A Little Bit of Me

Jottings and Writing, miscellanous misgivings

Archive for September, 2008

Absent from Photo

Absent from photo

“Where did Alison go?”

“She left here and then the last I heard from her was

I enter the darkened dining room by way of the public bar and some locals bitterly complaining about the well-dressed strangers who have interrupted their viewing of the NPC final. A large, unkempt woman stares at me, then, gathering her not inconsiderable bulk together, approaches me with outstretched hand. I am dumbstruck. Who is she? Was she part of my class? She tells me her name. Carol? Carol? I can’t remember any Carol. Then it comes back to me. The girl we thought was retarded. The girl who started off two years in front of us then somehow ended a year behind. The girl who cried all the time. The girl who wet herself. The girl who had fits as we, unsophisticated in the ways of medicine, looked on with disgust. Carol asks who I am. I tell her and I can see she is equally dumbstruck. She pulls me toward the series of class photos pinned to the wall above the stage.

“Show me where you are,” she demands and pushes me forward. I locate the shy, grinning figure with tie in the left of the back row.

“Oh! Yes. I can see the resemblance now. You know,” she whispers consipirationally, “I look at these photo’s at least once every week. You are coming to the 125 year celebrations in 2006, aren’t you?”

I am still deciding if I can see the evening through. I mutter something about overseas, and family and try and extricate myself from her, but she is having nothing of it.
“That’s my husband over there by himself,” she says, indicating a crumbling little, balding man with a bandaged head nursing a glass of orange. “He doesn’t say much but he is always listening. I make a vague wave in his direction but he is looking away and the moment is lost. I rudely leave Carol muttering about those absent from the celebrations, which has quite ruined the grandeur of the occasion for her.

The crowd has grown and I hear frantic calls form the organisers that we are running a few minutes late because three of the party have not yet arrived. One, Charles, was my best friend at primary school and we flatted at University for several years until some indiscretion on my part drove us apart. I have heard that he was the life of the party the previous evening and everyone is abuzz at how much he is unrecognisable from his boyhood days. I have had the same comments when I introduce myself and I can’t fathom if I have aged beyond recognition or that I was so inconsequential at school that no=one has any memory of me. I feel the same way about several of those gathered but nothing can prepare me for Charles. I am looking at a group of women standing b7ybthe dartboard and I have names for them but I cannot recall them from school days. I scan the room and there is an aged, white haired man, dwarf and clown like, laughing with a group of people I recognize as Brian, Kevin and Keith. Then, it strikes me. This must be Charles. He looks to be in his eighties. Suddenly he splits from the group, approaches me with outstretched hand. We shake hands and then he cocks a finger at me and shoots me in the head.

“Gotcha,” he says. I have absolutely no idea what he means. He talks in this strange lilting, poetic voice, but he says nothing. He repeats words of others conversations and then smiles knowingly.

Now the organiser has taken centre stage and he loudly announces we are to have a roll call. A roll call for Christ sake! This is just like school. We are instructed to stand and say ‘here’ when our names are called. My mind flashes back to primer three and the scenario’s I constructed when someone’s name was accompanied by an ominous silence. Had he been beaten by his father again? Had she wagged school to go fishing with her dad? Had he been taken ill again and he was now in the emergency room of the local doctors”

“Roy Armitage”

An ominous silence, then a voice announces, “Deceased”

There is a murmur among us all. Roy is the only one we think has died although several have not been able to be tracked down.

“Jane Brindle”

“Did not return any calls or letters. Living close by – reclusive.”

There are further murmurs and some tittering from the women by the dartboard. It is starting to come back to me now. Jane had been ruthlessly teased, and by this group of women in particular. And that fat man in the glasses over by the bar had assaulted one of the other girls, and been suspended for a month. Yet they are all standing around, on their best behaviour as if we had had such a happy childhood. Charlie looks at me after his name has been read out and murmurs,

“This was a great place to grow up in. I have such fond memories.” I recall that he left as soon as humanly possible and my recollection is that I followed in his footsteps.

