When I woke up on the Thursday after your birthday, I felt something wet rolling against my foot at the bottom of our bed. I retrieved a dark red object the size of my palm. It felt cold against my fingers, and left a stain on the white sheet. I showed it to you. You told me it was your spleen.
        On Friday, we found your gall bladder in the bath, a shimmering purse of an object, olive green, nestling in the plughole. You told me to leave there, that you would attend to it after breakfast. You refused the bacon I’d grilled, but happily ate eggs and toast.
        By the following weekend, I discovered your pancreas by the piano, pale pink, looking like it would crawl off under its own steam if poked with a stick. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, and was alarmed when you said something about having dropped it on the way to the laundry.
        “But you need that! Surely you’ll die without it. You must go see Rangi on Monday, I can’t believe you haven’t already spoken to a doctor over this.” I could feel the tight pull of grim determination across my face, as I told you, “In fact, put your coat on now, I’m taking you to A and E.”
        “Don’t fuss,” is all you said, walking about in your nightdress, making no attempt to get your outdoor things. I noticed your skin had taken on a strange hue, and saw you take two grape-sized meaty lumps decorated with tissuey membranes, place them in a plastic container, and put them in the freezer. You’d written something beginning with “O” on the lid. After you hobbled up to the bathroom, I discovered there were numerous unfamiliar packages in our freezer, labelled with the date, and the organ or organs they contained. That was where I found your kidneys and brain, taking up a large section of the bottom drawer next to the frozen vegetables.
        I slapped my own face, reasoning I had to be asleep, that I would soon wake from this nightmare. But by teatime, nothing had changed, and I realised I must be in the real world, and that you were slowly disintegrating. You still had quite an appetite for someone with no pancreas, or brain for that matter. Later I leant over to kiss your cheek as you sat next to me to watch television. I pulled one of your grey curls, tucked it behind your ear, and looked inside the canal. I thought I could see the glow of lamplight from the other side of the lounge, as you looked at the figures flickering on the screen. You were still capable of running your usual inane commentary on “New Zealand’s Got Talent”, brain or no brain.
        By Monday, I was reluctant to leave you to go to work. I’d checked under the covers in the half-light filtering through from the corridor. You looked completely normal, your chest gently rising and falling as you took slow, even breaths. I wondered if there were any lungs in there, as I tucked the quilt round your torso. When I got home that night, you were wearing an eye patch. Just the one, although I don’t suppose anyone ever has cause to wear two. You didn’t mention your new facial attire, and I felt it might be rude to ask, seeing as you were being so casual about the loss of your vital organs. You’d made a divine soufflé, it seems your ability to cook hadn’t been hampered by the fact that you were not whole. I was glad we were having an egg dish, and not something made with meat thawed from the freezer.
        “Good day at work love?” you asked whilst pouring me a drink.
        “Lovely,” I lied between mouthfuls.
        “Brenda rang.”
        “Brenda rang to invite us round next Sunday.”
        “And? Are we going?”
        “You’ve not got anything on have you?”
        “Me? No, I’m fine. What about you?” I asked as some wine trickled down my chin, and made dark circles on my tie. “Are you going to be all right? I mean, what with all your…”
        “What do you mean? I haven’t got anything planned. We should go. You always enjoy catching up with Joe.”
        “Yes, let’s,” I said, quite pleased that life could apparently go on as normal, even though my wife had somehow become detached from her brain.
        “But what about the, uh, you know, the…”
        “What love?”
        “What about the fact that we’ve got your liver, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, brain, ovaries, gall bladder and probably one of your eyes, you know, in our freezer?”
        “Oh, don’t worry about that. I’ll get some of those lovely award-winning sausages from ‘Cashmere Cuisine’. They’re having a barbie. She says she’s got a bad back again, but it should OK after she’s been up for an hour or two.”
        I was incredulous. I didn’t know what to say. So I finished what was on my plate, and watched you dish out fruit salad. You’d peeled the grapes. I couldn’t eat them.
        By the following Thursday, you only had two fingers remaining on your left hand. There were plasters over the stumps, and I wondered how you’d managed to get them out of the little sleeves with not having two whole hands. I tried to get you to talk about what was happening.
        “Did you make an appointment to see Rangi?”
        “Rangi — what for? Do you need to get more heart pills?
        “No, I meant for you.”
        “Why would I need heart pills? I don’t have one, do I?”
        That was when I did it. I’ll be sorry for the rest of my days. I can’t bear the thought of hurting you, but I just flipped. I grabbed your shoulders and shook you, then shouted until my throat hurt. I simply wanted to reason with you, to make you go and get something done about this, this diminishing.
        By the time the police got here, I don’t know, I suppose Gerry next door must have heard the altercation, well by that time, you’d slipped through my fingers and faded into nothing.
        And I was left having to explain the contents of our freezer.

Nod Ghosh

Nod Ghosh was born in England, to parents from India. She moved to Christchurch, New Zealand in 2002. She is a medical laboratory scientist, specializing in the diagnosis of certain cancers. Her writing has been accepted by NZ publications Catalyst, Takahe, Express and Christchurch Press, as well the NZ issue of Penduline. “By the Rules” explores hypocrisy in the context of cultural constraints, based on observations of dual standards within migrant Indian society. No apologies to those who inspired this; you know who you are.

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