When he was born, the morning after Christmas, my brother–now the middle–and I each picked out stuffed animals for the newborn from the hospital gift shop, which we were allowed to place by his head in the clear cradle on wheels.
I picked out a koala with a green bow around its neck. C picked out a tiger, sans bow.
Some months later, the same animals would be placed in a similar container also meant for rest.
For some reason, of which I’ve never been sure, the koala didn’t make it with my brother to his final resting place. Someone, maybe a grandparent, plucked it from the coffin and gave it to me before he was buried, sending only the tiger six feet under.
I was mindful of the koala for years.
…under the mattress every night, as if there existed a dead-brother fairy who could return Dex to me if I was vigilant, if I told no one what I was doing, and if I loved him hard enough.
Of course, we all know better now.
Sometimes I catch myself wondering about the tiger, wondering whether it’s now as dilapidated and disintegrated as the body lying with it. Not long after that, I feel a sting in the back of my throat, much like I want to be sick, much as I felt that day when I noticed the tiny stitches that pulled his eyelids almost-but-not-quite-closed.
Excerpt: Goodbye Lemon, Adam Davies