I suddenly realise that I don’t have anything in common with any of these people. I grew up with them, spent six or seven formative years with them, more with some of them. But, we have outgrown each other. They have new sets of friends, partners, children, families. We really are quite different.  I am absent from this photo.


Harold Caustic Jokes

Harold’s Caustic Jokes

Harold’s caustic jokes always made Ruth feel uncomfortable but others just laughed. Even when Ruth cried they followed Harold’s lead and told her she was supersensitive, to grow up, get a life.

One day Harold, one day. This will all come back to haunt you.

There he stands, resplendent in his red and white nylon jacket, his receding hairline still has some ways to go to total baldness. He grins often. His Nikes are huge and he wears them so that his athletic socks are prominent. His stone washed denims are now almost white. His camera – a Pentax – hangs like a trophy around his neck. His Honda SLK900 is parked in the outer circle of motorbikes and matches his clothing. He smiles as he crouches and asks his favourite rider to smile and pose whilst he snaps him.

There is a little bit of the homoerotic in you Harold.

“Get out of the background Ruth. You’ll break the bloody lens.” Harold laughs aloud at his little joke.

Snap, snap, snap. He has the multi-shot motor on. He grins around the corner of the viewfinder at his hero.

“How about sitting astride the beast Gordon?”

Gordon obliges and Harold click, click, clicks.

But I love and need Harold. He makes me feel whole. Most of the time anyway. When his vitriolic urges are at a low ebb.

I’ll tell you a little about myself. I’m tall and attractive. I know this to be a truth, although Harold does his best to deny this fact. I am a little overweight but nothing a week’ diet wouldn’t fix. I wear yellow a lot. It sets off my strawberry blond hair and I read that it’s my color. My Mum always said that I was a little slow. I think she meant that I talked and walked slow, not that I was retarded or anything. I haven’t done as well as my brother and two sisters. My older sisters are both doctors and my brother is an architect and I ended up working in a factory, then as a model. Then I met Harold and we got married. Harold is between jobs at the moment. For a large part of our marriage Harold has been between jobs. He doesn’t stick at things for long. Harold gets bored easily. Me, I have been in the same job since I married Harold. I work as a pharmacy assistant. Pharmacy assistant; it has a nice ring to it and the job is interesting. Not only do I pharmacy assist but I do all the bookwork for Dr Lewis. Dr Lewis is the pharmacist and he is the sort of man that I should have ended up with. But he probably sees me as the slow, stupid Ruth-person who does her routine job adequately. He doesn’t see me for who I really am. Neither for that matter, do I.

It would be easy to steal some drug or another from the potpourri of those on offer that are untraceable. Dr Lewis has explained the ones that do it. It would be easy to smuggle some out and then drip feed it to Harold. No one need know. No one would detect it.

“Come on Ruth-shake a leg. Always lagging behind. We have a party to go to.”

I could feel my rage rising. Remember the calming, self-nurturing statements.

I was reading about a woman who went through with her rage against (in this case) her former husband. After unsuccessfully trying to run him down, as he stood at a bus-stop, for the second time, she took out a ‘hit’. Basically she asked her associates to break her ex-husbands legs. They took her instructions quite liberally and beat her husband so severely with a car jack that seasoned plastic surgeons threw their collective arms into the air.

So at the party I start out feeling confident. Harold leaves me as soon as we get there. Funny how he always gets together with his mates and they drink beer and laugh at their own jokes, then he collects me at the end of the evening, to ride home on the back of his bike, clinging, my arms around his waist, caressing him. I start talking to one of the men who doesn’t mix with the boys and the words just flow out of me like a leaking tap. I sound confident and I can hear my own voice echoing back. But I can see the light go out in his eyes.  Next, I am running up to the second floor bathroom where I sit crying, where Harold finds me and asks me what the hell are you blabbering about now Ruth? And I can’t tell him. I just don’t know.

