Please Hide My Sex Toys When I Die

"Bedside," a short story debut by Dan Ryan

Please Hide My Sex Toys When I Die

Bedside

The moment my sister dies, I must drive to her house and empty her bedside table: satin handcuffs; nipple clamps; the three-tier butt plug, like a tiny glass layer cake; the dishwasher-safe prostate wand; and an army of shimmering glass dildos. The veiny one, startling in its realism, is my favorite—as if my sister found an enchanted, well-endowed prince frozen in ice, and instead of a kiss to set him free, she broke off his dick and took it home.

“Promise me,” my sister had said when she got married and had to draw up her first will. And she made me double down when she had the baby. “Promise. If Ma finds them, it’ll kill her.”

“It will not,” I said. “Let’s say you and Darryl die—”

“Jesus!” her husband Darryl said.

“—let’s say you die in a fiery plane crash,” I went on. “Ma and I go up to your house. Ma goes into your room.” Our mother will smooth the rumpled bedspread, sniff the sheets, suck in the particle remnants of my sister from the pillowcases, the pink bras folded in the drawers. “But then,” I said, “Ma opens the bedside table. She takes out your never-ending string of anal beads. Ma finds me, rocking the baby—my baby, now that you’re dead—and holds the anal beads before her like a Christmas garland. ‘What is this?’ she will say. ‘Is this for the computer?’

“So it will be me,” I told my sister, “holding the baby, who will burn hot with your shame.”

My sister patted my hand. “Honey. We made Ma the guardian, if something happens to us. Because you’re a writer. You don’t have any money.”

“Then I’m definitely going to let Ma find the glass menagerie on her own!” I cried, and stormed out of her house—cut deep by this future she’d imagined without me.

“Probably,” I whisper to her now, “Ma already knows? Anyone with two eyes can see you and Darryl get into some weird shit.” Darryl. So tender, engorged with to-do’s he pours out on her hospital bed: pallbearers, who should read at her funeral, who should do what and when.

“Please,” he says. He’s fixed today on where she wants her ashes scattered.

But my sister is husked, bone and dry skin in her paper gown. Burn her up now, you’d get less than a thimbleful. “Oh, Darryl,” she says, “I don’t fucking know.”

I say, “We’ll put your ashes in a vial, and the baby can wear it around her neck.” 

I say, “We’ll each take a small bite of you. Ingest you. Carry you.” 

I say, “We’ll bury you with the dildos. Darryl, you’re not planning on using them again, right?” 

And when my sister finally laughs, Darryl leaves to hate me tearfully from the hallway, which is right and good.

It’s not like we don’t see it, the What Happens After. Me, holding the baby in the church when Darryl marries again. But what my sister likes is when I crawl into the bed beside her and scratch her smooth head. My nails leave thin, pink trails in her scalp. She closes her eyes.

“The dildos,” she murmurs. “Promise me.”

We see it, What Happens After the Bedside Table. We even like to gaze at it. Almost pleasant—that wide, white space after the heart stops.

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