Authors: Charles Kennedy Scott
‘Get me a pair of secateurs, Officer, or a small saw,
I can’t get this wretched fork off my client’s finger. More extreme measures
are called for. Don’t just stand there. Do it!’ He turned to Delilah, soft-faced,
saying, ‘My poor child,’ but Delilah hardly saw herself these days as a child,
nor felt a ‘child’ should be treated as she was being treated, ‘there’s nothing
for it, I’m going to have to cut your finger off.’ Which certainly did not
endear Poy Yack to Delilah, who knew perfectly well that all this
non-practically minded lawyer need do was pry apart the metal where the clamp
met. His decision to amputate was hugely overdramatic. Needless to say, Officer
JJ Jeffrey took no time at all in producing a saw, a large saw with coarse
teeth that could have sawn the table in half. Delilah fancied he’d had it
hidden in his inside-out uniform the whole time or had had it slung over the
back of a chair, ready. Its teeth displayed the dark corrosion only blood could
impart. That only a finger had been its prior conquest seem unlikely to
Delilah. By now the Officer, pliant indeed to the lawyer’s insistence of aid,
had rammed Delilah’s hand against the table so that the culprit finger lay on
the surface. It shook both from Delilah’s fear and the Officer’s force. Lawyer
Poy Yack, with one hand gripping the fork and his other gripping the saw’s
handle, positioned the blade and readied it for the two or three strokes the
finger’s severance would require. A sharp tooth resting on Delilah’s finger’s
first knuckle drew a pinhead of bright blood. The lawyer did not appear to
Delilah to be building up to the operation psychologically, more academically
rehearsing its mechanics. This kind of man who put people to certain death
through years of penal hard-living was not going to feel sympathy for a
fingertip nor empathy for its owner, especially when he prepared what he
prepared to do from the goodness of his heart, not as a punishment. Officer JJ
Jeffrey saw it through his own transplanted eyes as quite another thing, and
flicked them from Delilah’s knuckle to the lawyer and back and forth again with
a bright eagerness to see the business done, and with his pith helmet bobbing,
and dripping. No doubt there was also a keenness on his part, Delilah thought,
to retrieve his prop fork.
‘Ooh,’ oohed Delilah, with utterly no idea what else
she could do. ‘Ooh that feels good.’ A diversion, however degrading or
punitively rewarded, was called for. All that mattered was giving these two men
something else to think about. She’d thought: If the finger goes, what next?
These people don’t think twice about an eye, a fat man – what’s a finger?
She decided that to them it was nothing. So she took the finger from her other
hand and played up to their preconceptions by placing it elsewhere on her body
and going Ooh. She’d probably find that punishment for such behaviour was to
lose the finger, but if this became an exchange of pawns, or fingers, so be it,
it gave her time, and stopped this misguided nitwit lawyer from chopping off a
fingertip that had done nothing wrong. Besides, the finger between her legs
wasn’t actually doing anything – not that this fact would ever prove
substantive in the mounting of any future finger-saving defence.
‘Whatever is she up to?’ asked Poy Yack, with a
tremor, and a loss of concentration on the blade.
,’ exclaimed Officer JJ Jeffrey. ‘Please
no. No, no, no.’ The officer was distraught, which mightily pleased Delilah,
and she wished she had resorted to such resorts before. JJ Jeffrey spoke
through the hand over his mouth when he said, ‘Somebody tell me this isn’t
happening. I don’t believe I’m seeing this with my own two eyes.’ Which, one
might add, technically, he wasn’t.
‘Ooh oooh,’ went Delilah, ‘it feels so good.’ Of
course it felt awful and demeaning – but somehow pleasurable to stick it
to these two men in this way, whose children, if they ever had any, would be
born far outside of woman and mixed and matched to suit their fatherly needs
according to the order form.
The lawyer said, turning away now, ‘I cannot defend
this woman. This
. She is undefendable. She is not human.’ The
saw lay on its side now, as if in a defeat all of its own.
‘Come, Poy Poy, come with me,’ the officer said to the
lawyer. And the two men helped each other away.
‘I wish we had known that we knew she would do that,’
Delilah heard Poy Yack say as they walked weakly off, ‘how terribly
disappointing.’ ‘Yes, we should have known that we knew,’ agreed the other. And
then they were gone. Cold, wet, a fork sticking out her finger, or at least the
appearance of such a fork, Delilah was alone. With her thoughts. Which were
about what would happen now.
The man with no confidence – a promoted officer after
his display of skills in Shower Unit 101 – entered the room against the
moving air of the two departing men and said, ‘Remember me? I’m the one you
laughed at. See this? I’ve been promoted.’ He flicked his knee, where evidence
of his increased rank could be found in the form of a medal pinned to his (this
time) yellow synthetic fur boots. ‘I’m an important person now. I have power.
