Archive | June, 2017

A BITTER THORN

20 Jun

Trixie Pixielot was dancing.

There was nothing she liked doing better than dancing, and she told herself that if she always danced like she did she would never grow old and die. Trixie Pixielot didn’t want to die. Who does?

Then, one day, she trod on a sharp thorn that someone had left sticking out of the forest floor and it penetrated all the way through her foot, and she stopped dancing. There can be few things more painful than sharp thorns penetrating all the way through feet … at least, that’s what Trixie-Pixielot decided as tears flowed down her pretty pink cheeks and splashed onto the ground until they made a great big salty puddle.

“With all this pain” she whimpered to herself, “I can’t dance at all. I can’t waltz or foxtrot or even jive. My foot hurts so terribly badly.”

“What might be the problem, Trixie Pixielot?” asked a sudden and unexpected voice from a thicket behind an old oak tree. “For you’re not dancing and it doesn’t look like you when your feet are still and your smile is gone.”

“It’s s thorn, Hoggy-hog” she moaned, recognising the voice, “a long and vicious thorn that someone has left sticking out of the forest floor, and it has penetrated all the way through my poor little foot, and I’ll never dance again!”

Hoggy-hog stepped out from his thicket. He looked so much like a muddy pig that there could be no doubt that’s what he was, a muddy, dirty, smelly, perfectly unhygienic, pig with a really kindly face.

“Let me see,” he commanded, and she did.

She slipped off her pink and pearl dancing slipper and showed her wounded foot to Hoggy-hog, and in all honesty it looked dreadful. Even he thought it looked dreadful, and he went pale. It was inflamed like a fiery furnace and blood dribbled everywhere exactly like blood can when there’s a hole in a foot. When Trixie-Pixielot saw the mess that had been a perfectly good dancing foot as recently as mere minutes ago she wept even harder and gnashed her pretty teeth and banged her blonde head on the trunk of the old oak tree until she had an absolutely unpleasant headache.

“Is that all?” asked Hoggy-hog.

“Isn’t it enough?” wept Trixie-Pixielot. “Just look at my poorly foot, Hoggy-hog and you’ll see that I’ll never dance again, and if I can’t dance I might as well die here and now, just here!”

“I wouldn’t do that,” advised Hoggy-hog with a nervous smile, “it’s against the law, dying on this path in this perfect piece of woodland! If I were you, Trixie-Pixielot, if I was intent on dying I’d do it at home. There are all sorts of ways you can do it at home, though my favourite, if it’s any help, would be a good sharp blade in the gizzards. That would work, that would. It would make you deader than a very dead thing, and we’d all turn out to mourn you and your poorly foot…”

“But it might hurt!” interrupted Trixie-Pixielot, “It might hurt very badly indeed, and I’ve already got enough hurt in my wounded foot to last me a century or more!”

“Then there are toxins,” nodded Hoggy-hog, “though they’d do the job good and proper, stuff like chemicals and arsenic and deadly nightshade. You’d end up so dead someone would have to bury you before nightfall, or the smell would get to be unbearable. But be warned. If you used some of the more potent toxins, arsenic, say, and then when you were dead a kindly old hungry grandmother got it into her head that a nice slice of roast Trixie-Pixielot would go down a treat, and sliced a steak off your sweet little dancing bottom, and roasted it over an open fire, she might find herself with tummy gripes before dawn, and that would be far from nice..”

“And I wouldn’t like dying in the knowledge that my death would spread to kindly old hungry grandmothers” sniffed Trixie-Pixielot. “I’d hate one of them to get tummy gripes just because of silly old little old dancing me.”

“Or die,” put in Hoggy-hog, “the grandmorher could die eating a delicious slice of roasted Trixie-Pixielot, and find herself dropping dead from cooked toxins.”

“Then I must shoot myself,” decided Trixie-Pixielot, “I must get myself a nice little handgun and blow my brains out for good and for all.”

“Guns are out,” sighed Hoggy-hog, shaking his head, “they’re against the law, and there’s nothing we can do about that. We must obey the law. No, as I see it, and as you know I see things very well, you only have one option besides never dancing again.”

“I have an option?” whooped Trixie, “You mean there’s something I can do for my bloody, disgusting foot and its horrible thorn?”

