“What’s this one about this time?”
I looked up from my book straight into Betty’s concerned face. “It’s difficult to explain. It’s set across six different stories, across six different timelines. I think the main message is about slavery. But I could be wrong.” I turned the book’s cover to face her.
“Not your book, dummy.” She laughed, trying her best not to appear condescending. “That.” She nodded towards the ruckus I had spent the last half hour ignoring.
From across two gardens, Randy from next door was engaged in a heated argument with Nathan from three doors down. Arms were flying, indignant shouts were being exchanged. I wasn’t particularly interested or impressed.
“I think this has something to do with Jenny being pregnant again.” I placed my book on the doorstep next to me. I knew from experience if I didn’t give Betty my full attention she would sulk for days and we couldn’t be having that.
Betty, or Bet as she insisted on being called, was a nice enough old bird. She was one of those rare good neighbors, the kind that takes in your mail and keeps an eye on your house when you go on holiday. Sandy and I had returned the favor many times up to and including having a spare key of hers hung in our kitchen. It’s not a good idea to leave them hanging in the hallway like so many do. Five minutes with a coat hanger through your letter box and anyone has access to your house, car and garage. The only down side to our relationship with Bet was her constant need for attention.
I love to read, it’s my drug of choice. Unfortunately reading involves your full attention and I like the fresh air. So, inevitably, Bet always ends up disturbing my daily dose with her needs. I really don’t mind, like I said she’s a nice enough old bird, but I do love a good read.
“Again?” Bet inquired. “What’s this now, five?”
“Six.” I said. “You’re forgetting the little girl she had put in care.”
Bet pulled one of her trademark judgmental faces. “Takes all sorts I suppose.”
“That it does. Old Maggie would have had a field day with this single mum.” I humored knowing the old girl was a staunch conservative. “How’s Darren?” I asked, hoping to change the conversation. Darren was Bet’s new beau, as she put it. I liked Darren. He was a hard worker and quiet. The two most agreeable traits anyone can have. The only time I really heard from him was the quick conversations about golf. I’ve never had the heart to tell him I was firmly on Churchill’s side, the perfect way to ruin a good walk indeed. But the old sod loved hitting his balls so I let it slide.
“He’s good. He’s taken his grandchildren to Barry Island for the day,” she said, still distracted by the juvenile argument. “Why are they shouting over the fences?” She wasn’t going to let this go.
“Like you said Bet, it takes all sorts.” I briefly glanced at the engaged young men. “Those sorts are what you would call cowards. Nothing new there, is there Sweetie.” She liked being called affectionate names and Sandy doesn’t mind me being a little flirty with the old bird.
“You see some men are built for action. Like Darren.” She liked that. The truth was, Darren was probably wheezing like the old man he was, as his grandchildren ran rings around him up and down the beach. “Those types are built for peacocking.”
“They’re not going to fight, are they?” she asked with the usual look of worry. It always amuses me how much potential violence frightens people.
“Darling they wouldn’t know how to. It’s like I said. They’re peacocks trying to gain Jenny’s favor. Any minute now one of them will whip out their feathers and the other one will wander off beaten.”
“They seem really angry. Are you sure?” She seemed genuinely concerned, most probably for her own well being.
“I am sure Angel. But if you like I could go over there and ask them to keep it down.”
“No, no. I wouldn’t want you to get involved in their little squabble.”
Their little squabble had evolved somewhat in the last couple of minutes. Nathan had taken to throwing empty plant pots at Randy. I was sure Nathan’s aging parents weren’t going to appreciate that. Then again I had had run-ins with Nathan’s father. Despite the guy being a good fifteen years older than me, he had still tried to assert his God given dominance over me with unwarranted stares. The old bastard would probably join his son. Any opportunity to look like the hard man he really wasn’t. Overcompensation and ignorance are the real root of all evil not the essential evil of money as the good saint Timothy would have us believe.
“Are you sure, Honey? I honestly don’t think a pair of boys like them would be much of a match for me,” I said.
“Oh I’m sure they wouldn’t either,” she said. “A big strong man like you.”
I know the old bird has a crush on me. I suppose that’s the dangers of keeping in shape at my age while being a practiced nice guy.
“Tell you what Sweetie. Why don’t I help you with your borders?” I said, knowing she had been hinting at getting some help with her precious garden for days now.
“Oh I couldn’t ask you to do that. That’s what Darren is for.”
I almost laughed at the idea of the old bugger cracking his knees on the rockery, but that just wouldn’t be cricket. The old bird loved the old fart after all.
“It’s not a problem for me, Angel. Just spending time with you on my day off is more than enough to keep me happy.” Maybe I shouldn’t encourage her so much but she enjoys it.
“You get my bins in for me every week. That’s more than enough help.” She blushed.
“What sort of a neighbor would I be if I didn’t help with the bins?” I said. “Come on lets see what we can do together. Shall we?” I motioned to her already pristine garden.
It was only a plastic plant pot. It wasn’t even a very big one. But a breeze must have caught it and sent it sailing across Randy’s garden, through mine and straight into poor Bet’s face. It couldn’t have hurt too much but she’s old, vulnerable and not to mention just a little frail.
I turned to face the pair of boys.
“What’re you looking at, you twit?” Nathan shouted at me. I don’t think that boy will ever impress me with his eloquence or grace.
