My love for my husband died the day small parts of him began exploding in bed. I remember the first occasion vividly. It was his right big toe-nail I believe, though of course I didn’t realise that at the time. I was in the middle of an enjoyable dream about riding flying elephants which were upholstered like the interior of a luxurious car, when in my dream a shot rang out and the windscreen of the elephant shattered.
I sat up with a start. ‘Dear God!’ I exclaimed, which isn’t the kind of thing I usually say. A hole of the bore of a toilet roll tube had been blasted through the duvet, and a small fire had begun. I took the glass of water from my bedside table and splashed it over the hole to extinguish the flames.
Ron had not noticed the noise, the fire, or the explosion as far as I could tell, but the cold water seeping through his duvet onto his foot awoke him and he was grumpy.
‘Did you pour water on me?’
‘I had to. We were on fire.’
‘Please don’t pour water on me when I’m trying to sleep. It wakes me up.’
I shot him an impatient look.
‘I didn’t mean to wake you, but I had to act fast. The fire would have spread.’
‘I thought I told you to buy flame-retardant bed clothing,’ he said, as if that were relevant.
‘That’s the scarcely the point, Ron. A small part of you has exploded.’
‘Well, what do you expect?’
I pondered this for a moment. What did I expect? Well, it seemed like stating the obvious to say that I had hoped that all of his body would remain chemically, not to mention physically, stable throughout the night. I didn’t want to state the obvious, so I didn’t reply.
‘Ron, you woke me up. Some part of your foot seems to have exploded and blasted a hole through the duvet.’
‘Tell me in the morning,’ he said, and was soon once more asleep. In the morning he was more amenable. We inspected the hole, decided that my actions had been reasonable, and then inspected his foot. Ron has always had nice feet, not hammer-toed, yellow-nailed claws you see on some men in late middle age, but neither of us could pretend that the explosion of the big toe on his right foot was at all a change for the better. That said, most of the actual toe was intact, and the blackening was just charring from the blast. The nail itself would probably take a good few weeks to grow back.
‘Do you think you should go to the doctor?’ I asked him.
‘The doctor?’ he said. ‘What for?’ He could be an exasperating man on this topic.
‘Well, it’s a bit unusual isn’t it? I don’t remember any parts of me exploding at night. Certainly not enough to blast through the duvet like that.’
‘I’m sure they never have,’ he said, ‘but I still can’t imagine why we should be involving the medical profession.’
I sighed impatiently. ‘Involving the medical profession’ was the way he always put it.
‘Ron, you never want to see a doctor. They’re called doctors for a reason you know.’
I don’t know why I said that, because it didn’t make any sense. It didn’t matter, because he didn’t reply anyway.
The next few weeks passed uneventfully. Well, I say uneventfully – actually, there were a few significant domestic matters. Our pet raccoon got into the habit of urinating in the sugar when we weren’t looking, and there was a man on the lawn in the mornings, just a small one. But there weren’t any further night-time blasts.
Then came the week when I usually order the Christmas ham. I know it was that week because the shop said they weren’t taking orders yet because there had been some difficulty in sourcing them, but that they would let me know. I was worrying about it when I was dozing off, picturing arriving at the shop and banging on the locked door where the man in the shop was standing and laughing at me, gesturing at all their empty shelves. I pulled out a gun and shot him in the head.
Once more, I sat up startled.
‘Dear God!’ I said. Ron remained asleep, but I woke him up quickly.
‘Ron, look at your hand!’ I said.
He shook himself and looked at his left hand, holding it up to his face. He didn’t seem to notice anything strange.
‘What has happened to the middle part of your index finger?’ I said.
‘Oh my God,’ he said. ‘It’s gone!’
‘That doesn’t make any sense, Ron. If it exploded, how come the end is still attached?’
‘Who says it exploded?’ he said. ‘Who says?’
‘I heard a noise,’ I said. ‘It woke me up.’
‘You were just dreaming,’ he said.
‘But what are you going to do? You can’t go to work with part of your finger missing?’
‘Let’s talk about it in the morning,’ he said.
In the morning, we found the middle part of his finger, but it was in the garden, just next to the man on the lawn. The man was kind enough to pass it to me.
This time, I did manage to persuade Ron that he really should go to see a doctor.
‘But what about work?’ he said.
‘You should call in sick,’ I replied and he did, but he wasn’t happy about it.
He returned home about noon. The man on the lawn was nearly in the kitchen. Ron had had his finger fixed.
‘What did he say it was?’ I asked.
‘My finger. It needed fixing,’ he said.
‘No, you know what I mean. Why does this keep happening? Stop it, Oto!’ This last was to the raccoon, who was dry-humping Ron’s foot again.
‘Why does what keep happening?’ said Ron.
‘Small parts of you keep exploding. First your toenail, then this.’
‘This wasn’t obviously an explosion,’ he said.
‘What else could it have been?’
‘Well, I don’t know.’
‘Ron, tell me why bits of you keep exploding.’
‘Like I said, I don’t know.’
‘I know you don’t know, but does the doctor?’
‘What do you mean “Oh”?’
‘It doesn’t matter.’
‘What did he say?’
‘I didn’t ask him’
As I said, it became harder to love him after this.