“Hospital,” murmured Hoggy-hog, “you must go to hospital and a nice doctor and his very desirable nurses will mend your foot as good as new, and you’ll be dancing sooner than soon. But you must hurry!”

“I must?” queried Trixie Pixielot.

“You most certainly must!” declared the muddy pig, “for I did hear they’re closing the hospital very soon and only millionaires will get their wounded feet mended there. That’s what they’re doing because ordinary forest folk like us don’t matter any more, and I don’t think you’re a millionaire, are you?”

Trixie-Pixielot shook her pretty head and her golden curls danced.

“That I’m not, Hoggy-hog,” she whispered. “I’d better catch a bus to hospital sooner than soon, then.

And that’s what she did. Sooner than soon, and luckily that was just in time.

© Peter Rogerson 19.06.17

TWO LONELY ROADS

18 Jun

He was at the end of two roads and Minah Larkin was glad. It had taken a lifetime to get here and he was both travel-weary and fed up with life.

Not that he’d always been the latter.

He remembered Jasmine. Dear, sweet, long-haired fresh-faced Jasmine! He’d loved her with a great passion, had spent spine-tingling hours with her in her college room with the door locked for privacy and far too much love in his heart for it to last. And it hadn’t. It had vanished in a single letter one summer day when she’d said she’d had enough and all he was left with was an emptiness where lust had lived until then.

So he’d gone in search of a replacement. He hadn’t looked at it like that, he rather thought he’s been looking for a comforter in his bed and a cook for his belly and a new bright friend. Anyway, whatever he needed he found Suzanne and she might have been perfect had it not been for her nose.

He had never been able to put his finger on why that nose was so important. At first he’d thought it pretty, beautiful even, and he’d written a poem proclaiming his love for it. He’d spent extravagant minutes kissing it before kissing other parts of the lovely Suzanne.

Then out of the blue and a year or so later, he’d seen how ugly it might become, one day when he knew it might grow to dominate all of her face like a cancer, and after that he’d gradually and painlessly dumped her.

Painlessly for him, anyway.

Jenny was the next light in his life and she had given him three children over six years of relentless passion.

Then he’d seen just how obsessed she was with the brats. How a runny nose must be wiped yesterday, and wasn’t his running and didn’t it need help? Then how a bruise needed so much gentle rubbing it left her no time to rub his bruises. And he did have some, big ones, in his head, and they needed soothing away.

So he built a garden shed and became a hermit. For most of the time, that was. Occasionally when Jenny came out looking for him, or so she said, and begged him for this or that he saw that lust was his duty and obliged her. Not that was what she said she wanted, but who truly knows a woman’s mind?

She divorced him, blaming him for everything she could think of, and that was that.

It was then, when he was alone, that he’d started on the travel-weary road.

There had been work in it, a series of nothing jobs that led nowhere but provided a crust for him and a loaf for the ex-family, another most unsatisfactory marriage to someone whose name escaped him, ups and downs that had all ended up piercing something inside his heart. And he’d tried, God, how he’d tried.

But nothing had gone right. He was alone, and the world owed him more than a living. It owed him a life. Of that much he was certain.

Even that medical procedure, that operation, had gone wrong and left him with one pig of a scar where poisons had leached out. He’d thought of suing the hospital, but in the end had given up. He still had the scar, though, it was a reminder of an early signpost on that travel-weary road. The one that pointed to tomorrow but was fading as he stared at it, the signpost, that is, not the scar.

But he was, now and on this day, as has been noted, at the end of both roads. There was nowhere ahead. Just a kind of darkness that covered everything until days and weeks and miles and the sky and the earth and the seas, even the mighty oceans, all joined together to become an amorphous mist that, itself, dissolved as he watched to become nothing. And he was standing at the ends of those roads, staring at it.

“Why am I here?” he asked himself, and, you know, he couldn’t answer. Why was he there? On those roads staring at that vacuum, wondering what in the name of goodness it was? And where?

There was a sudden stirring in the void, a kind of picture made of fractured memories, of this room and that bed, mingled with a strange remembered chaos, popped into his head.

“You’re here,” suggested Jasmine, “to put things right. I’d had enough, you know, quite enough.”

