EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED -
TWENTY-THREE PROVOCATIVE SHORT STORIES -
You can read most of my short stories here, but please read the warnings - they are not everyone's cup of tea. Some people may be offended by certain themes, and bad language is commonplace in the dialogue.
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
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.’
‘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
Hilton made a sound he thought mimicked an
‘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
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
‘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
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:
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.’
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.
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
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
‘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
The girlfriend started heaving and dry
reaching. Before she left she told him he must be mad to live in a place like
‘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
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
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.
‘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
‘What you gonna do?’
‘Depends what you want. And where you want
Matt turned towards the wall. He pulled the
fleshy parts of his ears across the auditory canal trying to block out the
‘Stop. You’re hurting me.’
‘Shut up it’s supposed to hurt.’
Matt got out of bed. He walked over to
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
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.