Killing Dad - a short story by Keith Wright
I killed my father with consummate ease. There was nothing to it. The difficulties of killing another human are exaggerated in my opinion. It’s a piece of cake, so long as you are not just playing at it. If you really mean to do it, then it is relatively straight forward. The act itself of course, not necessarily the aftermath and consequences.
The term the word used was ‘bludgeon’.
I remember the police press statement. ‘A 46-year-old man was today found bludgeoned to death in his own home. A relative of the man is currently detained in police custody, pending an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death.’
The normal bland statement, but what a marvellous word to use; ‘bludgeon’. It is self-descriptive and has a whiff of Victorian aggrandisement. It was a favourite with the cops, and the press. I like the word as well. Let’s face it, it describes the act, beautifully. Bludgeon is one of those really old words that have stayed with us over the decades. It’s because it’s a quality word, I reckon.
I bludgeoned Dad to death with Mum’s iron. I bet it bloody hurt him. Although, after the first blow, he was stunned, and the second put his lights out. The pathologist couldn’t say whether it was the third or fourth whack that killed him. It could have been the ninth even. That’s right, I didn’t, couldn’t, stop once I got started, it all flowed out of me, you see. ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’, sort of attitude.
Our Rob, my brother, freaked out when he got back from work. Mum and me, were having a cup of tea in the living room. Dad was in the kitchen. His brains were in the hall. Mum said it was the first time he had decorated the walls in all the years they’d been married.
Poor Rob, it was his first day at work, at Raleigh Cycles. In the offices, not manual stuff, not our Rob, you’re joking, he wouldn’t be seen dead getting his hands dirty. Rob is a bit of a sensitive lad. Not weak, don’t get me wrong, just a bit sensitive. At eighteen he is a year and a month and a day older than I am. It was him who rang the police. Well, we’d had a chat about it. Somebody had to eventually. We did consider keeping it quiet. We considered lots of things actually. Mum said we should do what’s right and ring the police. Typical Mother. She always had a sense of fair play about her and I guess she trusted that justice would prevail, once all the circumstances were known. She was wrong of course, mistaking others ability to have her wisdom and belief in natural justice. Anyway, it was agreed, and Rob telephoned the cops later that night.
I know I must sound cavalier about it all now, but the thing is I’m not guilty. Well, I am guilty, obviously, but I’m not guilty in my self about it, you know, killing him, if you understand what I mean. In fact, I’m glad I did it. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not glad that I’m sat in a prison visitor’s room, talking to Rob and Mum about the Appeal Court, but I’m glad the bastard is dead.
I’m smiling, because Rob is nodding away in agreement. He’s a smashing lad, Rob, I like to see him, and Mum, of course. I count the hours to visiting day. It reinforces our bond. It’s a miracle that we’ve turned out all right. That is thanks to Mum, really. When we were kids, she tried to shield us a lot from what was going off, always trying to protect us, but it was an impossible task. It seems like yesterday, yet it also seems as though it all happened during another lifetime, or to someone else. My memory of it is clouded in a sepia haze. Like watching an old movie, only we’re in it. Me, and Rob and Mum, we are actors. It’s just a pretty shitty script.
We were always watching the clock, as kids. The density of the atmosphere increased, and the pleasant ambience decreased, as it got towards pub closing time, that is when Dad would appear, and like little mice we would scurry into a hidey hole somewhere and listen. We were always listening. Even if we were playing, or talking, if Dad was about, we were listening. listening for the shouts, for the bangs and crashes. Sometimes we would escape, get out of the house, and up to the park, to play in peace. It was never much good, though. Rob and me never spoke about it in those days, but we felt guilty if we played on the park. Guilty for leaving Mum to face him on her own. Sometimes we would compromise, and one would stay in and one would go out. It was usually me that stayed. As I’ve said, Rob was a bit sensitive and the aggravation affected him more than me. Or should I say, he showed it more. There’s a subtle difference, I suppose.
Rob was due to start secondary school after the holidays, and I was relieved to get rid of the tag of being ‘Rob’s kid brother,’ at junior school. It was to be short lived of course, as I would follow him, next year to Comprehensive school. For the moment though, I was David. I would have a name at last, and a new identity. Younger siblings know what I mean.
Our back garden was lush with greenery. Green grass, three feet high. Dad would never mow it, and anyway we didn’t have a lawn mower. Rob and me didn’t have the gumption to ask to use one of the neighbours’. It just kept on growing, just like us. After a while, we didn’t realise the garden was any different to anyone else’s. We played footy on the street or up at the park.
We looked at the clock. The old clock on the shelf, which used to be Grampa’s, showed twenty past two, that meant it was ten past. Mum liked to keep the clock ten minutes fast so that she was never late for work! I know, it is ridiculous, but Mum was full of these idiosyncrasies. That’s what made her our Mum. We listened, and we looked at the clock; it all centred on him and where he was to our proximity. Like a sunny day with occasional menacing black clouds floating over and enveloping your space and making you shiver and swallow down a sense of foreboding.
