Archive | April, 2014


30 Apr

The trouble with television programmes these days is they’re never as good as the ones you remember from years ago, and then you find a free digital channel that shows all the old stuff along with far too many ads, and it reminds you how poor your memory is and how crap that old good stuff really was, thought Saphie moodily as she sat in her little front room with a brandy at one elbow and her walking stick at the other.
What she meant was how it was no fun at all wiling your life away on your own, with not much to do and all the things you might want to choose to do that are now quite plainly impossible with an old body like hers.
Then there was that odd bloke who came up to her, out of the blue, outside the café and started telling her the most intimate secrets of his life as if he’d known her for ever.
“Rusty,” she whispered to herself, and she frowned. I know how he felt, she thought. I know what it’s like to have so much on your mind and needing someone to share it with … someone to talk it over with, someone who might just tut-tut and say I know and stuff like that…
When the phone rang she almost jumped in her chair. The phone hardly ever rang these days and when it did it was almost always her mobile. She struggled out of her chair and went into the hallway where she kept the instrument.
If whoever it is knew how difficult this is for me once I’m settled they wouldn’t ring me, she thought.
She picked up the phone and said
And the phone replied “Hello”.
And the devil of it was she thought she recognised the voice, but just couldn’t place it.
“Who’s there?” she asked
“It’s me,” said the phone.
She paused and thought.
“Who’s me?” she asked.
“We met this afternoon and you thought I was some sort of sadistic killer…”
There was humour in the voice, not mocking humour but genuine almost self-deprecating humour.
“Oh…” What was his name? “Rusty?” she asked.
“That’s me.”
“How did you know my number?”
She hadn’t told him her surname and anyway she was ex-directory. So how had he known her name.
“Have you lost anything?”
Now what’s he on about? What might I have lost? I don’t think I’ve lost anything.
“When I ran after you from the café,” he said, “it wasn’t because I wanted to scare you or anything. But you’d left something on the seat where you sat. Something that might have slipped out of your pocket.”
“I did?”
“Well, you should know.”
“Are you sure it’s mine? Someone else might have been sitting there before me and I might not have noticed what they’d left…”
“Even if it was a mobile phone with HOME amongst the contacts, and this number?” the phone said, almost mockingly.
“Oh. You mean I lost my phone?”
“I was going after you to tell you, and instead you start quizzing me about being a serial killer … so I forgot the phone until it was too late. Then I had a brainwave once I got home and decided to see if you’d left any clue about your name or address on it, but the battery was flat and it wouldn’t so much as glow! But it’s the same model as mine, an old one I mean, and my charger fitted. So I charged it up and looked amongst the contacts and there was one called HOME. In capitals! So I rang it, and here you are.”
“I lost my phone?”
“That’s what I said, I think!”
“I’m not surprised the battery’s flat. I think it needs a new one.”
“So does mine.”
“I mean, I don’t use it very often. I bought it for emergencies.”
“The same here, though the only kind of emergency I can think of is one that wouldn’t give me enough time to charge the thing up!”
“The same here.”
“So what do you want me to do with it?”
“I’ll have to see you.”
“Er … yes.”
“The café where we met?”
“I suppose so.”
“Unless you can think of anywhere else?”
“No, no, that will do.”
“I hope it hasn’t upset you.”
“What hasn’t upset me?”
“A strange man knowing your number and ringing you up!”
“No, It’s kind of you.”
“What were you doing?”
“Oh, moping about the rubbish on the telly and telling myself that the good old days weren’t really that good.”
“I was having a drink. Beer. To pluck up the courage to ring you.”
“Well, us serial killers are never quite sure how we’re going to be taken!”
“I was having a drink, too.”
“What of?”
“A little brandy. Just in case I needed the strength to talk to a serial killer!”
“What time?”
“Tomorrow. At the café. What time?”
“Eleven. I think I’ll make it by eleven.”
“I’m looking forward to it.”
“What? To giving me my phone back?”
“No, Saphie. To seeing you again.”
“An old crock like me? You must be joking.”
“I’m not,” said the phone, and there was a click as Rusty hung up.
© Peter Rogerson 10.03.14