“And it wasn’t my nose,” put in Suzanne from a compartment in his head, “you can’t have thought it was because you praised it in poetry, beautiful rhymes of nose and clothes, trumpet and strumpet, pretty and bitty….”

“Or the kids,” added Jenny. “I love the kids. Mothers do, you know. We have to or they’d never grow big and strong.”

“You’re driving me mad!” he shouted.

“We’re your past,” chided Jenny. “You should never be mad at the past.”

And they became the present and faded in a sultry moment into the amorphous mist that was still absorbing both of his roads, became one with it, and then it drifted like a cloud from Hell and wrapped around him, clutched at his heart which, gloriously, stilled to silence.

And he lay still where he fell.

“A waste of space,” murmured Jasmine.

“Offensive little man,” sighed Suzanne.

“Best forgotten,” breathed Jenny.

And the mist folded up into a blanket and lay upon him and stayed there for a strange and endless eternity, waiting for nothing as three women wandered off into life, giggling with memory.

© Peter Rogerson 06.06.17

THE WINTER OF MY DISCONTENT

10 Jun

I was poking in the coal-hole looking for a lost tortoise that might have decided that it was time to hibernate when I stumbled on a crow-bar left as a gift by the burglar who tried to break in last September.

It was good finding it, but the tortoise was nowhere in sight and I began to feel guilty. It was a cold winter, and I was discontented.

So, I would imagine, was the tortoise.

But that crow-bar was going to come in handy.

The trap-door had been there for as long as I’d lived in the house. I remember pondering over what it might be when I’d been a lad of nine or ten looking for somewhere to shelter from the rain and sorely tempted to lift it and see what might be seen under the coal-house floor, but being a feeble squirt I lacked the strength to budge it as much as a millimetre with the only tool I had to hand, an old screwdriver, and I gave up trying when it came to be time for school.

Then there was the time when I was in my teens and as keen as mustard on the girl who lived next door and I got to fantasising that there might be a tunnel under that trap-door that led directly to her lily-white-sheeted bedroom where I might find myself in the middle of a teenage fantasy involving bodily fluids and heaving bosoms, but there was a great deal of coal-dust round the trap door and I realised how stupid I’d look if I appeared in her boudoir with a smudged face and spreading black dust everywhere, so I desisted before I started.

Now I’m getting on in my years and have crow-bar to hand.

Why would a coal-shed have a trap-door in its floor and what might it be hiding? What secret places might I find if I open the trap-door and where might the steps that I’d undoubtedly find lead me?

If my great-granddad was here he’d tell me not to be bothered, but they told me he died before I was born after many a swashbuckling adventure in dark places. It’s strange how easily the deceased can come to mind when you’re contemplating trap-doors.

Old trap doors can be the very devil, especially if they’ve been in place where they are for well over half a century. Years of debris, moistened no doubt by condensation every cold season, had formed a kind of concrete, black as Satan’s backside and just as disgusting. I had to use that crow-bar as a kind of blade to cut through it, and the taste of the dust in the air was like the taste of sin.

Have you ever tasted sin? I have….

So it was hard work easing that metal slab open with a crow-bar that was a gift from a burglar, but I moved it bit by bit. It creaked and at one stage I thought the metal was going to bend or snap, but it didn’t, and eventually I lifted it and gazed fully into the face of my aforementioned great-granddad, though I didn’t recognise him. Well, I wouldn’t, would I, never having met him in the flesh, and now he had no flesh for anyone to recognise anyway, just a grinning skull and a sign that said, in bold capitals, “WILLY DID IT”.

It’s hard knowing what to do with a skeleton that accidentally appears under a trap-door that really shouldn’t be there, so I did what every right-thinking person would do and notified the authorities.

The detective put, by a chief superintendent who didn’t like him, in charge of the case was the most objectionable man I’ve ever met. He asked me who I was and when I told him “Willy Arkwright” (which is my name) his first reaction was along the lines of me being the Willy on the sign being held aloft by my deceased relative, and when the pathologist said the body must have been put where it well nigh almost a century ago (or maybe twice my age ago) he pooh-poohed the facts and arrested me for murder.