One day Harold. One day I will be articulate and confident. One day I will be able to put my thoughts into words. One day Harold.

Then we are back at the house and Harold is alternatively amorous and sarcastic. I have to be careful how I act, as Harold can be nasty when he has alcohol coursing through his body. He has hit me when my silences have annoyed him. The word is probably beaten. Black eyes, bruised ribs, a broken finger, a lost tooth.

But tonight he is more interested in sex and sleep, although he falls asleep before the sex and I am left lying there in the dark. Thinking. Thinking and planning.

One day Harold.

I dream that I am flying. One minute I am at the top of Burns St and walking down the hill, watching the children making their way to school on the opposite side of the street. The next, I am two, maybe three feet, off the ground and my arms are out at my sides. I soar over the footpath and the road, and then I am far above the ground and over the playing field that borders the school and I am banking, then climbing and the people are so small, way down there. I thought it would be cold. I had been told that as you got higher you got colder but I got warmer and warmer. Then I am out over the sea and gaining height as I cross the harbour and toward the hills that are like voluptuous women. Down into gullies of armpits and up to peaks of breast and long ridges of sensuous arms or thighs. And then I am in a house that I recognise as a house that appears in many of my dreams. It bears features of houses I have lived in., in past times. But there are extra rooms that are never lived in. And spaces in cellars and attics. Mysterious places. And I am climbing stairs to one of those places and whispering to myself that it will be all right.

“Wake up. Ruth. Wake up. You’re talking in your sleep. Wake up for Christ sake. Are you mad or something?”

Oh Harold your hands are so versatile. The same hands that can stroke and knead and penetrate and bring such pleasure are now pinching and prodding and bringing pain. Now that fist is drawn back and a blow hits me so hard on the side of the head that for a moment I don’t realise that I am on the floor. Your feet prodding and pushing me and now savagely kicking, kicking. The pain so real and I scream for you to stop and then I strangle my scream because that just gets you more exited and your kicking more frenetic. And I crawl up into a little ball to present a smaller target and maybe stop you but your cries of frustration portend another flurry of fists around my head, my neck, and my ears. And then you are screaming, foul words at me. Telling me how useless I am. Telling me how mad I am. Telling me what a waste of time I am. Then I hear nothing but the sound of your motorbike disappearing into the still morning.

Nothing that a little makeup and dark glasses will fix. Dr Lewis is too nice to make an open comment about my left eye when I do remove the glasses but he does suggest some cream to reduce the swelling. He looks concerned but you quickly discover when you appear with bruises a lot, that people don’t ask too many questions. Their eyes seem to concentrate on other parts of your face unless you turn quickly and catch them staring at the eye or the cheek. The trouble was that I couldn’t hear to well every time someone was on my right side. The one that Harold had hit as his frenzied attack run its course. The ringing stopped about midafternoon but sounds were strangely muffled and mixed up. As he left Dr Lewis squeezed my arm and kind of grimaced a smile. That would be the closest he would come to any acknowledgement of what had possibly happened.

Harold was there when I arrived back. He acted as though nothing had happened. Maybe it was all in my head but then when I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror I could see that it wasn’t. The blood was still visible along the rim of the basin where I had hurriedly cleaned myself up.

“This place is like a bloody pigsty. That bathroom is in bad need of a clean.”

I am tempted to make the obvious reply but I know it will only lead to a more painful response than last nights. Yet I want to. Some part, deep inside of me, wants to bring this thing to an end. But I hold my tongue. How can he sleep with me? How can he pretend that nothing has happened? I know, yet I do not know.

He was so tender. As if his lovemaking was some grim apology for the wrong he had done to me. Or was it the sight of my swollen lips and eye that excites him? I wake in the morning and he is already gone. I find the bathroom steamy and dirty from his early morning ablutions. Towels and underwear are strewn from wall to wall. Toothpaste and thick curly facial hair stick to the sides of the handbasin. As if a feral animals message left to mark his territory.

