I’d been staring at Eddie for some time and noticed that a spiteful smile had lifted against the corner of this mouth as though he had been snagged by the devil’s claw. The folds of fat where Eddies chin should be and rolling over towards the cleft of his shirt that was hanging loosely open so that the man’s coarse hairs were sprouting out from beneath. The hair wriggling and twitching around down there as though he held back a nest of spiders.
Mummy was seated to the side of Eddie and I spied how her hand was held beneath the clutch of Eddies fat fingers as though he were pinning her to the spot so that she couldn’t escape. Mummy’s urgent breath that frosted against the Perspex screen that separated the both from me. Which personally I thought was overkill, because it wasn’t as though I would leap forwards there and then and rip the tongue from Eddie’s cruel mouth.
My feet that were hidden beneath a wooden counter and my left foot that fidgeted from side to side and trying to loosen the steel clasp and the chains that were shackled between my ankles. My foot twitching from left to right and the chains that rattled down below and sounding like the urgent rattle of a viper’s tale. The chains and the manacles had been removed from my wrists but the skin there was red and pinched.
I turned my head, the muscles tightening like a hang man’s noose against my neck, as I peered towards the steel door that remained open behind me. The sight of Sister Dixon standing back there and a thin smile that was sliced across her lips. Two gorilla guards that were positioned to either side of her and their steel batons against their hips. And little old me that was locked in here behind three inches of solid Perspex as though I were Ted Bundy or some other sick wacko from the nineteen-seventies.
Sister Dixon smiling still. Her lips that appeared to have been sliced away and a blood red tear against her mouth. Her flawless skin and the terracotta foundation against her face, The sense that the woman’s face was just a mask and something dark and sticky that was hidden from the world beneath. The nun’s eyes that were wide and cruel and challenging me somehow, I thought. Some game I had found myself a part of and the rules I did not yet begin to understand.
The steel chains that were biting against my ankles and out of sight and oh, how the world would react with shock if they were to ever discover how us children had been treated in Deadwood Hospital. And I reckoned if I were to only rattle the chains against my ankle that my Mummy would hear the sound and understand my plight. And my Mummy bunching her fingers in to fists and beating at the Perspex screen and demanding that her child was set free.
But not yet I thought. I had things to do in here I reckoned.
I smiled at Sister Dixon and she smiled at me in return and I noticed how the scarlet lipstick against her lips cracked and flaked and the skin that was revealed beneath was black somehow, corrupted. I turned my face from Sister Dixon and lifted my hands from where they had been hidden against my lap and brought them so that they rested upon the table that passed beneath the Perspex screen and on to the other side. My Mummy’s hand that remained pinned against the table on the opposite side. The clawing fingers of Eddies hand on top.
“How are you?” Mummy asked, and I almost pissed my pants with laughter at the question. The sound of the goblins voice that rattled about my head.
I’m great. I’m fucking great Mum. It’s fucking great in here.
I shook my head a little from left to right and smiled but was sure that my expression was Mr sad emoji, and the thought of his little sad face made me feel a little glum.
“I’m ok.” I said and noticed how the words seemed to crumple from between my lips like dried kindling. I forced my lips to lift from either corner, but the weight of them too great to lift it seemed. And within a moment or two I gave the smile up completely. Mummy on the other side of the Perspex screen. Her eyes that were round and swollen looking and studying mine. The flickering of the florescent tube overhead that seemed to cast ripples across Mummy’s eyes. How terribly frail she appeared. The green anorak that hung across her shoulders as though it remained hanging upon the clothes hanger. Her skin like dried paper and her lips like fish scales.
“I miss you.” Mummy said, and the laughter that almost burst forth from my lips like acid so that my guts would spew against the Perspex screen and the plastic would begin to snap crackle and pop before our eyes. “The house seems dead without my little duckling in there.” She explained, and her Adam’s apple that bobbed against her neck so that it appeared as though Mummy had taken to swallowing golf balls since I had left.
The warmth of my fingers upon the table where they gently folded over against the other. My fingers latticing and creating the church and then the steeple and open the hands and there’s the people. A memory that fire-crackled through my mind and my Daddy’s face before me. His voice that I recalled and the smell of tea upon his breath as he kissed me to sleep each night. And now he was dead. And all that remained before me was my Mummy and the man that clasped her hand where my Daddy should be.
Reluctantly I shifted my gaze from my Mummy’s frail body and allowed my eyes to settle once more upon Eddie. Eddie’s eyes that were narrowed and that spiteful smile against his lips that had yet to drop since the moment he had entered and found me locked upon the other side of the Perspex glass.
“I miss you too.” I replied, and my eyes opening wide as I fixed my furnace gaze upon Eddie and hoped that he was able to see the flames that flickered and danced behind the centres of my eyes. But I reckoned he was still hungover from the night before cause the only response from the bloated Jabba was a smile and a chunter and his belly bouncing about against the edges of the table.
“See sweetie.” Eddie said, glancing briefly at his wristwatch as though he had better places to be than here. “Mandy’s fine. She’s in the best place. I told you there was nothing to worry about.”
Mummy shaking the sound of Eddies words from her head as though they had scurried towards the centre of her brain and were laying eggs in there. A look of pain that seemed to flash against Mummy’s face and I lowered my gaze briefly to where Eddie’s’ hand remained fixed upon Mummy’s and noticed how the man’s fingernails were pinching against my Mummy skin. The edges of her skin that were pressed white and would split and bleed I reckoned if something wasn’t done to remove the spiteful man’s grasp.
