Here’s another short story written a while ago now as part of an assignment. If you like my work please comment, folllow or share.
Have you ever wished that you could somehow go back in time and change the events that had caused you pain? I know I have. How I wish that, like the characters dreamt up by HG Wells, I could be transported to a time where I could influence, and change for the better, those events that have brought me to this place. But of course that is just fantasy. However, we all have the ability to time travel but in this case we are just passive observers of an event that refuses to budge from our memory and because of this we are forced to relive our worst nightmares with no chance of ever changing a thing. And I can’t change what happened that day.
It was your usual, quite boring, Sunday afternoon. Mary sat in the armchair watching the omnibus edition of Eastenders while I had my feet up on the sofa crouched in such a position so I could access my toenails that were in dire need of clipping. I steadily worked across each toe, unwary off Mary’s annoyance, but sensed something was not right with my wife of forty years. Forty years? It’s hard to believe that two people could stay together for so long and yet we had. There was a time when we had been besotted with each other, when passion was all that mattered. Over the years, though, we had grown accustomed to each other rather like one gets used to the weeds in his garden because he cannot be bothered to remove them and so sees those pesky dandelions as bright yellow flowers instead. Do forgive the analogy, but it does seem fitting for now. Of course I still loved her and I believe, in her all little way, she still loved me. I always called her “my little pleasure” on account she was much smaller than I and the fact she always had the knack of making me feel happy with myself. However we’d both changed over the years, most specifically in our appearance but that’s what you would expect from ageing. Gone now were the smooth angular features of the lady I originally fell in love with, now replaced by skin so wrinkled she looked like a relief map of the Grand Canyon. Mind, I’d fared only slightly better though I still liked to think I was handsome. The women at work often remarked how good looking for my age I was. Despite the flattery, and the often romantic gesture, I was fixed to Mary for eternity though, admittedly, there was a time that wasn’t so. That was my only mistake and one we vowed to never talk about again. She could be very forgiving could my Mary, and loving.
Today, however, she seemed different, like nothing could ever please her and when she let out a long sigh through gritted teeth and angrily looked in my direction I knew that an argument was brewing.
‘ Do you have to do that John?’ She asked.
‘ What? It’s not bothering you is it?’ I replied somewhat jokingly as if trying to lighten the mood.
‘ You’re just being a bastard today aren’t you?’ Now Mary swearing was very uncommon as she detested that kind of language so I immediately knew something was eating away at her causing her to act differently.
‘ Are you okay Mary, you don’t seem yourself today.’
‘Oh I’m not the one with the problem,’ she remarked while glaring at me through angry, though strangely frightened eyes. It was as if she seemed fearful of herself and what she was saying. ‘I hate you, do you hear me, I fucking hate you.’ Another swear word and one Mary would certainly never use. Whatever was wrong, I had to try and placate her.
‘Mary, my dearest Mary, whatever I’ve done, I’m sorry.’ I placed the nail clippers down and reached out to her across the sofa, grabbing her hand tenderly. ‘Is there anything I can do for you, a cup of tea, anything?’ And there, right before my eyes, she changed. Recognition came back into her eyes and she smiled a toothy grin, revealing an unsightly chip in the teeth of her poorly made dentures.
‘Oh a cup of tea would be lovely. Would you like me to make it?’
‘No, that’s okay, you just sit there love while I make it for you.’ I rose and went to the kitchen to make the tea. ‘ Would you like anything to eat, my dearest?’
‘ I said would you like something to eat?’
‘ I’m not going to eat your bloody food, you’ve probably poisoned it anyway. Always trying to get rid of me you are, I know your game.’ I placed down the spoon I was holding and sighed. How could she change so quickly? Just what the hell was going on with my wife? I turned and noticed her standing at the door, a look of rage upon her face. ‘ I’ll get rid of you before you get rid of me you good for nothing, evil bastard.’ She was standing aside the kitchen work bench on top of which were various kitchen utensils one being a rolling pin. The thought never crossed my mind that my dearest Mary, my little pleasure, would ever think to do anybody any harm but as she reached for the rolling pin a feeling of dread overwhelmed me and for the first-time in living memory I feared, not only for my life, but for Mary’s too.
‘Mary, put the rolling pin down. There’s a good girl. Let’s have a nice cup of tea and go and sit down and watch the rest of East Enders.’ My calm, though nervous voice, failed to stop Mary as she raised the rolling pin above her head, I panicked and shouted, ‘ Mary put the fucking rolling pin down.’ Even I was beginning to use words I rarely tolerated but at this she seemed to come back to her senses and looked at me still strangely lost. Tears began to form in her eyes and she started sobbing.
‘ Oh John, what am I doing? I..I don’t feel well. Perhaps I’d better go and lie down.’ She turned to go back into the living room with the rolling pin still in her hands. I walked up behind her and placed my hands upon her shoulders and gave them a gentle rub.