More power than ever. I have been instructed to misuse this power at will. What
should I do with it, I wonder. There will be no comebacks, no
ramifications – not for me. Carte blanche, that’s the word. You got it,
you’re mine until they find you a new lawyer. Could take ten or twenty seconds.
Or ten or twenty days. What’s chronology to you? You don’t know what time of
day it is. You don’t know whether you’re coming or going. You keep thinking
you’re going bananas. And you know what? You are.’ The officer rubbed his hands
and clapped them in a manner identical to JJ Jeffrey. The senior officer’s
tuition obviously rubbed off on many subordinates. ‘I’d tell you to take your
clothes off but you’re already in the buff. So I’ll have you put some clothes
on instead. Here, I brought this. It’s made of maggot skin. Put it on!’
Here we go again, thought Delilah, and slipped into
the slippery garment, a catsuit by design and strangely fishy by aroma.
‘Take off all your clothes, prisoner. Quick smart!
You’re mine now.’
Delilah did so, gladly – much of the maggot skin
was not maggot skin at all but maggot itself, alive, writhing, and when she
stepped from the garment it moved off across the floor. The officer produced a
gun and shot holes through it, but this had little effect, and the catsuit kept
going and appeared to be trying to find somewhere to hide under the table. This
incensed the officer with no confidence, whose only real ambition in life was
to tell people what to do and have them do it, and he chased after the catsuit.
Observing, Delilah realised that such people gave authority a bad name –
and the Authority itself. That he now sought revenge on some harmless
sown-together maggots – he’d found the saw and sawn the garment into two
pieces, and it had proceeded to squirm away in opposite directions – said
all she needed to know about her latest foe. She raised her eyes, an old expression
not in common usage, and thought, What a fucking idiot. In doing so she noticed
her swearing was on the increase and reasoned that this was probably to do with
her adverse living conditions. And, she added, that that was putting it fucking
lightly. She washed her mouth out, metaphorically, felt around her gums for the
closing hole of her now lost tooth, experimentally sucked some air into it,
which hurt dramatically but released some trapped eggshell, and watched the
officer stamp up and down on the lower half of the catsuit, trampling its legs.
Delilah wondered how such people ever got such responsible jobs. Then realised
these were exactly the sort of people that got responsible jobs.
When the officer had incapacitated catsuit’s top half,
he returned to Delilah and began saying, ‘A man with little confidence tends to
be a keen observer of others. With less chance to speak, he listens. With less
opportunity to perform, he watches. He waits, for tips, tips on confidence and
popularity. And he thinks. Oh how he thinks. The prisoner cannot imagine. What
does he think about, does the prisoner think? Can the prisoner think? Is the
prisoner a thinker? Or does the prisoner claim to be someone who does not
think? Perhaps the prisoner tells its friends that it gave up thinking ten
years ago and no longer thinks. I do not think so. I think the prisoner thinks.
I think the prisoner derives much of its own misfortune from the contents of
its own head, whence its thoughts originate. Ha. I see such statements strike a
chord with the prisoner, for its eyes betray a truth. The prisoner’s eyes are
its enemy. The prisoner’s eyes give everything away. They speak, even when the
mouth is closed. The prisoner did not bemoan the loss of the old warden’s eye.
No, not one bit. I was watching. That’s right, I was watching very carefully.
And what did this important promoted powerful officer see? Every time a drop of
water dropped on its head, the prisoner winced, winced in its eyes. All it was
was a little leak in the ceiling, dropping drips on the ugly prisoner’s head.’
Hey, thought Delilah, I’m not ugly. ‘That ceiling is really put through the
mill with the launderette above it. But an incey-wincey little leak and the
prisoner could not stand it. It drove the prisoner mad. The prisoner would have
said anything to Officer JJ Jeffrey to stop the drips. The drip, drip, drip.
Now, ten or twenty seconds have passed and still no lawyer arrived. Ten or
twenty days instead it’s looking like. This way, prisoner, back to the leaky
ceilinged room. Only it won’t be your head this time.’ And here came the
man-with-no-confidence’s high-pitched laugh, which got Delilah right in her
teeth, even the cracked one that had fallen out and wasn’t there any more. ‘We
know what you like,’ he said, and prodded her where he thought she liked it.
In Wet Room 102, Officer Gentle aimed the drip system
at a Delilah he’d now attached to the floor, and when he’d done that he left
her there. Then he came back in, kicking his heels together and wiggling his
knees. The reason for his exit and return was not clear. Only that he came back
more determined than ever, and moving oddly. These were, these systems of
nastiness and domination meted out on Delilah, the twistings of an unconfident
mind – exactly the twistings Delilah feared so much. Now she hoped for a
reversion in the officer to his former meeker personage. She held little hope.