At the old house, when Rob and I were six and seven, (if truth be known, our family was always at sixes and sevens), there was a weird old bloke at number 22. We called him old, but I suppose he would have been about fifty, or so. All us kids were scared to death of him. He looked threatening, with a permanent frown and misshapen teeth, a stubbled face, tattooed forearms and huge hands the size of handbags.
One evening he came to our house. Dad was at the kitchen table, quaffing his dinner, while reading the paper. He reached behind him and opened the door, never averting his eyes from the paper. There was no expectation that he might answer the door. It was Mum’s job. Some breadcrumbs fell from his mouth onto the white Formica top as he bellowed. ‘Nora!’ he didn’t look up as she padded in her slippers toward the door. It was the man from number 22! We were cowering, behind her, too afraid to move. Too afraid to breathe almost. We could scarcely bring ourselves to look up at the man from number 22.
‘It’s your bloody kids again, Nora!’ Number 22 didn’t have any kids.
‘What about them, Stan?’ Says Mum.
‘They keep coming past our house, making a noise. I don’t want them coming past our house again. I’m banning them!’ he emphasised the word as if it was his final decision. As if he was the prince and ruler of our street and the back of our house.
Mum raised an eyebrow. Just the one.
‘Alright, fair enough.’
I glanced at Rob. He returned my stare, his mouth agape. What was she saying? How were we going to get to the park now? How were we going to get anywhere? We would be stuck in the house…I looked at my father. He was oblivious, wiping the tomato sauce off his plate with a slice of bread. My heart sank.
Number 22 was just on his second step as Mum shouted him back. ‘Oh, Stan?’
‘What?’ His bulky frame reappeared in the door frame.
Mum’s face was deadpan. ‘How are you getting to work tomorrow?’
He looked puzzled. ‘Shanks’ pony, same as always. Why?’
‘Well, you have to walk past our house, don’t you?’ She didn’t wait for an answer. ‘And it is impossible for you to get to work without walking past our house, isn’t it, Stan? So, from now on, I’m banning you! Good day!’ And with that she closed the door in his face.
That was Mum. She had style. She had class. We had nowt, but we’d always got our Mum.
Mum said things were okay at the start, with her and Dad, I mean, but then he had an accident down the pit and he went a ‘bit funny’, as she put it. She always said that was why she stuck with him. It wasn’t his fault. So, whose fault was it for Christ’s sake?
‘Feeny’ is a word that Mum used to use. Is it a word? Maybe it was her word. Dad was feeny with us kids. She meant secretively malicious or sadistic, but we understood the word as soon as she first said it. He would shout us over and pretend to hug us, but he always overdid it, waiting for us to gasp for air, purposely restricting us, squashing us, until we let out a cry of desperation, then he would let go. Feeny. When Mum wasn’t looking he would pinch us, not playfully, but nastily. Another bizarre activity was to take hold of our hands and shake them up and down vigorously, at great speed, ‘rag-dolling’ us in a frenzy of feeniness. His darker moods were worse. Rob and I would have to stand either side of him and act as human ashtrays as he flicked his Park drive cigarette ash into our palms. We would wait until our cupped hands were full and then empty them into the bin and return to our post. The degrading stuff was the worst. Why did Mum let it happen? What was she thinking of? Could she stop it? She stopped the man at number 22, why not Dad?
I frightened myself once when the father of a friend of mine dropped me off at home after football. I was feeling a bit out of it, probably because of the love and kindness openly showed his son, and I tild him about the human ashtray thing. He was outraged and called it abuse. A feeling of abject terror flooded over me when the dad said he would tell my teacher or the social services about it. I begged and pleaded with him not to do it. The thought of going into a home was far more terrifying than the lives we led at our house. I apologised to the dad for making it all up and said I had done it before, just to get attention, and I was sorry and I would never do it again. Then he threatened to tell my Dad about it and the fear rose up again. I eventually escaped and I walked home from football every time after that. I learned not to share.
As we grew older dad twinned his physical abuse with gross psychological terrorism. Accusing us of being queer, and ‘bumming’ each other, and having sex with Mum. Crazy, frightening, shameful stuff. It was around this time that I decided that I was going to bring him to account, sooner or later. I knew I would have my day. This inner resolution gave me a calmness, that I know unsettled him. He could see that look in my eyes. It made him worse, of course, but I would not give in. He knew I hated his guts.
We did okay at school, but we were mostly tired. Both Rob and me could never allow ourselves to go to sleep until dad was in from the pub and the fight had subsided, and we could hear that Mum was okay. We eventually developed a shift system, as dad got home later and later. The worst nights were when one of us night watch man had fallen asleep and we would wake up the next morning afraid, scared to leave the bedroom, in case he had finally killed her.