‘Don’t worry Mary, we’ll find the answer. It’s just one of those days for you, it is a strange affair.’ That word seemed to cause something in Mary to revert to a state of unforgiveness and anger. She turned and glared at me with those eyes that were becoming all too familiar on this particular day.
‘ You had to bring that up. You had to bring that trollop up.’
‘ What you mean Mary? I never said…’
‘ I was right, you are a bastard, you’ve always been a bastard. Why don’t you go back to her? It’s what you’ve always wanted. But no, she’s too bloody good for you, I’m too bloody good for you.
‘ Mary, this is all in the past, it was twenty years ago.’ Once again I tried to calm her, to bring her back to the present, to bring my Mary, my little pleasure, back. ‘ We’re here now Mary, together as we always said we would. Come on now Mary, let’s settle down.’ Suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my upper left arm, at first confused as to what had caused it. I looked at Mary and then at my arm just to make out the shape of the rolling pin moving back ready for a second attempt. The second hit was worse than the first and I felt bones being broken. Searing pain shot through my arm and I began to feel nauseous as I struggled to cope, not only with the obvious feeling of pain, but with the confusion and bewilderment at what had just happened. I tried to fight back the tears, not caused by the injury, but by the loss of the woman whom I still loved and who now seemed lost to me. She swung back ready for another assault and I knew I had to do something to stop this strange woman taking my life. Instinctively, as her arm swung toward me, I made a grab for the rolling pin and fighting through obvious discomfort I succeeded in stopping my wife from hitting my arm for a third time. However she was surprisingly strong for a woman who always professed to not being physically strong throughout her life. We both struggled for control of the rolling pin but somehow I twisted my arm in such a position that Mary was forced to let go and the rolling pin fell to the floor. This however only caused to enrage her even more and I knew at this point, though I know not how, that I would never get my little pleasure back again, that she was gone forever. Still in this fit of rage Mary flailed her arms at me hitting me across the face. Again I tried to get the better of her and somehow calm her down. I grabbed both her arms, while gritting my teeth to hold back the pain searing down my left shoulder. She made a final push for me to break free but I lent my weight against her and pushed her backwards.
What happened next is still a blur in my memory and yet it does seem now that everything happened in motion so slow that even now I am able to pick out features of the mantelpiece, the way the ornaments were positioned on the fire surround, the way the little drummer boy figurine was facing the window because Mary always believed he was happier facing the sunshine when it shone through our window. I noticed little incidental things like small tidy cobweb that had appeared on the underside of the mantelpiece from which a small spider merrily swung. I remember the strangest things but I don’t remember Mary hitting her head upon the hearth.
I do remember, however, the blood that appeared from the gaping wound at the side of her head. It formed a puddle that mixed with the ash and dust from the fireplace and circled around the little drummer boy covering the base with blood.
They said it was some kind of dementia, some frontal lobe thingy. Even now I’m not sure. There’s not a day that goes by where I fail to relive those events and try to figure out just what was going on. It doesn’t matter though because even knowing what was going on in Mary’s head doesn’t change the fact that I killed her, that I took the life of my little pleasure. For that I deserve punishment which today will come. For I now face a stairway, leading not to heaven but up to hell itself, to judgement. I climb each step, drawing closer to my fate knowing that in the clear box above I will receive the punishment so justly deserved. I’m conscious of the creaking beneath my feet made by the wooden steps and I begin to think of the countless many who have walked these stairs to await the final verdict. Did they, like me, feel frightened at the prospect, yet strangely satisfied that this was the right course of action under the circumstances? Did they, like me, feel the guilt bearing upon them that was greater than any punishment man or justice could ever dish out onto a guilty soul? Somehow I doubt it. How many have climbed these stairs only to mock justice itself?
When I reach the top I look around at the people gathered in court room. Below me I could see my barrister sitting to my right while on my left I could see the counsel for the prosecution who, to be honest, hadn’t really had much to do during the court procedures over the last few months. I had gone guilty at the earliest opportunity hoping it would at least relieve some of the pain I felt. That had not worked for I still carried it as a painful reminder of that sad day. Looking behind and slightly above me I could make out those who had come to witness the spectacle of justice being played out. Some faces I recognised one of which was Mary’s older sister, Joyce, who looked back at me with contempt. Sat next to her, with a similar look, was the person I was most surprised to see. We’d not spoken for years because of a family tiff that had caused a chasm between my daughter and I. She had more reason to hate me now. There was a call of ‘ all rise’ from the court usher and everybody including myself rose respectfully as the judge entered the courtroom. Once he sat we were then allowed to. The judge asked me to rise which I did and he began to pronounce his sentence for me.
It was as expected and as I climb back down those stairs I contemplate once more the journey that had brought me here. Manslaughter they called it, but I always felt that it was a cold word that somehow did not do justice to what had really happened. But whatever one wants to call it I know that what happened was the death of my pleasure, the end of pleasure. Ironically I now begin a new journey, one that now is at the pleasure of someone else. They call it “Her Majesty’s Pleasure”, HMP, for that is where my foreseeable future lies.
(c) R L Dell 2016