29 Apr

Saphie was in a hurry.
The conversation she’d just concluded with the strange man in a street café had unnerved her. After all, it’s not every day that a total stranger confesses to a double murder out in the open like that. And he’d been so softly spoken, so seemingly genuine.
I guess I’m no judge of character, she thought.
“Hey! What’s the matter? Wait for me!”
It was his voice. She turned and saw him struggling towards her. Like her, he found running well nigh impossible and even walking quickly was a struggle. In one hand he struggled with a walking stick.
“I’m too old for this,” she thought, her mind racing. And she was. Nothing worked quite as well as it had, and she had a problem with one hip which threatened to crucify her if it seized.
The last thing she wanted to do was let him catch her up, and the one thing she did do was slow down and let him.
“I didn’t mean to … to shock you…” He was out of breath, like her. She looked at his face properly, for the first time since he had sat at her table in the café.
It wasn’t the face of a killer. But then, she asked herself, what kind of face does a killer have? Is is harsh, cruel, spiteful, slavering, disgusting? Is it scarred with hatred and persecution and the need for violent death?
Or is it kindly, like this man’s face?
How can you tell what a person’s like, just by looking at them?
“It would have shocked anyone, the things you said,” replied Saphie. “Telling me about all the women you’ve killed!”
“I shouldn’t have. It’s just that you looked sympathetic.”
Saphie turned to walk on, not so swiftly, not as if she was running away, yet making sure she was always walking with plenty of other people close enough to thwart anything this man might have on his mind. In one way she would have preferred it if he’d gone the other way, and in another she wouldn’t.
“f you were so happy with your first wife, why did you have to look for another?” asked Saphie, “especially one that turned out to be so unsuitable you had to kill her?”
“I was lonely, and I didn’t marry her.” The reply was simple, but she understood it. She could be lonely, too, especially since Timmy had wandered into the path of a double-decker bus.
“I know what it’s like,” she murmured.
“I could tell when I saw you sitting back there, outside the café. I just knew we’d be able to talk and I’ve got a head full of nonsense to sort through, but I suppose I talked too much.”
“It’s no good, just looking for a way out of loneliness by picking up a date and trying to make it fit your bill,” she told him. “It’s no basis for a relationship, two sad old people trying to avoid being on their own.”
He nodded. “I discovered that,” he said quietly.
“And you killed that second wife? Really killed her? Blood and gore and all that?”
He grinned at her, not a killer, nothing like that at all, she thought, puzzled.
“Not blood and gore and she’s not actually dead,” he confessed. “But she might as well be! We had a row, one hell of a row, which is something I’d not had with Connie, not once in all the years we were together. But Agatha was different! She thrived on disputes, on being cruelly critical of everything I did.
“One day she went too far. She said I was still under Connie’s thumb and that she’d been an evil so-and-so to treat me the way she had. And when you think what an angel Connie had been all those years, that hurt! Then she said, and this was the crucial bit, life would have been better for both of us if we’d met years ago! It didn’t cross her mind that for the best part of a life-time I’d loved Connie and for the worst part of half an hour I’d hated lady Agatha of the black heart!
“Anyway, I lost my temper and chased her out of the house with my walking-stick! You’ve just seen how I find rushing difficult, but I did! I never hit her with it, though I was tempted! And she ran right into the road without looking to see if there was anything coming, and, surprise surprise, there was. And, believe it or believe it not, it was a horse-drawn trap with a bloke in uniform in charge, holding the reins. Behind him a posh woman with a fancy hat was sitting as if she was Lady Muck on the way to a royal ball! And Agatha ran straight into that horse as it high-stepped along.
“A lorry or a bus might have killed her, but the horse kicked her in the head and left her in a coma. And she hasn’t regained consciousness yet, and I hope she never does! She’s as good as dead to me. That’s why I said I murdered her. If she dies it was me who chased her.”
“So you didn’t kill her?”
“As I said, it was me who chased her, me who threatened her and me who wanted her, let’s face it, dead! But no, technically it wasn’t me who killed her in the gory, bloody knife sort of way because, as yet, nobody has.”
“And what next?”
“I visit her once a week. She’s in a convalescent home where she’s fed through pipes and gets turned every day. She’s out cold, hasn’t regained consciousness once in the months she’s been there – and it has been months – and when the nurses aren’t looking I tell her exactly what kind of bitch she is, and hope she hears. They say she’ll come round – she’s not brain dead or anything like it – and I reckon she’s waiting for the right moment to open those nasty eyes of hers and start on me all over again.”
“Did you marry her?”
“That was one mistake I didn’t make. I couldn’t. But I did let her live with me, like a fool.”
“Then you can simply let her go. You’re not responsible for her, surely?”
“I guess not.” He smiled. “What about you? Are you responsible for anyone?”
“Yes,” she said. “I am. Myself. And that’s as much as I can cope with. On my own, with nobody spying on me, I can have a weepy hour if feel like it. And, you know, it’s been nice bumping into you and finding out you’re not a real killer, but I’m beginning to feel like having a good cry on my own … so, please, I’ll say goodbye.”
“If you must. Goodbye, Saphie.”
“Goodbye, then, Rusty,”
And she did something she never thought she’d do again.
Swiftly, yet with the hint of a linger, she kissed him on one cheek, and turned and walked away.
© Peter Rogerson 09.03.14