A kid at school told me my dad was shagging one of the bar maids at the pub. It ended up in a fight, defending his honour! Or was it my honour? Or Mums? I didn’t know. It wasn’t the accusation that bothered me. Nothing would surprise me about dad. It was the fact that this youth wanted to tell me, in front of everybody, was bursting to shout it out, to humiliate me, to embarrass me. That is not nice. This was one humiliation I could prevent. His Mum complained to the school about her little darling, and I got detention.
Occasionally, and I’m not sure why, Rob and I, would invent stories about how great our Dad was, which we told our school mates. How he saved a man down the pit. How he chased away the man from number 22. How he used to be a champion body builder. We did so want to love him, I guess.
I don’t know why me, and Rob waited for Dad to come home from the pub. We never did anything, never helped Mum at all. We only listened, clutching our blankets, and tortured ourselves. We were too scared to act. This made us feel guilty and come up with fantasies and scenario’s where we went down and challenged Dad and saved Mum, for ever more. The fantasy became a reality of course, in my case, some years later. Maybe that’s where it was born. If we could hear that Mum was okay at the end of the beating, then we were relieved. It was always his voice we could hear. Deep and resonant, shouting and bellowing about something and nothing. Mum was always silent. Then we would hear the bumps and bangs and the odd squeal of pain. Mum would limit her squeals of anguish to minimise the chance of waking and alarming us, bless her. Even then, even at that time of pain and despair, she was thinking of us and putting us first, above everything, even her own pain. She would have been mortified to know that we were awake all along and aware of her little secret. After the thumping and kicking we would hear the bastard thud his way up the stairs and clumsily undress before we could hear Mum going around the house, clearing things up, for the morning’s illusion, sniffing quietly sobbing her misery away. Rob and I would grit our teeth and punch the pillow in a pathetic, impotent protest. Odd times we endured the pain of Dad, in his drunken mania, violating her, after a beating. Both Rob and I never discussed this, pretending to be asleep to each other.
I’ve never lost the shame of not being able to go and help, even though I know that it was futile, at least it would have been a gesture of support. Every night was a betrayal of our Mum. Every breakfast was a silent disdain of the goings on of the night before. Mum was always cheery, pretending it had never happened. Pretending everything was okay. Trying to protect us, whilst failing to protect herself.
One morning, Mum had a broken hand. She had fallen on the kitchen floor, it was her own fault, she lied. She shouldn’t be so clumsy. I had never had such a loathing for him as that morning, squirming with an inner rage, as I watched him fill his fat face with his breakfast, but then as I caught his eye, I looked away, afraid.
Amid the mad-cap fantasies, around this time, Rob and I started to jointly contrive ways to remedy the situation. We shared a room together and shared the experiences of course, but the impact, the imprint, were a secret to each other. We didn’t have the words anyway. My favourite fantasy involved me sneaking downstairs and out to the telephone box, I rang the police, who came and took him away forever. One night it nearly came true! A neighbour had anonymously called the police and they belatedly visited our house. The excitement and anticipation was incredible. I nearly peed myself. I was incensed when the police left shortly afterwards. I could hear them laughing! Laughing! They knew Dad from their lock-ins at the pub. I couldn’t believe it. So, Mum was on her own. I never thought much of coppers after that. What good were they to us?
Rob and I invented incredible scenarios once our imaginations became intertwined. That was when the first plan to kill him was born. There were subsequently many others. All those years ago. Who would have thought that one day, in a frenzy of finally released hatred, I would actually carry it out?
Mum broke the news to me that there was apparently little chance of the appeal being successful. She had tears in her eyes when she told me and clutched at Rob’s hand. I put on my brave face and gave her a strong smile. Mum said that she had spoken to the family solicitor that very morning ahead of the visit. He was doubtful of an acquittal but hoped for a reduction in sentence. Mum reached forward and grabbed my hand. The prison officer gestured feverishly for us to break the hold. That would mean a strip search after the visit, no doubt.
The hour had gone quickly and soon the families around us started to leave.
Mum stood up to say goodbye. Rob followed suit. I felt rooted to my seat as the guard approached. My brave smile was waning.
‘See you next time, Mum.’
‘See you next time, son.’
The guard stood next to our table, his gruff voice, and accompanying icy stare, cutting into the warmth of our family.
‘Come on, Nora, let’s have you back to your cell.’
Mum never looked back as she was led away. Back to the cell she shared with an arsonist from Dudley Heath.
Mum was that sort of woman. Always protecting us, Mum was.
@Copyright Keith Wright 2019.
Keith Wright is the author of The Inspector Stark series. ‘One Oblique One’ and ‘Trace and Eliminate’ are out now on Amazon Paperback, Kindle and Kindle Unlimited. ‘Addressed to Kill’ set at Christmas will be out October/November 2019.
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His official website has more short stories and samples of his novels at Keithwrightauthor.co.uk