Everything seemed to fit in with his theory, mostly because of that wretched sign. He even managed to find evidence that the trap door had been opened relatively recently (a cigarette stub that I dislodged along with tons of coal dust while I was hacking away with the crow-bar) and even when I complained that I’d never smoked, not ever, not once in my life, he managed to pooh-pooh that as well.

He put together quite a dossier. My great-grandfather (DNA evidence proved that’s who it was) had been born in 1898 and disappeared in 1929. And it seemed that the state of his bones suggested he might have been lowered into a hole under the coal-shed and a trap-door closed on him around that time.

“But I wasn’t anywhere near being born then!” I protested, and “neither was my dad,” I added.

Then there came a sparkling piece of brand new evidence, which most detectives would dismiss out-of-hand but he didn’t.

Willy was a family name. I had it, my dad, granddad and great-granddad all had it, and it went back through generations before that. Even William the Bastard had it, and he lived a long time ago, or so they say. But it didn’t make much of an impression on the Inspector who was determined to see me spend the rest of my natural behind bars.

He said that if I had someone known as a bastard in my family tree then it was evidence I was a wrong-un and it’s a pity they’d stopped hanging desperadoes like me because hanging’s just what I deserved.

In court, the jury agreed with him. They were all good honest Christians to a person, and consequently well used to looking the truth in the face, and calling it a lie.

Which is why this has been a particularly gruelling winter of discontent for me. It’s a good thing about the tortoise, though. He came and rescued me when it was clear I wasn’t coming home in time to feed him. Spring-time had come and I don’t know how he did it but he chewed through the bars of my cell with a will.

Never say that our pets aren’t useful, because I know full well that they are! Especially tortoises.

© Peter Rogerson 05.12.16

EVIL IS AS EVIL DOES…

8 Jun

The old forest was dark and spooky and Miriam shivered as she made her way down a path that almost wasn’t there. She came this way at least once a month, visiting a maiden aunt to keep her company, and this time she felt as if there might be eyes on her, dark brooding eyes, maybe, hidden eyes.

And suddenly, when he heart was beating extra fast out of apprehension bordering on fear a voice cracked out from nowhere. At least, she thought it was from nowhere, though common sense rapidly assured her that it must have been somewhere.

“I don’t know where I’m going,” it flashed like lightning turned into sound.

She stopped dead. Of course she did: she could barely see her way through the gloom and anyway the sound of her own feet snapping twigs or slurping through gloopy mud puddles left by rain a couple of days earlier drowned out any audible clues there might be.

In the sudden silence she thought she could hear breathing. Ragged breathing, as of a creature struggling for air or a man old beyond life. And there was the suggestion of a smell … burnt matches, was it, or something worse?

“Where am I going?” asked the voice a second time.

“Who are you?” ventured Miriam.

That question seemed to confuse the voice because it gurgled almost silently and remained soundless for what seemed ages.

“I am a refugee,” it said at length. “I have come from the darkness deep, deep down.”

Miriam was at a loss. She’d never heard of a place named the darkness and she thought she knew of just about everywhere for miles around.

“Where is Darkness?” she asked tentatively, and followed it up with a friendly “I thought I knew everywhere near here.”

There was silence again.

This time a longer silence and Miriam was just beginning to think her vivid imagination might have been playing tricks on her when the voice replied.

“I just told you. Darkness,” it said, “is deep down.”

As far as Miriam was aware there was nothing deep down. This was the old forest, for goodness’ sake, and the only things that crawled far into the earth so you could call it deep down were the roots of ancient trees! There weren’t even any rabbit burrows or fox holes: she knew that because she’d looked for some once, when she’d been younger and more inquisitive and had time on her hands.

“I don’t know of deep down,” she replied, trying to sound positive.

The answer was almost instantaneous this time. “That doesn’t matter because I do,” it cracked out. “What I want to know is where I’m going.”

“You’re going into town,” assured Miriam. “This path leads into town where there are shops and churches and a place to dream.”

“Is that where you’re going?” it asked.

“That I am,” she said.

“Then I’m not going to town because I’m going the other way,” almost wept the voice.

“What other way?” asked Miriam, frowning.

