Short Fiction:
by Sue Jackson
So I hit her again. That's when she started squealing, like a stuck pig, a trapped nerve in my head, on and on she went - I couldn't stand it.'

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Nurse Betty



There was a sharp crack as my fist hit her nose, then blood spurted over my hand; fountains of frothing blood. I had to hit her again, just to make sure. Then she started screaming a terrible howling that frightened the life out of me, stemmed the roaring wave of fury that made me hit her in the first place.

Silly bitch provoked me, made me do it. But I couldn't look at the ruddy rubble of her face. I panicked, dodged the crowds and ran, her screams searing deep scars through my head. Scars that resurrect themselves as continual nightmares.

Looking back on it, if I'd known the consequences, would I have hit her? Was a year inside and a large fine, me losing everything and her supposedly going nuts was all that worth a punch on the nose? You tell me.

I 'd had some trouble with women. Leila, my wife, got it into her head that I was bonking my secretary. I wasn't, but you couldn't tell her that. I thought she'd come round, see reason - maybe it was the wrong time of the month. But she got worse. Just because I worked late on occasions, and went out with the lads sometimes, she took this as proof of my misdemeanours.

All that happened was we went to the wine bar down the road from work to celebrate someone 's birthday. My secretary was very attentive that evening for some reason, a bit pissed and giggly, all over me while we stood at the bar. Then Leila walked in, put two and two together and made fifteen. Little did I know I 'd been set up. It turned out Leila had been in cahoots with my secretary, who's a stuck-up little madam at the best of times and hates my guts, and together they stitched me up. Leila said that unless I handed over my share of the flat to her, she would sue me for everything I had.

Well, what can you do? I went to see a solicitor, of course. He said I could contest it, and would probably win, but it would cost me. Doesn 't it always? But I said yes, I would go ahead, despite the expense. I wasn 't going to be kicked in the teeth without fighting back.

On Fridays we always went to the pub on the way home from work. 6o clock would see all our desks cleared, we 'd clatter down the fire escape to the back street leading to the Kings Head, the only pub in the area selling decent beer. Now it 's one of those designer pubs, selling foreign fizzy lagers and wine in large goblets. We'd have a few drinks, sometimes play darts, and usually I 'd go home being my rented flat - around 8 o' clock, have something to eat and watch the telly till late, have another beer, maybe a whisky. Other times some of us would go for a curry, or walk over to Soho and have a Chinese. Sometimes we 'd just stay and drink, sort the world out, give advice on our girlfriends. By then I was steering clear of women. I 'd had enough of them.

It was one of those evenings; the ones when we'd just drink and talk. There were five of us who would drink together regularly, a good bunch. The pub was packed; I can't remember why some football match I think. We downed our drinks hard and fast, getting that buzz that rings in your ears and makes you feel powerful, reckless and altogether wonderful. It must have been about ten o'clock, when some television crowd walk in. You know the sort all mouth, cameras and no brains. They'd been filming the football match, they were high on adrenalin; you could feel it racing round the bar, charging the drinks.

We stood around one side of the bar, they stood the other. A loud bunch they were, shouting and backslapping, all trying to compete with each other on expenses. They were drinking shorts, not beer like us, I remember noticing, because one of the girls kept going on about wanting slimline tonic in her drink, not ordinary. Funny how you remember such insignificant things.

There were two girls one tall and dark, the other blonde with big boobs. She looked a real tart. Just like my secretary in fact. And very like the tart my dad ran off with. This blonde came over to us, giggling. She'd had a few, you could see. She thrust a microphone under George's nose. George doesn't like that sort of thing, and he'd been trying to tell me what had been going on with his girl. They'd had a few problems recently, and he wanted to get it off his chest, in private.

Well, a pub isn't all that private but when you've had a few it doesn't really matter, as long as no-one else is listening, does it? But we didn't want this blonde bit listening, or trying to record it for god's sake. George went all pink in the face, and jumped up. I shouted to her "Stop it, you stupid woman" or words to that effect. But she took no notice. She rammed this microphone under my nose then, and said, slurring a bit, "Could you give us a few words, sir?"

It was her shrill voice that got me like that busty blonde in those old Carry On films, but sillier. So I told her, in no uncertain terms, where she could put her microphone, and not to interfere with my friends. She didn't like that one bit. Her face screwed up and turned even uglier. Her eyes disappeared into mean black slits just like my secretary - and she poured the rest of my Bass over my head.

I was stunned for a moment, then I heard one of her television mates egging her on and she giggled; a high pitched shrill titter. That did it. Now I know what they mean by seeing red you do. It was a massive tidal wave, my own great wall of China, a tower block in New York. It swept me up, carried me off in its own strength, and I smacked her really hard on the nose. Then when I'd hit her, I felt really good, I had speed running through my veins, I could rule the world. So I hit her again. That's when she started squealing, like a stuck pig, a trapped nerve in my head, on and on she went - I couldn't stand it.

So I ran as fast as I could, out of the pub, down the road, over into Covent Garden, dodging and weaving like a demented soul. I ran past the outside drinkers, the performing artistes, all went past in a manic blur, and all the time all I could hear was that terrible squeal, and in front of my eyes was that bloody face.

They caught up with me, in the end, the other side of Lincoln's Inn, somewhere near Chancery Lane. I didn't really know where I was by then, but they took me to Bow Street nick. I spent the night there, and the rest is history. The solicitor said my behaviour was all to do with my father running off when I was little, made up all this psychobabble about me being deprived and all that. Load of rubbish. What about my wife and my secretary kicking me in the balls?

She won, of course, Leila did. She got everything, on the grounds that I was an unstable adulterer, being done for GBH by the time her court case came up, I was the real villain, with no hope of salvation.

So I was left with nothing. No home, no job, zilch. But I made friends inside. Men friends of course I 'll never trust another woman. They taught me to how to know who your mates are, how to stick together, how to get what you want in life. And to make sure that the next time you do it, you don't get caught.


© Sue Jackson 2000

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