Part 2 of 3 in a short story for Mothering Sunday.
Compared to the large burger-fattened frame of flash American Redman, Keith’s mother was extremely slight. Nevertheless it surprised him how difficult it was to move her, thunking down the stairs like a cumbersome piece of furniture. Mercifully there was no fuss in the act, just one stifled scream.
Once downstairs, he put his coat on and spotted the map of blood from last night, now dry and darkened as innocuous as sauce dripped from a spoon.
The cold air blasted him as he opened the front door of the little terraced house he’d shared with her for some twenty years since his father last closed the door behind him. These unaired hours of Saturday morning hadn’t yet shed light so it was safe to go and open the boot of his car with deft forward-planning. And then he was back in the house, gathering her up and over his shoulder like one of the many sacks of coal he once shifted in working days. He let the weight take him down the path and in one heavy movement the bag was in and the boot closed. Nobody saw him, though he didn’t much care.
He hadn’t cared, truth be told, since his father went. Keith senior was an admirable man, a strong, hardworking, gentle and handsome man whose only weakness was the curse of the strong. She never understood him, she never forgave his moods, she hadn’t the intelligence to know the man to whom she gave a child she didn’t want and a marriage she wanted less. She called him weak, feckless, useless. He was none of those things. He worked nights, tough, dirty foundry work, and brought home decent money to buy the things she wanted but were never enough. He’d be home at eight in the morning, face and hands black, have his swill and retire to bed on a belly of porridge he made himself. While he slept away the day before his next shift, she’d be plastering her face and out of the house to visit the places she was known. Both father and son knew this but never talked about it, never felt it necessary. They talked instead about the birds they’d ticked in their notebooks on weekend trips out. But everybody eventually snaps. The row was muffled but clear, finished by the time he ventured down. With a nod and a grunt that spoke volumes to his son, he took his coat but not his cap from the peg in the hall and left the house. Four hours later there was a knock on the door and news that he’d been found in Knutton Wood.
When Keith hit Tile Street and approached the
railway and disused coal wharf, the blue lights flashed and swirled the morning
“Morning,” said the police officer.
“Morning,” said Keith as he lowered the driver-side window, “I wasn’t speeding was I?”
“Not a speed check,” said the officer.
“Where you heading?”
“Knutton Wood,” said Keith, “Birdwatching.”
The police officer nodded, spotting the binoculars Keith always had with him on the passenger seat.
“Want to see my licence?” he asked, searching his coat pocket and flashing it towards the officer.
“Fine,” said the officer, “Bit of a twitcher then?”
“Not a twitcher,” corrected Keith, “Twitchers go out on a tip-off. Birders like me just take our chances.”
“Thanks for putting me straight,” said the officer.
“I go up there most weekends,” added Keith, truthfully.
“Rather you than me on a cold day like this.”
“Has there been an accident?” Keith nodded towards the open-doored ambulance.
“So am I good to go?”
“Yea you’re good. Have a nice time “birdering” or whatever you call it.”
An hour later, having done what he’d come to do, Keith was on the craggy edge of Knutton Wood, looking through his 8×30 bins down on the town beyond Redman’s suburban acres to where the railway line carved the place in two. He thought about how it was once a thriving market town and how it was now dying a slow and pitiful death, almost like a valley sinking further down and hoping the hills could fold over and put it out of its misery. He could just about pick out the lights jumping in the distance and wondered if by now the body had been taken. As a precaution he pondered returning home by the other route, where he could call at the supermarket for the provisions he needed for tomorrow’s roast dinner. After one final look back towards the spot he’d meticulously chosen to lay his mother to rest with the ghost of the man she in his eyes killed, he returned to his car.
As he pulled in to the terraced street where at No23 he’d later have to vigorously clean, he could see their neighbour Mrs Hales knocking at the door. Seeing him pull up, she came down the path to greet him at the gate.
“Been out?” she said.
“That would seem to be the case,” Keith said, lugging his shopping bags from the back seat. “Birdwatching, called at the supermarket on the way back.”
“Yes I saw your car had gone. Only I’ve been knocking for your mother,” she said.
“Probably asleep,” he said.
“How is she?”
“Doctor said she’s doing well considering.”
“Well if you need anything…” said Mrs Hales.
“Thanks,” he said.
Inside, he kicked the door closed behind him and headed for the kitchen to dump the shopping. Then he moved to the living room, where he thunked another dart into the board, pinning his mother’s bracelet along with the other in treble 20. Mrs Hales would be a problem to overcome, he knew that, but first things first, everything in order, everything ticked, everything in its place. Tomorrow, while the beef was in the oven, he’d go to St Bartholomew’s where Philipa Ireson liked to go and pray for those she pontificated were less fortunate, and give her the devastating news that her husband Derek has been using prostitutes.
Cleaning up the house was a huge undertaking and his hands were red raw and freezing cold – the four-bar gas fire in the living room barely able to take away the breath that coiled visibly in front of him. The place stank of bleach and Keith hated it, though in these circumstances he was forced to deem it a necessary evil. If his belly had anything inside he would chuck up, sickened as he was at the cold cummupance he’d served before the painstakingly disinfected dessert. But he’d been running on empty since the four slices of toast that passed through him in the early hours of Saturday morning.
To take his mind off things he switched on his laptop and tried to read things. But as was the case for most of his life, not much anybody said said anything to him. Closing it down, he thought instead of Sunday and the succulent smell of roast beef that always excited him, taking the edge off his nausea. A rare treat to follow the next trick of his weekend vengeance.
Final part to follow…