I try to concentrate at work but my head is pounding. I have been learning to use the Internet and all that staring into the screen has set me off. Dr Lewis says that I am a fast learner. Old slow me.  I ask Dr Lewis if he can do without me and he tells me to go home and have a nice rest. I arrive home just after two and Harold is not there. He must have just left because I can see that the door to his study is open and his computer blinks away in the corner. I have never been allowed in here as this is Harold’s sanctuary and he usually keeps it locked up. I go over to the computer and what I see on the screen takes my breath away. I feel a cold pain in my chest and my first thought is to get out of there. He has been on the Internet and part way through a session, which he has terminated, presumably to go out, but the page is still there for all to see. Pornography of a type which is sickening. Why women would allow themselves to be exploited like this I don’t know. Then an idea forms in my head but I have to be quick if it is going to work. My head is still pounding and my heart racing but I sit down in front of the flickering screen and go to work. Harold is running a program called Gator, which makes my task easy. It records passwords and credit card details so I type in paedophile and hit the search button. Soon I have a list of sites which promise streaming video of boys and girls. I punch in Gator and soon I have downloaded several files onto Harold’s hard drive. I then compose a message to Harold’s motorcycle and photography distributions lists and email the sites to them.  I then hit the history button and restore the original file and slip out of the room before Harold returns. If my plan works the people who monitor the Internet for this type of thing will be jumping for joy. I can only guess what his friends’ reactions will be. I am just downing a couple of aspirins when Harold walks in. Just in time. He growls at me

“What are you doing home in the middle of the day?”

I whisper that I have a headache and I am going to bed. He doesn’t seem too concerned and says “I don’t know how you can have a headache when there is nothing in there to cause any pain”, and grins at his little joke.

One day Harold and its going to be very soon. I know from reading the paper what they do to paedophiles in jail.

I wake up in a daze. I can hear pounding on the door and I hear Harold yelling out that he is coming. I must have slept through the night because it’s a morning light that shines through my window, I hear Harold working the bolts on the door then a voice.

“Inspector Tony Ryall-Vice squad. This is a warrant to search your premises for objectionable material. Where do you keep your computer.”

Harold splutters a reply but I can hear the bravado go from his voice as he unlocks the computer room.

That’s how I got my revenge on Harold. They found those pictures of those little boys and girls and despite Harold’s protestations that he didn’t know anything about them and that he wasn’t in to that sort of thing they carted him off. You see he was so foolish to say that the room was always locked and he really didn’t think I was capable of outthinking him. He was sentenced to nine years and I didn’t even visit him. I heard that Harold had a hard time of it those first few months in prison. I heard that Harold wasn’t making so many caustic little jokes anymore and that he had become quite respectful of other people opinions.

Apron Pocket

Apron Pocket

Moira looked around her little room.  Centerstage, a small two bar electric fire pumped out a pathetic amount of dry heat. To the right of that was Ted’s chair. His slippers lay discarded under the right side; the seat was stacked with newspapers. Next to that was his favourite leather ottoman. She looked around the rest of the room. Bare, except for her ironing board and her haven, the sofa. Had she finished the ironing? She looked to the back of her at the other meager sticks of furniture. They were scattered with little notes and reminders of what she had already done and what still needed to be done. Far away, at the back of her mind, she knew there was some system to all the different colors of the notes but she couldn’t dredge it up. She shuffled over to the armrest of the sofa and picked up the beige colored note.

Put thermostat on electric fire to 60 at 2.00pm.

She looked at the fire and the clock. Fire said 80 and the clock now read – what was that number? Twenty past two or ten past four? Her eyesight was getting worse but then she couldn’t remember when it was better. Nonsense! Of course she could. She remembered standing on the foredeck of the InterIsland ferry and being the first to spot the gap that was to turn out to be the entrance to Tory Channel, when she and Ted were returning from their North Island holiday. She scrunched the beige note up and put it in the pocket of the apron that she now wore night and day. She felt the jagged surface of many other notes but could not remember when they had been put there. She looked over at the occasional table, unpolished and blemished by the sunlight. A yellow note.