29 Apr


He said,
“I hope you don’t think I’m being forward or anything like that, but can I ask your name…?”
And she said,
“Saphie … I’m Saphie … who are you?”
He smiled a rugged sort of smile and murmured, “You can call me Rusty. It’s not my name, but everyone who matters calls me Rusty. It’s a lovely name, is Saphie.”
And she said,
“Everyone who matters?”
And that grin of his was quite contagious. “Including you,” he said so quietly only she could hear it.
And she asked,
“Then who is Rusty?”
“You want me to tell you the story of my life, and we’ve only just met?”
She smiled. “It’s a start,” she suggested.
“Well, I’m the man you see. Of a certain age, single, I’ve been single for ages if that puts your mind at ease…?
“Why should it?” she asked, a little quickly.
“Because I don’t see a ring on your finger. Because you’re sitting here with a cold cup of coffee on your own and you don’t look as if you’re waiting for someone…”
“It wasn’t cold before you came along…”
“And because I want it to be relevant,” he said, firmly. “Look, I’m no Romeo seeking a stranger to be his Juliet! I’m an ordinary bloke looking to spend a few moments with an ordinary girl…”
“I’m a bit on the geriatric side to be called a girl!”
“Ordinary woman, then.”
“I doubt there’s anyone more ordinary than me,” she sighed. “But I’ve lived, all right! And loved over the years. It’s been a good life, and now I’ve reached a sort of quiet time…”
“I had a wife, once,” he sighed. “A woman I loved. Constance she was, though she wanted me to call her Connie. She bore us two lovely children, both daughters, Jane and Angela…”
“You had a wife?” she asked when he took his first pause for breath.
“Had,” he replied, sadly. “She passed away a couple of years ago. The kids were off our hands and independent when she got ill. That was a blessing, because they didn’t have to see her die. I did, though. In a way it was a privilege…”
“A privilege?”
“You wanted the story of my life…”
“Carry on.”
“We hadn’t had a single row in all the years of our marriage, and it wasn’t because one of us kowtowed to the other but because we both seemed to think the same things and want the same things… no man could have been happier than I was, and I’m sure no woman happier than she. And when we learned she was dying, no man could have been more miserable. She never showed it though. She bore her illness almost until the bitter end with a chilling kind of calm. And when she finally found she could take no more – she was in unendurable pain – she asked me to help her on her way.”
“That’s dreadful!”
“Not at all. I didn’t have to think about it. If she wanted to end her life I wanted it as well. It was one more chapter in the harmony with which we had lived our lives throughout our marriage. And now she needed it to end. It wasn’t wanted, nothing as mediocre as that. She had a vast and chilling need, the one to die. To put an end to the unbearable in the certain knowledge that was all she had left to her – the unbearable – and that it would engulf her right up to the end, no matter how that end came.”
“This is all so sad,” she whispered. “Don’t tell me any more. It should all be so private, so personal, so nothing to do with strangers … and I’m a stranger.”
“That’s why I’m talking to you.”
“Because I’m a stranger?”
“Exactly. When I’ve finished my story, the one of my life that you asked for, you’ll know one thing about me that would send me to jail…”
“You mean, you did what she wanted?”
“You didn’t want to hear any more!”
“And you ended it for her?”
He nodded. When she looked into his face – he was too old to be called middle-aged and too young to be called old, a bit like herself, she supposed, in that limbo that used to be old age but isn’t any longer, there were tears in his eyes. He still loves her, she thought, he still finds himself thinking about her every day, dreaming about her every night, and talking to strangers about her…
“Don’t say any more,” she breathed. “I might have guessed things but you haven’t told me so I can’t point a finger and say you confessed to … to … to…”
“Murder,” he sighed, and the word was like that, like a sigh.
“Murder,” she murmured.
“It would have been murder to have let her live,” Rusty said. “It would have been the cruellest and most callous thing I or, I suspect, any man could do! What love would have been in that? What kindness? Telling her that she’d have to bear the pain, the worst of pains that even the morphine barely touched! I couldn’t do that to her! I mean, who could, if their love was deep and wonderful and all-embracing?”
She nodded, not willing to commit herself to words.
“You asked for the story of my life,” he smiled, “and that’s just a piece of it, a big precious piece, but not the whole.”
“And you’ve been on your own since then?” she asked.
He shook his head. “It took me six months to find someone else,” he muttered. “I was on the rebound all right, and she was so unsuitable I weep when I think that I ever touched her with the same fingers that had held Connie’s hands! But I did. Her name was Agatha and I curse the day I ever met her.” He sighed slowly, thoughtfully, regretfully.
“When I killed her it was murder,” he added, fiddling with a paper in front of him and almost smiling. “But then, she asked for it, thinking she could ever…” He looked with big wide eyes to her seat, where she had been sitting.
But Saphie was ten yards down the street, and moving ever more swiftly away from him.
© Peter Rogerson 08.03.14