Thursday, 25 March 2010
CARPACCIO By Lily Childs
I prepared a new entry for tonight. A eulogy.
I didn’t usually record the times and dates of their deaths because that made it kind of final. I liked the idea that the agony would go on forever.
Some of them I held onto for weeks, a couple of months even. Kevin and Peter only lasted half a day each. That was my fault, I couldn’t leave them alone.
I liked to hang around the fairground. It visited our seaside town two, three times a year; just about the only thrill we had in our genteel haven of beaches and blue rinse.
I imagined how it would be to work there. The rides, the slot machines. I’d be one of the cocky boys on Waltzers who’d steal your money as soon as screw you in the bushes.
My first was Jean-Paul. I was only thirteen, a late starter. Jean-Paul captured my attention and I felt this need, this desire to possess him, care for him. For him to love me back. I relished his sinewy moves, the lazy slant of his lingering eye as he moved past me – one time, two times, three times, more.
"Jean-Paul" I whispered. He stopped, looked back. My heart snapped like an elastic band. I tremored in excitement.
He’d seen me.
He wanted me.
The woman he was with was probably three times my age. I studied her for a moment. Handy, bendy, and curvy. A carousel cutey, but hardly burlesque. When I told her I wanted him she laughed in my face. I ran and hid, but later Jean-Paul was mine, coming easily, enjoying the attentions of a young, fresh and tender child.
He asked me why I’d named him Jean-Paul. He was born in Essex, he said.
"Sartre" I replied, thinking how clever I sounded. I was a teenager, and I was doing existentialism. I was having a Parisian moment. No matter, he didn’t know Sartre from the Pope.
He was my first, and they’re always special. He let me love him, though he wasn’t always there for me. It was over so quickly. He stayed in my room, hidden. I brought him food, I paid for it myself – and I brought him my love.
I was found out, of course. Six weeks was all it took for Jean-Paul to be discovered.
I was questioned – over and over.
In the end I told my parents he’d gone, he no longer loved me, could no longer cope with the pressures they were putting on us. It was half-true. He had gone, and it was because of them. They’d stolen him from my private sanctuary – my heart, my soul - and exposed him to everyone. That was unacceptable. He belonged to me… and me alone.
That was how it came about. How I killed my first goldfish. How I released it from the expectations and the prying eyes of human society.
There were many after that. Mum and dad gave up noticing. They were even oblivious to the frequency of their passing – perhaps the fish all looked the same to them. Nicky, Joseph, Brandon, Keith, Norman… Hubert. Hubert! He was a laugh. Though once the witty swish in his tail calmed down and he was content to swim in the bowl, it was too late. Round and round and round he’d go. Getting slower, day by day until I was bored with him. Up and out – down the toilet – off to a life of freedom in the sewers of Sussex.
He had plenty of good company down there over the following years – Richard, Andrew, Colin… mum and dad. Yes, don’t be surprised. They were rather in the way in the end, if you know what I mean. I’ve my own life to lead after all. Me casa, su casa, except their house was my house now.
Fresh water was too good for my parents.
I had other plans; they didn’t appear to mind much. A few Morning Glory seeds in their cereal over a few days had them bouncing off walls and sliding about a lot. A quick family ‘trip’ up to Beachy Head this morning and they were soon off their trolleys, and off this planet.
I pretended I didn’t want to be there, embarrassed by them running about the gorse bushes playing Catch like love-struck teenagers when Bill, my father, apparently spotted something fascinating hovering in the sky above the English Channel. So they tried to catch it. By flying over the cliff.
It was so easy, and I was barely involved.
I called the police, weeping. I ran about in mock distress for the benefit of the tourists and ramblers. When the Sea Rescue Team arrived, I really did cry, surprising myself. I’d been acting quite well up to then. I frowned through the tears.
The police asked about my parents’ strange behaviour. Were they drug abusers? I confessed. They drunk too much. They smoked sweet, foul skunk. I’d already arranged for the cops to find a stash hidden under their bed when they came to the house later.
When I got home I was racked with relief yet the anger remained. I spoke to Fabien and Horace, two of my favourites. They’d have to go – sacrifice themselves in memory of my parents.
Wriggling in my pale hands, their fins tipping flip-flop, flop-flip, I watched them, detached from their agony. Their large mouths gasped and shouted in silence. I cruelly let them suffer and then took them outside to our back yard. I threw them into a gutter and washed them down the drain with the hosepipe.
I walked away.
It's mine now, this house. This grubby mire. This place where my father hit my mother, and my mother ignored me.
I went upstairs. My bedroom was right in front of the top step. Apparently it stunk of piss because I wet the bed. Still do. I never noticed the smell.
I went to my wardrobe; it had a brassy padlock hanging from the double handles. I unlocked it with the key I kept in my wallet. On the top shelf was a book. I’d been keeping it for years - since Jean-Paul. I recorded them all after they passed on.
My beautiful boys.
In the last few years I’d made some additional entries.