Ring store and order week’s groceries. Don’t forget the toilet paper – two rolls.

She wondered who had written that. She did not recognise the handwriting. It was small, spidery, and halfway through the note seemed to take on a life of its own and angled down the side of the page.  There was a knock on the door and she instantly felt a stab of pain in her chest. Who could that be? She wasn’t expecting anyone. Was she? The knock sounded again. What should she do? Was there a note that would tell her? Maybe it was Ted. Back from – back from where? She hadn’t seen Ted for a couple of days. He had gone out to that shed of his and hadn’t come for the meal that she cooked. She remembered something about the meal then it disappeared from her mind. The door sounded again, the knocking a little more frantic and a plaintive call.

“Mrs White, Mrs. White. Yoo-Hoo! Mrs White. Hospital visitor”

Moira in better times

Oh well! That was all right then. Hospital workers were good. Usually. She shuffled to the door and pried back the bolt that Ted always told her not to pull until she heard the knock. Two long, two short, then a pause and another quick knock. Their secret code.

She pulled the door open to be confronted by a dumpy little women with wild, red hair.

” Good afternoon, Mrs White. I am Janet. I’m the OT, ummhh Occupational Therapist from the hospital. I’m here for your assessment,” the women said proudly, pointing to her badge and nameplate.

Assessment. Assessment. She didn’t want any assessment. What she wanted was Ted and someone to do the shopping she had obviously forgotten to do.

“You remember – well you may not remember – but Andrew our Social Worker visited you last week and the two of you arranged for me to come this afternoon,” the red haired worker from the hospital said merrily.

Afternoon. What had happened to the morning? She thought she had only been out of bed a few hours. Ted will have missed his breakfast. Out in that damn shed of his. He spent more time there than he did in the house. Her mother had told her that. Marry a tall man, she had said, and keep your children taller than you. You are a small woman, and need a taller man. What was that to do with Ted? Oh yes! She had said something else about providing a good home and food and your man will always be there for you rather than down the pub like her own father had been.

“Can I come in?” the dumpy little woman said, firmly placing her foot across the threshold.

Moira didn’t like this new development. The woman had taken a look around her kitchen and thrown a couple of cupboard doors open. They were all empty. Moria didn’t know how they had got like that. Why! She had food this morning when she got out of bed. Didn’t she? She couldn’t remember and now the woman was looking at all the notes scattered around the kitchen and pulling open the door to the oven. Inside were the blackened remains of something that moved, something white and shifting. The woman reeled back, gave a little cry, and put her hands over her nose.

“Mrs White! What happened here? This meat is  – contaminated.”

Moira looked into the oven and indeed there was a moving mass of maggots in the oven on what looked to be a fine piece of Texel lamb. When had she cooked that? Why hadn’t Ted had any? The woman looked at her and pulled a sheaf of notes from her bag.

“It says here that Andrew, our social worker, was concerned that you may not be coping at home after your discharge from the hospital. He asked me to come and do an assessment of your living quarters but, frankly, I don’t see the need. These notes, and this (she indicated with a wide sweep of her hand, the kitchen, the bare hall, the dirty walls, the empty cupboards) tells me what I want to know. What’s been happening here?”

Moira spluttered and felt like crying but she knew that wasn’t going to help her case. Hospital! She had been in a hospital?

“I’ll get my husband Ted. Ted is out in the garage. He will know.”

Moira shuffled to the door and disappeared. The occupational therapist glanced down the corridor and saw several doors leading off the main access. She walked down and glanced, in turn, into each room. They were bare. Just bare boards, torn wallpaper, fly-strewn windows, and cracked glass. No furniture, nothing. She heard a noise from the side of the house. She retraced her steps and went through the door she had seen Moira exit.

