Tuesday, 14 August 2012


To paraphrase Checkov’s advice to writers, if you show your readers a weapon at the beginning of the story, be sure to use it before the end.

So, if you’re squeamish about violence in fiction, even though that violence is to highlight the immorality of institutionalized violence – i.e. war - please stop reading now.


‘No, no. Well, no fingers or ears is what I mean. Nothing like that. But one squaddie did bring home something made from a scrotum.’

Hilton was quiet for a while with his portable fixed to his ear. Matt sat on the floor watching television. The Simpsons were arguing, but Matt was listening to Hilton.

‘A scrotum? Yes, that’s what I said. You don’t know what a scrotum is? Even though you’ve got one? It’s… well, you know, a ball bag. The thing you keep your testicles in. Are you sure you know what they are? If you’re looking for them, they’re just under your cock.’

Hilton laughed.

‘No, no, a human one. Or so he said. That’s what they told him anyway. When he bought it.’

He laughed again.

‘And a few guys brought back teeth as souvenirs. But I didn’t bother with that either. You’d never know whose they were. Could be from the army dentist. Same applies to all the souvenirs, I suppose. You can buy them at any market. But mine’s authentic. My reminder of what went on. Because it’s army issue. The thing I brought home is a bayonet.’

Matt put the volume up. He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear any more of the conversation. But then he found that he was straining to hear what was being said.

‘Well, the worst was when we were ambushed. They caught us off guard in a dried up riverbed. Fucking mayhem it was. We thought they were labourers. And I though I was dead. They must have had their weapons in the fields with them. And they’d planted a bomb just where we stopped. We never saw the wires. Stupid leadership it was. But he was just a kid too, the officer in charge. Just like the rest of us. And when it went off.’

Hilton made a sound he thought mimicked an explosion.

‘Fuck. You should have seen it. Body parts flew all over the place. Bit’s and pieces everywhere. It took a long time to clean up, I tell you.’

Matt moved closer to the television where the sound was louder. He tried to lose himself in the action on the screen. But Hilton’s description of what happened kept getting through to him. It invaded his mind and filled his brain with revolting and frightening images.

‘Well we just shot them all afterwards. Some were quite young too. A few even younger than any of us anyway.’

A moment of silence.

‘No, no. We lined them up, hands tied behind their backs with that blue plastic stuff, anything worth keeping taken away from them, you know, money, jewelry, weapons, that kind of thing. Then a few kicks and punches while we were getting them ready. And then, bang, you’re dead, and bang, so are you, and bang, bang, bang until they were all dead.’

Hilton listened to the voice on the other end of his portable.

‘No, no. That’s how it’s done. They just put it down to civilians getting caught up in the action. You know, cross fire and all that. It happens all the time. The officers in charge just have to be careful how it’s reported, that’s all. But they all know the score.’

Silence again as Hilton listened.

‘Yes, that’s it. That’s what the Americans call it. Collateral damage. Sounds quite smart when you say it like that doesn’t it?’

The sound of the Simpsons filled the room.

‘Hey Matt. Stop being a wanker. Put that fucking thing down. My little brother’s watching telly with the volume right up. So I can’t hardly hear a thing.’

Matt put the TV off and went into the bedroom. The one he shared with his brother again. The one that had been his when Hilton was away.

He looked out of the window and down onto the estate below. He saw the some kids kicking a ball. His brother’s voice came through the flimsy door.

‘Well, it’s what we were taught to do. They train you to kill people. Cos that’s what you do when you’re a soldier. That’s what you’re sent there for. To kill them before they kill you. No no. No one ever asks any questions. You just kill them. And that’s all there is to it.’

A short silence and then, ‘Sure, if you’re buying. I’m a bit short. OK. Great idea. See you down there then. Yes. Right away. I’ll be there in a few minutes.’

Hilton came into the bedroom. ‘Why aren’t you at school?’

‘Couldn’t be bothered,’ said Matt. ‘Where’s Mum?’

‘How the fuck would I know. Out with her latest pretty faggot, I suppose.’


Matt had always wanted a dog.

‘Don’t be silly,’ his mother had said. ‘We can’t have one up here. Who’ll clean up after it?’

He told them he’d seen some kids tying the puppy to a post. Then they started throwing stones at it. These were all lies.

He told them it had followed him home. To the front of the block.  He said it wouldn’t get into the lift. So he carried it upstairs. Seven flights. This was all true.

He called the dog Boy. He didn’t know why. It was just a dog he’d found wondering around amongst the trash and filth in a side street near the centre of town. There were several of them. Stiff leggedly sniffing each other and curling up their lips. They could be quite dangerous, especially at night when they roamed about in bigger packs. The locals tried to ignore them and so did the rare officials who strayed into he area.


