is His Twitter is @annalou8.


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