A large wooden garage, that had seen better days, leaned drunkenly in an overgrown patch of grass. She pushed the door open. Moira stood in the center of the dirt floor in animated conversation with herself. Her arms moved to emphasise to an imaginary Ted the predicament she found herself in with this hospital worker in her house, criticising her homemaking, making her life miserable. Moira berated her husband for spending so much time in his shed and for not eating his meal that she had taken so much time to prepare. What was wrong with the man?

The Occupational Therapist took Moira by the arm and gently led her back to the living room. Moira watched as she flipped open her cellphone and started the process that would forever separate Moira and her former life.

Moira jerked awake in her chair. She had fallen asleep again and no-one had thought to draw a blind or gently wake her and direct her to a bed. The hot summers afternoon sun had dried her mouth and her tongue felt heavy and dry. She searched her mind as to where she was and what she could do to make herself feel better. A woman in a blue uniform descended on her.
“Moira Asleep again? I don’t know girl? I swear you sleep more than half the day.”

Moira looked at her. Did she know this woman? What was it she had said? Something about Ted? Where was he?

The woman started fussing around her and Moira flicked at her, as if she were some troublesome fly.

“Now don’t you be getting violent on me now,” the woman said, standing back and crossing her arms. “You know what will happen if you lay a hand on me.”

Who was this stranger and why had she moved all the furniture? Where was Ted’s chair, and the ironing?

Moira was suddenly aware that she was not in her own little home. This was much grander. Maybe she was on holiday with Ted. She always liked their little holidays. They had traveled the world and, oh – she remembered the rooms, the hotels, the food, and the wine.

“It’s tripe and onions tonight. Again,” whispered a decrepit looking man reclined in a wheelchair next to her. A weak, watery fart punctuated his pronouncement.
” They give us the offal and they eat the prime cuts,” he whispered again, raising his eyebrow as if in anticipation that Moira would continue the conversation, or something more sinister.

Moira turned away and thought about fine champagne and faraway places

Moira looked up at the round face man with the bushy eyebrows as he leaned over her and talked in a loud, slow voice.

“You’re an interesting case my old love,” he started, and Moira could see a spot on his neck where he had missed shaving.

“One of the nurse here is doing some postgraduate study and she recognised some of your symptoms and knew of my research interest.”

Moira looked for more signs of general sloppiness. She could see that he trimmed his nose and ear hairs. Probably vain or homosexual. She wrinkled up her nose trying to smell him. What was he saying?

“We took the liberty of looking up your old hospital records and they seem to accord with what Jenni was observing.”

What the hell was this little pansy telling her now.

“We would like to try a surgical procedure that would reverse what has been going on with you. Thing is, we need consent and in your present state you are not able to give informed consent. Is there anyone – family or such – who could do that?”

Moira was becoming frustrated. Despite not liking tripe and onions much she was feeling very hungry.

“When do we eat?” she asked.

The round face doctor stood up and looked at the assembled students and nurses surrounding Moira’s chair.

“Times like this we have to take the bull by the horns so to speak and just use our prerogative and go ahead. It’s a relatively harmless operation. Simple neurosurgery and there’s a seventy five percent chance that the patient,” he indicated toward Moira who had fallen back asleep when a meal had not materialized, “will have a full and complete recovery and will be cognitively 100%.”

The students murmured and shuffled, trying to convey their enormous respect for this eminent savior of lives.

The room was dark, green, and reeked of stale tobacco. The bright morning sun strained to penetrate the heavy venetian blinds. Moira sat in an overstuffed armchair, a small occasional table at her right hand side, and lit another Camel. Recently released from hospital she was entertaining. Despite the formal dress she still wore her old apron. The young psychologist was here on a follow up visit to assess her level of independence and mental state after she had been hospitalized for three months. A peculiar neurological condition that surgery had reversed but left her unable to take solid food. There was some suspicion that Moira had slowly been starving herself to death and the young psychologist was here to ascertain if such a thing was likely to happen again.

