Reflex

There is and was a story about a man, this was in eighty-two or three, just after The Falklands War, who was sitting on the couch in his house in England one late Saturday afternoon, maybe early evening. He was drinking tea. A cup and a saucer. And perhaps distracted a little from his immediate surroundings by the television and whatever was on there. It was a normal couch or it must have been, not set against the wall as is more common now, but out in the middle of the living room.

He had a daughter. Six years old she was then, something like that. Her dad had been away. Quite a while, especially to a child of that age, off at this odd war (not that she would have known that, the oddness or the war). He was a soldier. Tough man. Not to his daughter, but still. Hard business. Must have been odd in itself (not just the war), being back home. On the couch on a Saturday. Drinking tea, cup and saucer.

Our own boy gets sore legs. He must get it from me because I used to have just the same. A terrible aching and in the middle of the night. Nothing to look at but it hurts a lot. Helps when you’ve had something someone else has got. Otherwise you can think a little that they’re making more of a fuss than’s needed. Although he is a good sleeper. And ten. At ten you’re not thinking of being up at three for the fun of it. Not if you’re a good sleeper.

She came up behind him, she must have done, of course she did. Maybe had seen it on a film on the television. He was probably watching for the football results. He’d been in The Falklands doing something or other, but not the regular soldiering. Member of the Special Air Service, SAS, top of the tree, very particular operations. Of course it’s violent. It’s war and fighting, it’s all violent. Killing and dying. Fucking terrifying whoever you are.

She was at the back of the couch. Behind him. Quiet and light footfalls being small, probably in slippers. On a carpet. She reached out her hands and put them around his head, one either side, and onto his face. Like she must have seen. That thing where you say Guess who? Often a lover to another. Husband and wife or before that.

I woke up because my wife was speaking and then he was talking, the ten year old, but for the first second or so I didn’t know it was him or anyone at all. Was dark and three o’clock. And I felt adrenalin before I knew what it was. Someone in the room. Middle of the night. Wife was saying something in her voice.

He hadn’t even turned around before the tea cup, nice china, almost delicate, thin handle, was smashed and shattered grinding into his daughter’s face. Full on and in and with no stopping. More than thirty years ago now. Broke her nose and a cheekbone, blinded her completely. I always wonder if she still lives at home.

Advertisements