Once the nurses shuffle out with their instruments of torture, there’s a moment of calm before the ghouls and vampires wake up. Bugsy the Bear materialises first. She stands guard at the foot of the bed, one hand jiggling my temperature chart and the other beckoning to the troupe. The spirits shimmy out from under the bed, contorting their gruesome bodies in a parody of dance.
Oh, I know what you’re thinking: it’s only a cuddly teddy bear. Who could be jollier; who could bestow more comfort on a dying man? Well let me tell you that this particular Bugsy is a right harridan who hasn’t been jolly for nigh on thirty years. And yes, I do realise it’s more a male name. That’s only one of a whole litany of failings for which my daughter rebukes me.
She springs onto the bed to recite her complaints, enunciating carefully as if to a foreigner, emphasising each crime against fatherhood with a different scowl. She’s perched where my right leg used to be and, every time she wriggles her arse, the pain shoots into my phantom toes.
I press the button on the morphine pump and the ache floats off to the outer edge. But I ought to have known the drug would have the opposite effect on Bugsy. She swells like a balloon – fat but still not jolly – to loom above me, screaming in my face like she’s softening up a detainee for interrogation: YOU MISSED MY THIRTEENTH BIRTHDAY PARTY!
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