Matt thought about the hurdles he had to get over. The difficulties of childhood. Some real, most imagined. The really important ones were:

1. His mother’s new lover disliked him intensely. ‘He’ll never get anywhere in life if he slouches around in his room all day and night. And if he doesn’t go to school he’s destined to be a wanker forever.’
2. He found his brother’s return from the overseas posting intrusive. It was an invasion of his personal space. His room. Even when he was on his own, but much more so when his brother was with a woman he’d picked up in some pub or other. And his brother also called him a wanker.
3. He hated being called a wanker because he was doing his best to stop being just that. But it was hard. Success wasn’t in sight. Because the feeling it gave him was so overwhelmingly pleasurable. And the temptation to masturbate was simply far too strong for him to ignore. Such a simple thing to do. And so much fun.


Matt carried the dog into the flat and tried to hide it under his bed. He was desperate to keep it. But it seemed to develop some kind of fever. Then it started vomiting. And shitting. He did his best to clear things up. A revolting task. And he failed dismally. The smell was appauling.

His mother opened the front door. ‘What the fuck is that?’ She went into Matt’s bedroom and saw the dog.

‘Fucking hell. You’d better do something about it before your brother gets home.’

She helped him clear up the mess. They sprayed all the rooms with deodorizer. They thought they had succeeded but it was just olfactory fatigue.


As Hilton reached the seventh floor with his girlfriend he knew that something was wrong.

‘Fucking hell,’ she said, ‘can’t you get a flat on the ground floor? Or one in a block where the lift works.’

‘Shut up. It’s better to walk. Better for your health. Better for your weight. And the lift always stinks of piss even when it’s working.’

‘Talking about stink, what’s that funny pong?’

‘Don’t ask me, I only live here. Come on let’s get inside. We won’t smell it in there.’

He opened the door. The stink was overwhelming.

The girlfriend started heaving and dry reaching. Before she left she told him he must be mad to live in a place like that.

‘Fucking hell, what is it?’ he asked. Then he saw the dog. Then he saw red. Then he started shouting at them. ‘You both mad or what? Get that fucking thing out of here.’ 

He pointed menacingly at Boy. ‘Fucking hell I’d have her pants off by now if it hadn’t been for that thing.’

Then Hilton completely lost his marbles. Anger, alcohol, frustration and the effect of the tablets they’d scrounged took over.

Thinking about the fuck he’d just missed out on, he picked the dog up by the loose skin at the back of its neck. He walked over to the open window and threw it out into space.

It had approximately seven seconds to live because a body that weight takes approximately seven seconds to complete its fall from seven storys.

The dog could have died from severe deceleration forces as its body hit the street. Or it may have been the sudden shock wave causing an increase in blood pressure flowing to its brain that that resulted a massive hemorrhage. Matt never knew which it was. He never went outside to look. He stayed in the flat for several weeks without venturing out again.

He stayed inside. Occasionally he’d watch when his mother’s latest lover took his mother’s clothes off and did those filthy things to her. In the full knowledge that he was watching them from the open door to his bedroom. Which was also Hilton’s bedroom.


Hilton arrived home late. He had a girl with him. As usual. They were both drunk. As usual. Matt feigned sleep. They soon had their gear off. As usual.

‘What about him?’ the girl said.

‘He’s asleep.’

‘Don’t look like it to me.’

‘In that case he can watch.’

‘Not sure I like that idea.’

‘Look either you start sucking on this or you fuck off. It’s up to you.’

Matt heard them start the routine he’d been in on so many times. Then they started making the same noises he heard his mother and his mother’s latest lover making when he was watching them.

‘OK. That’s enough. Tired of that. Let’s try something else. Lie down. No. Not that way. On your knees. With your arse towards me.’

‘What you gonna do?’

‘Depends what you want. And where you want it.’

Matt turned towards the wall. He pulled the fleshy parts of his ears across the auditory canal trying to block out the sound.

‘Stop. You’re hurting me.’

‘Shut up it’s supposed to hurt.’

Matt got out of bed. He walked over to Hilton.

A bayonet is designed with two grooves above either side of the blade. Their role is to facilitate the flow of blood from the wound and to allow the weapon to be removed more easily.

The design worked perfectly when Matt took the weapon out of the drawer and plunged it into Hilton’s throat. He pulled it out easily and stuck it back in again.

The woman, fat and white and covered in blood turned over as blood pumped onto her breasts, mingled with the hair and ran down her stomach to pool in her hairy navel. She looked like she’d been swimming in blood.

‘Fucking wanker,’ she screamed. ‘Look what you’ve done.’

A bubbling roar filled the room as Hilton stood up grasping at the foreign body sticking out of his neck. The black blade formed a conduit helping his blood spurt out in several directions. He staggered towards his young brother. His fingers clutched his throat. He pulled the weapon out of his neck releasing a further rush of blood. He sat down on a chair and looked at Matt. He was trying to say something, but forming words was becoming harder as his world turned yellow then grey and then black.

Matt deceided he wasn’t going to be called a wanker any more. 

He walked across to the window. He climbed up onto the sill. He stepped out into the dark black space. 

Free at last.

Please let me know what you think:

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