“To the way you were walking before you stopped,” explained the voice. “You were going that-away, towards the bright new moon, and I’m going the reverse way, towards a pall of darkness, where I suppose I belong.”

“Then it would seem,” said Miriam slowly, “that you know exactly where you’re going and so you’re perfectly all right.”

“I suppose you’re correct,” murmured the voice, and it sounded suddenly sad. “Maybe all I really wanted to do was talk to a pretty lady like you. Maybe I’m just a lonely old fellow and the world’s such a savage place for folks like me, hated and abused for so long, even deep down. Perhaps I should never have left my deep down hovel with its cheery fires and cracking whips, below the tree roots and the tangled webs of giant spiders that haunt the tunnels of my world.”

“Who are you?” asked Miriam, shocked at the length of misery the voice had put into her ears.

“I’m a shadow,” it whispered. “A dark shadow from the deep places where pretty ladies never go.”

“Then maybe you should go back home,” decided Miriam, “Maybe you and the deep places you seem so fond of belong together. And, for your information, I’m almost late, spending all this time talking to you when I should be walking along here to visit my aunt for tea and crumpets.”

“You’re not very kind,” moaned the voice, shaking with emotion. “I wouldn’t mind tea and crumpets myself. But I wouldn’t be able to eat the crumpets or drink the tea because, as you can see, I’m not very alive.”

Then there was the sound of twigs snapping and mud slurping and a figure slowly detached itself from the shadows and stood before her.

“Goodness gracious me!” she explained, “Surely I recognise you! You’re Adolf Hitler, long dead and never mourned, the summation of all that’s evil… And you say you’re from the deep places… goodness gracious me!”

“I know,” the figure almost wept, mucous running down its nose and matting in its little moustache, “I’m from the deepest darkest most scary depths of Hell itself where sulphur is the only breath I take and Satan is my boss, and I’ve come to offer advice to my followers … tell me, madam, where might I find a man called Farage? You see, I don’t know where I’m going….”

© Peter Rogerson 04.06.17

BLOOD AND A BLAST

7 Jun

The roar of the explosion sent a thumping ache through the man’s head as it reverberated in the summer air, and he crouched, shaking, under a table he thought might be there, but wasn’t.
“That was close,” gasped his friend.
“It bloody was, God help us,” he replied, and his own voice made the shaken ache in his head vibrate painfully.
“What have we done?” whispered his friend, not understanding.
“You mean, to bring this anger down on us?” he asked, ignoring the pain. “Who are our enemies? Who are those throwing bombs at us, blasting our homes to smithereens, killing our women and children so indiscriminately? Who are they?”
“I thought they were our brothers,” whispered his friend “Did not God make them like he made us? In the same image, in the same mould, out of the same clay?”
“They were our brothers once,” sighed the man. “I knew them and called them that.”
“Then why?” asked the other.
“No man knows,” was his mournful reply, and his words were punctuated by the sudden blast of another explosion, closer this time, shaking the ground where they knelt shivering, and shattering the few remaining pains of glass in the windows. Dust flew up, dust and a half brick, a half brick and a garden.
“That was close,” gasped the man.
“The smell…” gasped his friend, and he knew what he meant. The smell was vile, the scorching of fabrics mixed with the more sinister stench of burning flesh … was it his woman or his pet dog? Or both? Maybe both were burning in the other room, the one that probably wasn’t there any more. And there was gas. He could smell that, too, and half wished it would join the war and explode close enough to take him to his God before the sadness or the next bomb got him. But it didn’t. It drifted away through the vacant windows on a sultry summer breeze.
“All I wanted was a peaceful life,” he whispered, “all I wanted was to pray and sing and laugh and love … yes, love… and then the bombs started coming, and I don’t know why.”
“Nor me,” sighed his friend, “and, like you, I wanted a good life with harmony and a kindly woman to cuddle and kiss with, to love, to join with at God’s will, to spend my life like that, children at my feet, stories being told of the fine things on the world, ice cream under a summer sun. But…”
“…but the fine things are all gone,” he whispered. “And instead we are targets, you and me, something for our erstwhile brothers to aim at and destroy…”
Another explosion, further away this time but loud like the devil’s trumpet, split the air and both men shook. Maybe, they thought, maybe the next one would be for them. Maybe the next blast would grab them and tear their flesh and solve the problems of a painful life for them, by ending it.
“When I pray,” he whispered, “when I turn to my God and pray and tell Him he is good I expect to be able to smile in return, to feel his blessing on me, to kiss my lovely woman, to hold her by the hand, to take her walking where the sun shines and where the sounds of children playing are like a wonderful promise of tomorrow…”
“I know,” nodded his friend, and he scrabbled onto his knees and made for the door leading to the next room.
Which wasn’t there.
“My love!” his friend screamed, “My darling love!”
“What is it?” he called, and scrambled after him.
The room was gone. Practically all of it. The walls, the windows, the doors. Scraps of curtain and chair-cover clung to broken bricks and shattered glass, a family picture in a twisted picture frame. But that wasn’t what drew anguished tears from the two men.
Lying in their own blood and clinging together as if that was all they needed to do in order to be saved were two women. Their two women. Their loves. Their hopes for tomorrow. Their future. And one look told the two men they must be dead, to be twisted and smashed like that, to have their faces torn to shreds.
“Oh my God, why have you done this?” spluttered his friend,
“It wasn’t God,” grated the man, and he picked a fragment of torn steel from where the blast had forced it, and turned it over in his hands.
“This is part of the bomb,” he wept.
His friend wept also. “That killed my love,” his strangled voice managed to force out.
“That killed our loves,” he nodded, “and look,”
He held it up and pointed at some markings, still legible, on its scarred surface.
MADE IN ENGLAND, he read.
MADE IN ENGLAND…
“When the bombs stop falling,” he swore, “when all this death is over, I know where I’m going! And I’ll take death with me! For God! For my own sweet love! For everything their blasted weapons have stolen from me…”
“And I’ll be there by your side,” added his friend, grimly.

