'Cabin Fever' by Monica Dickson

My brother broke every plate in the house that day. Didn’t mean to scare me, just all got to him, I ‘spose. The endless prannying about with tubes and bags and contracts. Or maybe just cabin fever.

Bless.

He was always a fainter. And if he weren’t folded up with belly ache, he was puking his guts out ‘til there was nothing left to come up but bile that looked like cuckoo spit spiked with egg yolk. Enough to put anyone off their food. So he stayed in bed most days, tangled himself up in the sheets. A bag of bones and covered in sores; sticky, oval shaped, like half-sucked boiled sweets. He bruised bright greens and yellows if you pinched him.

I’ve always liked hospitals. The way everything outside stops existing. The doctors and nurses gave me Star Wars figures, explained X-rays, asked me what I thought. It weren’t just Desmond’s weird symptoms that made us interesting, it was the two of us, together – inseparable and technically identical, apart from I was thriving and he was wasting away. Our Dad used to call him ‘the runt of the litter’ and say, “Whilst Vincent, here, is the epitome of rude health”. Looking back I’m not sure he meant it in a good way. For some reason he always said it in the voice of Dick Van Dyke, which made it harder to tell.

Still; made me proud.

By the time we saw eighteen, Dad was dead. The cigs, the booze, the beatings. Go figure, as they say in America. Not much has changed, to be honest; I always was the responsible one. Like I say to the press, there are good days and bad days, he’d do the same for me, we have a special bond, yada yada. Sometimes he perks up, wants to go out but I usually persuade him it’s a bad idea. He needs his sleep. When we went to collect my Young Caregiver of the Year Award I had to give him a triple dose of sedatives just to calm him down; he can get very chatty. Gave me a chance to get a word in edgeways to be fair, those interviews are exhausting enough without having to talk over him. The cash started flooding in after that. Adapted the flat, learnt to drive, took him to Disneyland. We’ve had a bit more interest since then from the telly and agents – we’re talking misery memoir, you know the kind of thing. Working title: He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Twin Brother.

So he was upset about the book deal. I thought he’d be pleased for me, fucksake. It’s a wotsit, an anomaly, really, his little outburst but I keep a syringe handy now, just in case. And he’s strapped in the chair more or less permanently. It’s for his own good.

Bless.

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