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Archive 2

Archive 1

 

NEW YORK STORIES

PRAGUE


Fashion Statement


by Kelvin Mason


In my own words?
Well, we were coming home from a visit to my parents and... Yes, that's right, Tommy and I. Thomas Ian Campbell, my husband. Sunday the seventh of April, yes. Can I get on with it? Well, Tommy's always dead grumpy after a visit to my folks. He's never liked them. Never. Pretended too before we were married, mind. Anyhow, it was a struggle to get him to go, even once a month or so, even just for a couple of hours. This time he was in a right paddy on the way home, bawling and screaming at me, getting himself in a real lather. That day it was the way I was dressed - one of his hobbyhorses.
'You look like a slut. Must get it from that bitch of a mother: mutton dressed as lamb, the pair of you. Should know better, especially that old bat. And you! For Christ's sake woman, you're forty-three years old: skirt up to your arse, tits hanging out. Bloody near see-through that blouse is. What is the matter with you? You stupid looking tart! '

On and on. I did my usual, sort of tuned out. You have to. If you argue with Tommy you get a belt in the mouth. And that's if you're lucky.
Sick little bugger, Tommy.
He was still ranting when he turned into Sussex Road, not concentrating on his driving. And BANG! He must have slammed on the brakes - the seat belt almost cut my throat. Tyres squealing, everything. When I recovered and looked up there was this jogger. We must have stopped a whisker away from him because he's right up close to the bonnet of the car - one hand even resting on it! All in black he was, a big bloke, and staring in at Tommy - cold, dark eyes. Eh? Yes, the car engine had stopped - I think. I guess it had stalled. I don't remember any noise anyway: seemed like it was dead quiet. The jogger had one of those little goatee beards and a moustache, and his hair cropped really short - a number one, isn't it? He looked very hard. Trouble. I tell you who he looked like, that actor in that film. You know the one. What was it called? Oh, I'm terrible for names. You must know: tall, heavy-set guy.

It doesn't matter? Okay, suit yourselves. Maybe it was TV. What happened next? What happened next was the jogger steps back and takes a kick at the car! Then moves over to Tommy's side and kicks it again. I knew he'd broken something - you could hear it.
'My car'! Tommy squeals. 'The bastard!'
And he's struggling with the door and out of the car before I can say a word. Leaves the bloody door wide open of course: freezing cold outside, and me in just my short-sleeve blouse - the cream, silk one. Typical.
'What the bloody hell do you think you're at?' Tommy shouts.
He's red as a beetroot by then, and bending to look at the damage. The jogger just stands there, calm as you like. Big fella, all muscle, like I said. Quite good looking I suppose, if you like that type. Me, I prefer... Eh?
All right. Well, then Tommy says something like:
'You've smashed my bloody indicators!' He loved that car.
'You weren't using them', the jogger says, quiet so as I could hardly hear him.
'I... You... Tommy starts blustering'. Like he does. 'I'll have you, you bastard!' And he flings himself at the jogger. No more than five-foot seven, Tommy, and ten-stone wringing wet. But he's a nasty, wiry little sod - take it from me: had the bruises to prove it often enough. Stick to the point?
Okay. Tommy gets his hands round the jogger's throat, trying to strangle him. I think he must have taken him by surprise, because the jogger staggers back a step - never a flicker of anything on his face, mind. And he soon recovered. He prises Tommy's hands off his throat and forces him backwards, holding his wrists. Tommy's struggling and swearing, trying to free his hands. Next thing I know, the jogger shoves Tommy and he stumbles into the driver's door. Doesn't go down though, claws on to the door to stop himself falling. I can tell by the colour of his face he's absolutely livid: beside himself. Crimson. That's how he gets when he's in a real fret. Look out then, because someone's going to get it.
Usually me.

Tommy's spluttering and grinding his teeth and the jogger's just giving him this look - sort of mocking. So Tommy reaches over the door for his hammer... Oh, he always keeps it in the door pocket. Just let any bugger try that road rage with me, he used to say. He's like that: carries a Stanley-knife when he takes the dog for a walk in the evening, in case of muggers or that. As a weapon, yes, he kept the hammer as a weapon. Shall I carry on? So Tommy's holding the hammer and he's got that nasty smirk on his face - like the time he took his Stanley-knife to my new cocktail dress. A big one for smirking, Tommy.

He takes a swing at the jogger with the hammer: a big roundhouse swing. It would have taken his head if it had hit him. But it didn't. The jogger moved like a panther: ducked out of the way, grabbed Tommy's arm. The hammer hand, yes. Then all hell really breaks loose. The jogger is mad now, you can tell. His lip is curled up, snarling. And his eyes! His eyes were black and blazing. He picks Tommy up like he was nothing and shakes his arm like a dog shaking a rat. Tommy drops the hammer on the road. Then the jogger half throws, half shoves him back onto the bonnet. This time it's him got his hands round Tommy's throat. The look on his face! I was sure he was going to kill him. Well I'm out of the car, aren't I, I could see this was getting out of hand.

Laddered my stocking on the bloody seat and everything. And that made me angry. So I'm pulling my skirt down and I'm sure I must have been shouting at the pair of them. Not a blind bit of notice. Men! Tommy's gurgling and choking and the jogger's squeezing the life out of him. Tommy looks even more like a rat: going wild, clawing at the jogger's face. Draws blood too, but a scratch wasn't likely to stop the big fella. He just kept squeezing. And Tommy's struggling getting weaker. I remember thinking: Shit, he is going to kill him.
He is going to kill Tommy.

So I grab one of the jogger's arms and I'm tugging at him. I must have still been shouting too. But he doesn't even notice me. So I bit him. Here, just above the elbow. He must have felt that, because he turns his head to look at me. There was white spit at the corner of his mouth and his eyes were bulging. Just for a second we're frozen: me biting, him glaring at me. Then he lets go of Tommy with one hand, shakes me off, grabs my blouse and shoves me away. But he holds on to the blouse and very near tears it off me: all the buttons ripped out and part of it tore off in his hand. And then he's back to throttling Tommy. So...

Me? Well if you must know, I'm on my backside on the pavement. Witnesses say what? I can't remember. Okay, okay. I'm half bloody naked, all right: my skirt's up round my waist, my bra strap's broken and one of my tits is hanging out. Is that enough for you? Satisfied? Can I get on with it now? Dirty minded coppers.

Tommy's face is a different colour by then – purple. And he's just about stopped struggling. My backside hurt like blazes, but I was angry. So I must have picked up the hammer. I'm sure I warned him, the jogger, but he didn't take any notice. I got round behind him, shouting, telling him to let Tommy go. But he doesn't hear me - or doesn't chose to - just keeps squeezing. So I hit him. Once, twice. Maybe three or four times, I don't know. It didn't register. But the blood. He let go then all right. Turned towards me, clutching at the back of his head, trying to stop the bleeding. He looked so - like - puzzled, completely mystified. Like a little boy. I felt so sorry for him. It was like it wasn't me, you know?
Like a film.

But then he's coming for me, reaching out for me - this horrible, bloody hand. So I hit him once more. Right in the middle of his forehead. I had to. Couldn't stop myself - I was in a sort of rhythm. He falls sideways like a great big tree: slow at first, then BOOMF! He crashes to the road. I didn't mean to kill him. It was heat of the moment. Instinct, sort of. I remember looking down at him. And looking down at my torn blouse, my breast. I loved that blouse.
Tommy?
Well... Once I got started, you know.” © Kelvin Mason, 2001

contact: kelvin.mason@mail.dk
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