TOO MUCH BLOOD FOR A CROSS

6 Jun

The sun wasn’t shining when Laura Pinner went to cast her vote. It couldn’t be because her heart was hanging low as she entered the polling station and looked around at the desk where the officials were sitting, and then at the kiddies drawings on the wall. It was the local school, closed for the day for such an important event, and the sun went further away when she saw her daughter’s simple picture with a golden star stuck to it by the teacher.

But today was polling day and nothing mattered save the vote. She sniffed and presented her card to the Returning Officer, who smiled at her and told her it wasn’t that bad, surely?

Because she was crying.

She shook her head. The sun would never return to wash over her spirit. It couldn’t. There was no light where he thoughts went, no warmth, not even the tiniest glow.

She looked at the voting paper.

Memories came flooding back.

Her parents had always agreed over politics. At least, daddy had expressed an opinion and mummy had smiled and nodded and poured some tea.

Daddy knew which side his bread was buttered. He was on a ladder and he told everyone about it. With no special education he’d set foot on the bottom rung of the ladder and slowly, almost painfully, managed to reach the second after ten years of struggle. But he was on the way up! The government was seeing to that, the men and women in Parliament and the laws they passed that guaranteed that the factory owners would make a killing, would grab hold of the gigantic cake of industry, but he, on that precious ladder, was in an ideal position to catch a few crumbs. And the crumbs had been there, some of them, morsels of goodness, a few savoury droppings from his master’s plate.

So daddy had sallied forth every election day and voted Conservative. It was his duty. It would ensure that every tomorrow saw the cascade of crumbs all nice and precious for him to try to grab. It guaranteed that life would always promise to be good, one day, when this or that boat came in.

Daddy had died a year or so ago. He’d been proudly on the fourth step and so much of the climb still lay ahead, but work had taken its toll and his heart hadn’t been up to it. The strain had been too much and the crumbs, regrettably, too few.

She looked back at the voting paper and the names on it.

Mummy had been a real joy. Although she’d never agreed with daddy because she saw things a great deal more clearly, she’d never argued or rowed about politics but gently, like the woman she was, gone her own way. Daddy had never bothered about the way she voted because he was sure that she voted the same way as him because that was the right thing to do. She had to. There were the crumbs to think about. But on the sly she’d been an independent person with a mind of her own and always voted the way she felt. Despising extremes, she’d always voted Liberal and then, when things changed, Liberal Democrat. Laura knew that and thought it a wonderful breath of fresh air, that mummy had voted differently from daddy, that she’d been her own woman. But grief had been too much for her and taken her, and she’d died too.