He had just returned from a study visit to the United States of America and the room reminded him of the coloring in baseball stadiums he had visited there. He had become rather fond of the game and, in particular, the razzmatazz that surrounded them. Moira gave him permission to smoke and between the two of them, and the filtered light, the room soon became streaked with searchlights of smoke and dust. The young psychologist had bought a chocolate cake that he had baked that very morning because he knew Moira adored chocolate cake. He remembered when they had first met. He was on his way to the physiotherapy room and in order to get there he had to pass through the day room. There, sitting in a darkened corner, was a tall, gaunt woman, dressed in green and black. She was looking at the darkened screen of a television set. The young psychologist seated himself beside her and noted that she was crying.

“Is there something I can do for you?” he asked.

“I wanted to watch the tennis on the television but the charge nurse said that it would disrupt the other patients at breakfast. She said that television was a privilege and, unless I started eating I could not watch television,” Moira tearfully explained. The young psychologist explained that ward rules were ward rules but he would have a talk to the charge nurse and see if some compromise could be reached.

He returned a half hour later after ascertaining that Mrs. White’s primary problem was not eating, but depression, and that a little morning tennis might be the impetus to get her up and about again. Moira cheered up immediately and for the next few mornings she sat in front of the television and ate her mashed up baby-food. Gradually she emerged from her depression, graduated to chocolate cakes, and told the young psychologist tales of her life as an airline hostess, a television personality, a cooking presenter, a private investigator, and businesswomen. Then she talked of the men in her life and it became obvious to the young psychologist why Mrs. Moira White had been depressed.

Now they sat companionably together in this darkened room, in this deserted house, in this distant suburb, in this city at the bottom of the world, and Mrs. Moira White told the story of her men. As she talked she slowly moved toward a pile of photograph albums and diaries stacked on the floor, in the dark, out of sight. As she moved she fumbled in her apron pocket and withdrew a delicate dusting cloth. She carefully lifted the topmost album and, still talking to her new companion, started to brush away the detritus of decades.

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A shortened Life

I may be bad but I do have my pride. I wait in the room off from the main court and I can hear my cellmate telling his pathetic story.

“Yes I did it but money was tight and I were waiting for pay day”. What he failed to tell the assembled jury and the judge was that payday was his weekly benefit payment. My cellmate, confidant, friend, fellow criminal hadn’t worked a day in his life and thought that society owed him his weekly payout. I hadn’t sunk that low. Yet.

I don’t want to blame this thing on my upbringing, which is becoming another easy way out. Oh! I was beaten, abused, —– (you fill in the blanks) by my mother, father —— (you fill in the blanks), precedes every plea for leniency, understanding these days. I had a dream childhood, Raised by people who turned down the volume on life. They were wonderfully dull people whose only fault was that they kept saying to me ” we don’t know where you came from”. This was their way of avoiding talking about creepy sex things but I came to take it as though they were desperately trying to tell me I was adopted. There was this little girl down the road who they consipirationally whispered to me was “adopted” and I used to wonder if they were trying to tell me something. It was all cosy fire, calendars from tire companies, and ‘preservers’ on the best couch so my grandfather wouldn’t dirty them up like the last one we only had for fifteen years and it looked like a rubbish dump.

I can hear a voice. I can’t work out whether it’s male or female but it’s calling to me. Dimbie, Dimbie, it says. That’s what I used to be called by my brothers and sisters when I was little. Then the lights dull then pulse until they are so bright, so clear, and so white. Then a mans voice but I can’t hear what he is saying. I see the knife and I hear his voice then Dimbie, Dimbie and then laughing. Do they want me to do something with the knife? I hear the laughing and then it goes dark and then its like a searchlight has focussed on this knife. Yes! They want me to do something with the knife.