Betty was close to tears, her frail form shaking with the distress of the situation. The pot lay undisturbed at her feet. I knew I had to take action before this became a real problem. So gently I took her arm in my hand and guided her up her path back to her house. Behind me Nathan spat on the ground while, I’m almost positive, attempting to stare a hole in the back of my head.
“Let’s get you in sweetie.” I took her into her well kept living room and waited until she sat herself on the sofa. “Do you want a drink?”
She shook her head, tears pooling in her eyes.
“You wait here,” I said, clicking on her radio. Gentle strains of classical music drifted through the room. “I’ll go phone the police. I’ll be Bach.” I added the last bit as a joke. She loved classical music and like most of us had an ineffable love of the huge Austrian actor slash politician.
“You don’t have to do that.” She completely missed my joke.
She slowly nodded in reluctant agreement.
“I won’t be long,” I said.
I suppose she may have wondered why I didn’t use her phone. Maybe this whole incident had upset her so much she wasn’t thinking straight at all. It didn’t really matter, I already had it all planned out. I wandered back to my house ignoring Randy and Nathan who had apparently found a common enemy in me, and headed out my back door to my shed. After a few moments rummaging I found what I was looking for, tucked it into the back of my trousers and headed back out the front.
“Your misses know you’re slipping it to the old lady?” Randy taunted me from across our shared fence. Sandy had mentioned more than once the lustful looks she had received off Randy who took pride in living up to his name. Nathan had joined him in Jenny’s unkempt garden. How difficult is it to operate a lawnmower? Two against one is always a wonderful way for the peacocks to gain a good dose of Dutch courage.
“Do you know what the amygdale is?” I asked after vaulting the fence.
The pair stood their ground meters from me.
“I didn’t think so.” I closed the distance between us. “It’s a part of the brain about the size of a clitoris. Sorry of course you don’t know what a clitoris is. It’s about the size of a small pea.”
“What’s your problem pal?” Randy asked, clearly afraid of me.
“You see the Amygdale controls how we react to any given situation. Like now.” I looked into Randy’s eyes. “Your Amygdale is going nuts, sending floods of information into your brain telling you to be afraid of me.”
“I’m not af — ”
I cut Randy off by burying my hatchet between his eyes.
“You are, aren’t you Nathan?” The poor boy looked ready to wet himself, and like all good prey was stunned motionless by a superior specimen. I guided Randy’s body to the ground, stepped on his neck and pried the hatchet from his face.
“When the Amygdale isn’t working properly, as in myself,” — I tapped the slick blade on my chest to illustrate my point — “the brain doesn’t know when to get scared or be horrified. If I was to show you a violent image” — I motioned down to Randy — “like this. Your response is to become horrified. Like a deer in headlights, they say. Don’t worry little boy, it means your normal.” I stomped Nathan’s left knee which dutifully cracked in the opposite direction and sent the little peacock to the ground.
“I, on the other hand, do not have such pitiful responses to violence.” I held the hatchet under his chin to reinforce my point. “Where is she?”
“Wh… wh… who?” He stuttered. The longer I had to deal with him the more pathetic he appeared. At least Randy was being decent about being dead.
“The whore that started this whole mess,” I said. I drew the edge of the hatchet back and forth across his Adams apple, not hard enough to draw blood but enough to cause the whimpering little fool to urinate himself.
“In her house.” Tears dripped to the blade as he pointed behind him.
“Good boy. Now stay!” I flicked the hatchet back and then forth into his throat before lifting it up and cleaving his skull.
“Jenny?” I called softly as I kicked the unlocked door open. “Where are you, whore?”
I could see the kitchen from the front door and knew she wasn’t there. I peered into the living room to make sure she wasn’t hiding behind the door ready to assault me.
“There you are.” I saw her overweight form cowering behind a sofa that had seen better days. As I had guessed, she had been watching the fight from her living room window not really rooting for anyone. She had undoubtedly started this fight with a sly and hurtful word. Doctor Berne would have had a field day with the games this girl played, lets you and him fight indeed.
“Please?” she said.
“Please what? Please don’t do the world a favor and smite your sorry, breeding arse. Please don’t release your children and countless unlucky men from your putrid grasp.” I grabbed her hair and dragged her out into the middle of her over decorated and under managed living room.
“You’re the problem.” I cooed at her. “You’re the reason for so much pain and misery.” I took the hatchet to her right wrist, separating her hand from her arm. “Ever since you moved in it’s been problem after problem.” I took her left hand. “Your children don’t know the meaning of discipline or respect.” I removed her left foot. “You have no idea what it means to be a decent person.” I took her right foot from her. Her screams pierced every atom of my body fueling my silent rage. “You don’t deserve to exist.” I buried the hatchet in her chest and sat down to watch her die.
“This is a good thing I am doing,” I said quietly to her as she died. “Your children will be placed in decent homes. No more men will crumble trying to please you.”
Distant sirens drew closer as I lifted my self from her sofa and made my way outside.
“They’re not going to let me get away with this one,” I said to the bodies of Randy and Nathan. “Sandy’s going to kill me.” I sat myself in between Randy and Nathan wondering which one of my idiot neighbors called the police.
“Oh well,” I said to the bodies flanking me. “At least now I can get some good reading done in peace.”
Christopher Ford has always written in one form or another. He has spent his time accumulating as much tangible experience as he can, going so far as military and trade services alike. He now dedicates his time equally to his family, his dog, his music and his writing. He resides quietly in Wales and plans to stay on the land of his fathers until the ghosts of his mistakes tell him enough is enough.