She looked back at her voting paper and shook her head.

The picture on the wall made tears form in her eyes again when she caught the least glimpse of it.

Sophie had drawn it, Sophie had painted it so carefully it was a miracle of a child’s talent, and Mrs Blossom had stuck a gold star on it and praised the girl and whispered effusive commendations into her ear.

But wonderful as that was it hadn’t cured the cancer.

Sophie was only eight, and she had cancer. And not so long ago she’d died in an overcrowded children’s ward where they just couldn’t get their hands on enough nurses or medicines or doctors or anything important.

Sophie had been an angel, but the shortages and the wonderfully unsuccessful austerity caused by bankers and their mischief a decade or more ago had helped her die. They’d said her time would be limited anyway, that the cancer was so evil and so unresponsive to any kind of treatment and most certainly inoperable that she would have died sooner or later.

But like she did?

A great deal was being said about the cost of health. Politicians had rowed about it. They made promises, all of them hollow, none of them going to help Sophie because Sophie was dead and so was Laura’s heart.

She went into the voting booth. Nobody could see her. Nobody would know until she’d cast her vote.

Which she did in the fleetest of moments.

She placed her voting paper in front of her and took a blade from her small perfect handbag and, closing her eyes, slashed it as deeply as she could across her own left wrist.

And when she opened her eyes she smiled to see so much blood.

With barely a tremor she marked a cross, in the purest and reddest of blood, on her voting paper, and then closed her eyes again.

She was in that voting booth for quite a long time before someone noticed the pool of blood oozing under the curtain that made her voting secret, and raced to see what might be wrong.

An ambulance was called, but too late. There’s only so much blood in a frail woman’s body, and she had used all of hers to mark a simple cross.

“She voted labour,” muttered the officer, and he slipped her paper into the voting box before glancing at the pretty picture by a child called Sophie and thinking how lucky everyone was to have such a child in the world.

© Peter Rogerson 03.06.17

ROSIE BAUR, D.I. Chapter 26

5 Jun

26. A MOST UNHAPPY HUSBAND

It was a classic scene.

Miriam Buttery sat with an obvious amount of nervous arrogance at a table, facing Detective Inspector Rosie Baur and her sergeant, D.S. Peter Jenson. Next to her sat a solicitor, not the duty solicitor but one of her own choosing. His name was Ivan Papplewick and he was more used to house conveyancing that the criminal law, but it was he who had been chosen by the accused to defend her rights.

For Miriam Buttery was the accused.

“If you’ll bear with me, Mrs Buttery, I want to run through recent unhappy events that culminated in the death of your husband,” began Rosie.

Mr Papplewick looked bored, but made a one-word note on his pad. It read “fishing”, and he hoped it was right.

“On the night when your husband was killed your two children, now adult and living independently in Swanspottle, had visited you, as they did from time to time.”

Miriam Buttery nodded.

“Around nine in the evening you witnessed the door swinging open accidentally whilst your daughter Amelia Buttery was passing water in the lavatory. It’s something we all have to do, but it’s not always convenient for the bathroom door to swing open, and as Amelia was sitting on the toilet in a separate small toilet room with only that seat and a very small sink to keep her company, she must have felt uncomfortably vulnerable when that door swung accidentally open.”

“She pushed it herself!” snapped Miriam, “she’ll do anything to get her father to look at her and her dirty, dirty body! She’s a s**t, and that’s her mother talking, and mothers know these things! And there’s one thing there should be no room for on planet Earth and that’s s***s!”

Rosie shook her head. “As you know, while you’ve been waiting we used the facilities of a search warrant issued legitimately by Judge Parker to have a little look around your home, and one thing was perfectly clear at the offset, because we tried it: it’s impossible to reach that toilet door to push it from the usually seated position, not even if one held your nice clean toilet brush and pushed it with that! Yet it was discovered that the door has a faulty catch and is prone to flying open if it isn’t closed precisely. So it seems that the best explanation is that the door swung open accidentally and that your daughter had no control over it. Nor did she know that Mr Buttery would be in plain view should it fly open, and able to see her sitting there.”