Already the drips that drips on her every ten seconds, small as they were,
contacted with such a bang that they sent signals through her whole body
heaving it off the ground. She could not imagine this for another ten minutes,
let alone another ten hours, another ten days. Then the officer left the room
again, having done nothing while in there other than look determined and wiggle
and brush his synthetic yellow boots with a brush that had a bright card
hanging from it saying
Happy Birthday, my dearest Gentle
When two days later Officer Gentle came back in,
Delilah had gone insane. Thus disproving by own example her previous conviction
that she wouldn’t – and additionally refuting that what she had to worry
about was desperation, not going bonkers. But she truly was, bonkers. For now,
Meanwhile the officer had been demoted, because when
asked by his superiors what he’d done with the prisoner he claimed to have
forgotten. They were keen to find her, they told him, because the man had come
back into Authority Welcome offering to pay her bail, and now that she had
become a murderer the Authority could charge a much higher price.
‘Wake up, fruitcake,’ said Gentle, and kicked Delilah
with the fur of a new boot. ‘Look what I’m wearing! I went back to the boot
shop and purchased the green after all. It does suit me, it does, oh do agree
with me. The man in the shop said he’d never seen someone with a figure like
mine. He said I should model. He made me twirl and he clapped his hands. He
wants to Life me, he says, and get together over a meal, talk big figures, and
knock heads together concerning my future. I am feeling very good about myself,
now, despite my demotion. I think I might jack in all this nonsense and go and
get me some fame. I could do with some fame. It would do my confidence no end
of good – people looking at me, children whispering to their guardians
when I walk by ‘Look, there goes the famous Gentle!’ Yes, I think I might Life
him. I’ll think it over. I’m a thinker, as you know. That’s what I’ll do, think
it over for a month or so. Then Life him.’ But what he actually did was leave
room, so taken with his own thoughts that he’d forgotten to do what he went in
there for, which was to release Delilah and claim the reward the Authority had
offered for her retrieval. Which was promotion – and would have reinserted
him back into the level of his short-held higher rank.
A plumber who’d come to repair Shower Unit 101 after
bits of towel had jammed up a jet discovered Delilah. He’d been asked to look
in, ‘whilst on the premises’, at the launderette and do something once and for
all about ‘those leaky machines’.
‘All right, darling,’ he offered, when he came looking
for the stopcock to shut off the water, ‘don’t mind me, I’ll be out of your way
in no time. Just having a quick shufti round here. Gor, what a place. This
yours, is it? You wanna think about decorating. Putting in a comfortable bed.
You’ll do your back in, lying down there like that. Hold up, what’s this? You
fastened yourself to the floor or somint? Here, my precious, are you
Wake up, darling, talk to me. Hey? Look at me like that? There’s no
need to be rude, I’m just an honest plumber. Fine, so go and ignore me, see if
I care.’ He located the stopcock and twisted it off with a grunt, killing a
prisoner (prematurely) in Shower Unit 101 (the fountain he’d been perched upon
for many hours dissolved instantly causing his fatal fall). ‘All right, one
last try, my love, to get through to you. Here’s a joke, stop me if you’ve
heard it, a geezer walks into a wall. That’s it. Here’s another. A geezer walks
into another geezer. Strike a light, goes the first geezer, don’t I know you?
No, says the second geezer, you don’t – now, if you don’t mind, little
man, I’ve got to get to the shops. That’s it. They’re not very good, are they.
Plumbing’s my strong point. Not jokes. Eh, eh, you nearly opened an eye there.
We have life! You’re a nice looking bird, you know, just need to clean yourself
up a bit, take a bit more pride in your appearance. What are you, nineteen,
twenty? Well, seeing as I’m here, how about I loosen these spiky things on your
ankles, and stop that drip up there, it must be driving you
got busy with his tools and worked quickly. ‘Now then,’ he said, slipping out
of his overalls, ‘put these on or you’ll catch your death down here. Brhhh! No?
You want me to do it for you? Not a problem, my darling. That’s right, one leg
goes in there, and the other – that’s it – see, wasn’t too difficult,
was it? Can you walk? Grab a hold of my – no, not there, gor, you’ll do me
a mischief – that’s right, round my neck, like so. One, two, and up she
comes. Steady. Right, one step at a time. Watch that fork, you’ll have
someone’s eye out. You know, you really ain’t a bad-looking bird at all, not
even if I say so myself. Okay, here we go, let’s get you out of this place. No,
this way, door’s over here, my darling. What