And I was really close to rattling my old foot beneath the table then and the chains that entrapped me and the whole shebang come crashing down and #childloonyscandal that would trend for hours I reckoned. I turned my face briefly from Eddie and my Mummy and allowed my gaze to settle briefly once again upon Sister Dixon who remained standing impassively behind. The flaking lipstick and that black skin that was revealed beneath and glistening like the scales of a viper.
I shook my head and the notion of escape away.
I had things to do in here.
“Come on sweetie, we’ve seen her now, she’s fine see.” Eddie said, his malignant words invading my brain and a taste like corrupted milk that seemed to leak from the glands within my mouth and curdle against my tongue. “Like Sister Dixon told us, it’s the best place for her.” He said, as he lifted his gaze briefly towards where Sister Dixon remained standing behind me. The cruel smile that had returned to Eddie’s lips and the thought that the devil had snagged them with his hook. “Isn’t it Sister Dixon?” Eddie said.
“It certainly is Mr Boswell.” Sister Dixon replied, her gaze turning towards me briefly and the lips that were stretched thin. “She’s in the best possible place in Deadwood.” She said.
“Are they duckling? Are they looking after you in here?” Mummy said, a pleading quality to her voice as she leaned in closer and squirrelled one hand from beneath the clawing clasp of Eddies and brought it towards the Perspex screen. Her fingers that settled upon the plastic screen that separated us. Her fingers splayed and appearing like a star fish that had settled upon the insides of an aquarium. “Are you getting better sweetie. Are they looking after you in here?” She asked. And the terrible pain that was etched across her features and the sense that her paper- skin would peal and flake away from the bone at the slightest breath of wind.
I pushed my hands forwards and lifted it towards the Perspex screen that separated the two of us so that my hand came to rest upon the spot where my Mummy’s hand remained. My palm against hers and my fingers like the arms of a starfish. And the thought that Sister Dixon remained standing behind me and the guards to her side. And the Loonies that were locked away in their rooms and out of sight and out of mind and no one to save them from Deadwood but me.
“I’m fine Mummy.” I replied, but the words seeming to stick within my throat somehow as though I had swallowed one of those golf balls that Mummy had been chewing upon lately. The tears that that stung like acid against the corners of my eyes. But I would not allow the tears to fall and burn my skin whilst Eddie remained seated before me and daring me to cry. No Never. “Yes. They are Mummy. Don’t worry. They’re treating me really well in here.” I replied, and the iron clasp that was pinching and gnawing against my ankle and out of sight. “I’ll be better soon. I’m sure of it.” I said. “I’ll be out of here.”
And the sound of my words seemed too much for my poor Mummy’s body to bear as her head collapsed suddenly and her shoulders crumpled and her face that hung down so that her eyes and her tears could not be seen. And all that could be heard was the desperate sound that my Mummy made as she cried for the daughter she had lost.
I turned to Eddie and that cruel smile of his that remained hooked against his lips. The folds of fat that hung against his neck and over and down towards his chest. The coarse spider hair down there. And I reckoned I could already taste his blood upon my tongue as I studied him. His mocking smile and my eyes that were wide and furnaced by the devil’s flame, I reckoned.
“Smile cock-sucker.” I hissed.
My voice that had changed suddenly and become broken. The words not mine but the goblins. “You’re dead when I get out of her.” I said.
Mummy slowly lifted her face from the table and her sobbing that had stilled for a moment it seemed. The wretched words that had fallen from between my lips that had not been heard by her. She brought her hand reluctantly away from the screen so that it settled against her cheek where she wiped the tears away. Eddie beside her still. His face that had turned a kind of milky green in colour and the grip that had loosened against Mummy’s hand.
And my Mummy noticed, and she lifted her hand back towards the screen so that it settled a final time upon mine as she smiled too.
“You’ll be better soon duckling. I’ll get you out, don’t worry.” She said, and her words almost convinced me for a moment I thought, as I found my head bobbing up and down like a dumb puppy.
“I know,” I replied, sniffling a little so that the snot began to stream from my nose and against my lips.
And I believed it, I really did. But I wouldn’t be leaving here how my Mummy thought I reckoned. Me skipping through the iron gates of Deadwood Hospital and Sister Dixon and the rest of her guerrillas beside her and my Loony friends calling out their best wishes to me from behind.
It would be a whole lot bloodier than that.
“Time!” A shrill voice called from behind and a door suddenly swung open from behind my Mummy and a bright corridor revealed behind and the outside world beyond. My Mummy bringing her lips to the screen and passing me her kisses and calling out to me and telling me that she would visit soon and that all was right with the world and that all was good and that I’d see, that I’d see. Eddie’s face and his scowl that was lifted to me a final time and the skin that was green and sallow. My Mummy smiling and waving and making her promises as the two of them were gently led away before my Mummy turned to me a final time and Eddie pulling at her sleeve and a curious smile against his lips.
And it was then that I noticed the seam against my Mummy’s neck where a knife had been used to cut her throat in two and the flesh that was revealed beneath and the gristle and the blood pouring down and Eddie laughing by her side and leaning in to her
And the metal door slammed to.
And all became silent once more.