“You seem to know everything,” grumbled Miriam Buttery, “but what’s that got to do with what happened to my Philip?”

“After exhaustive enquiries we have concluded that you have an irrational suspicion that there might be some sort of sexual relationship between your daughter and her father…” murmured Rosie.

“She’s admitted it, the w***e!” rasped Mrs Buttery, “she’s even spent more time in bed with him than any gal has the right to spend with a man!”

“That’s a big condemnation of your own flesh and blood…” put in Peter Jenson. “How can you be so sure that this perception of a physical sexual relationship that you are so convinced turned your husband against you actually happened?”

“She said it did!” spat Miriam, “she said that she loved her dad! She said it lots of times, and we all know what that means, don’t we?”

“I have twins at home,” murmured Rosie, “and they’ll both tell you that they love me and I’ll tell you that I love them, but I wouldn’t dream of having any kind of sexual relationship with either of them! A girl can love her father in several different ways, and not all of them are of a physical nature!”

“She’s a s**t!” barked Miriam, “and I wouldn’t let her set foot in the church, not even if she begged me?”

“This isn’t a religious debate,” Rosie told her. “Now let’s look at the evidence. Your husband was found, by you, not far from wheelie bins that had recently been emptied…?”

“I went out to put them back where they belong after the bin men have been round,” confirmed Miriam.

“And it was then that you found the mutilated body of your husband, eyes gouged with what we take as a spoon of some sort and a massive trauma to his head?”

Miriam nodded.

“So tell me about the eyes, Mrs Buttery. Why was he blinded when he lay on the ground, unconscious? Was it as punishment for what they had seen?”

“He was dead, so what would be the reason?” almost snarled Miriam Buttery.

“Not at that point, and you knew it,” Rosie told her. “At that point he had merely been knocked out cold, and to keep him quiet some medical elastoplast was stuck across his mouth and his wrists were tied so that he couldn’t reach it and pull it off.

“How do you expect me to know that?” asked Miriam.

“Because we found a roll of elastoplast in your medical cupboard, the one you keep conveniently in your kitchen, and at the moment forensic scientists are examining it and comparing it with the traces of tape adhesive found on your husband’s face. Now tell me, who besides yourself had access to that roll of tape?”

“Anyone could have one!” scoffed Miriam.

“A good point, well made, officers,” put in solicitor Papplewick. “It seems that you have very little in the way of evidence and have drawn far too many conclusions from the little that you do have. Why didn’t the men who empty the bins find the body when they came round in the morning, before Mrs Buttery discovered it?”

Rosie smiled at the solicitor. “Because it had been moved,” she said quietly. “Your client didn’t kill her husband but she did give him a very sore head and make sure he would never see her daughter’s bottom again. No, about an hour later the farm labourer from across the road found Mr Buttery, who had regained consciousness and who was trying to attract the attention of anyone who happened to be passing by. Mr Boneham, that’s the labourer, at first tried to make Mr Buttery comfortable, to help him, and that involved moving him to a more comfortable position, and it was in that more comfortable position that he would remain unseen by the men emptying the bins. And then, with Mr Buttery in excruciating agony and with his eyes damaged beyond any chance of repair, Mr Boneham did the one thing that Mr Buttery begged him to do, as a last favour if you like, though he didn’t expect much in the way of favours from a man who believed him responsible for his own marriage’s breakdown.

“Mr Boneham put him out of his misery, and in my book it was the kindest thing he could do even though he’ll no doubt be charged with manslaughter for doing it.”

“And that s**t of mine? She’s as guilty as anyone!” rasped Miriam Buttery as she became suddenly aware that the best laid plans of murderous wives can often go astray.

“You mean the lass who is still virgo intacta despite all the lurid exploits she’s supposed to have had?” asked Rosie evenly. “I rather suspect her only guilt lies in encouraging you to believe your own wild fantasies.

“If anyone is guilty of the actual killing of your husband it is you and you alone. And from the fragments I’ve learned of the life you shared with him you made sure that for most of it he was a most unhappy husband. You are charged with attempted murder, Mrs Buttery, and I hope the judge goes hard on you!”

THE END

© Peter Rogerson 19.03.17