He irritated the hell out of me back in our school days. I caught up with him in the toilets at a mutual friend’s 21st. After a messy fumble we agreed to meet again when he was next in town. He could come to me, he said.
"Keep it quiet" I said. "I’m not out yet."
Joshua winked at me. "Keeping stum, Alan. Keeping stum"
Two weeks later he turned up with wine on the night when ma and pa were out on their weekly lash.
I’d promised Joshua dinner first.
We sat down, almost formally for two guys who were about to shag the arses off each other. He’d forgotten to tell me about his nut allergy. That was OK, because I’d remembered. Tongues really do swell to fill your mouth when you suffer anaphylactic shock. I watched him writhe and choke with one hand around his throat, the other reaching out for me. His eyes screamed. I let him get to his final breath before I stepped in and kicked him between the legs.
I stamped on his own nuts and watched him die.
Cue the sewer.
We hadn’t discussed his private life, but it seemed nobody missed him, or at least no-one came looking for him.
I turned back the pages in my journal, reading further into the past.
My first girl was actually during those school years. Nessa Keenan. I’d been told she fancied the hell out of me, thought I was the athlete, the artist, the historian.
She was right.
I followed her down King Street, hanging back until there was no-one else around. The light was fading and the traffic non-existent. I knew she was waiting for me, she wouldn’t be on my side of town by choice; she was a posh chick. I walked up behind her and slid my hand around her thick waist. She gasped and turned to face me. I smiled.
‘I’ve been looking for you’ I said. She lowered her long eyelashes to look up at me, a willing Minnie Mouse. I led her away, holding hands like young lovers to the allotments on the marshes – nowhere near my house. I took her there and then behind someone else’s runner beans. Then I took her again, and again until it was dark and she no longer seemed to be breathing. I rammed my ear against her chest. No heartbeat. I hovered my hand over her mouth but there was no warmth, no wisp of a breath.
It was an interesting experience, but I didn’t think I could go for the female thing full-time. I’d had Simon Jeffers, Ben Tennant and David Harrison before then, and had felt far more satisfied by those encounters, which were almost violence-free. Though I have to say killing Nessa was a bit of an accident. I didn’t mean to.
These things happen.
I had to dispose of my short-term girlfriend. I didn’t have much choice, she was too far gone. I dragged her plump body to the allotment compost heap and busied myself in burying her in the centre. By the time they found her she was worm-ridden.
Everyone was questioned.
I wasn’t even a suspect.
A few of the lads told the police she fancied me, so they asked me about that. I told them I wasn’t interested in fat girls.
"I’m a runner, I play football. I haven’t got time for fans." And that was it.
So Nessa was the first and only girl so far. Jasper the goldfish – I chose him in memory of her. He was the only effeminate one in the tank.
I opened my diary to note the details surrounding Fabien and Horace’s demise and felt a shudder of excitement. The officer assigned to investigate the death of my parents was a Sergeant Luke Mitchell. After convincing him I didn’t need to go to hospital to be treated for shock Luke told me, with his eyes running over my shy body, that he would visit this evening to talk with me further about what had happened. Or was it ‘question me’? I can’t quite remember what he’d said. Whatever it was, I knew it was a ruse.
I knew he wanted me.
I locked the book away, but not before creating a new entry entitled ‘Luke.’
I walked back down the stairs to the kitchen where I needed to scrub, clean, and erase all trace of my parents’ existence.
I smiled happily to myself, for once.
I opened the larder door; the glare from the bare bulb filled the space with light, flooding the tank that sat on a shelf. Goldfish, tens of them, thrashed about, as fast a goldfish is capable of thrashing. Orange bodies shot to the top of the water, their mouths desperate for food. I sprinkled in a thin layer of TetraFin and watched them for a while as they ate. It took me a few moments to chose the right one, then…
"Lucien." Nearly his namesake.
"It’s your night."
I darted my hand into the tank and grabbed him.
You have to be quick. I kissed the creature gently, the taste of him horrid upon my lips.
"I have a feeling Sergeant Luke’s the one, Lucien. For keeps."
Lucien didn’t reply.
He’d never had much to say so his silence didn’t bother me. I placed him inside a transparent Chinese take-away container with just enough water to keep him alive for the slow sacrifice. I put him on the windowsill so he'd see when Luke arrived, and would be able to hear our conversation.
I’m not stupid.
I know the police will get me for what I’ve done this time. I’m happy to play the innocent with Luke this evening. I might even offer myself to him; see what he does - arrest me, or fuck me over the kitchen table.
Whatever happens, all I care about are the goldfish.
Tonight, Lucien’s life depends on it.
Lily Childs (c) 24 March 2010
Lily Childs is a budding writer in the mystery, chiller and horror genre, and is thrilled to have her short stories published on Thrillers Killers 'N' Chillers.
She is currently writing her first novel and lives on the Sussex Coast with her artist husband and beautiful 6-year old daughter. Lily blogs at: