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Raw Hands

Updated: Jun 25, 2019

A Short Story

‘Timmy! Timmy, Pet! I need to speak to you.’ Her tinny voice crackled, scratching at his eardrums and echoing.

I’m not your child! Or a pet!

‘Coming, Mum, be there in a minute,’ he called from the bathroom, ‘just been washing your sheets now we’ve got you up. Want some of your vitamin juice?’ The stiff bristles tore into the backs of his hands as he scrubbed enthusiastically.

In fraying slippers he slid along the lino to creep back into the kitchen, where unwashed sheets steamed by the paraffin heater. His tea was cold, but she would hear him filling the kettle. All too soon he would have to face her cloying pleas.

Timothy didn’t want anything to break the spell he was under. Last night, he had finally told Pippa. He was proud of his Pippa. They spoke every night, secretly; he couldn’t upset Mummy. Pippa listened patiently, and he told her everything. She loved his voice, and let him talk on. Only when he was ready, she told him about herself, and her clothes. She was his, she loved him, wanted him, and they would do everything imaginable. Anything he wanted. Timothy was delighted when she selected him. He had given up on finding someone, until her message arrived. He kept her note by his bed.

'Here you are, Mum, I've warmed it for you, just how you like it.'

'Oh, Timmy, please don't leave me!'

'Mum? What do you mean? I'm not going anywhere, I don't know what

you — '

'I heard you. Telling that girl. All lovie-dovie. "Oh, Pippa, I love you!" you

said, I heard you. You're going to run away with her and leave Mummy, I know you are!' She was jealous, mocking and pleading. He glanced at the green phone in its cradle. His shape was still indented into the seat of the worn, floral pouffe where he had spoken the words he now repeated to himself:

“I love you, Pippa.” Her reply was still thrilling.

“Oh, Timothy I so wanted to hear your say that!” Buoyed, he had said it again.

“Oooh! Timothy, say it every day! Say it again. Say it tomorrow. Tell me

again! Do it tomorrow!”

Recalling his bravery, pride, joy and passion lifted him. His striped pyjamas trousers tightened and he turned sideways to spare his mother’s blushes. To the side of her reclining chair, in the socket on the chipped skirting board, the green light of the baby monitor winked, mocking him. His ardour deflated quickly and his shoulders dropped.

The bloody monitors! I was so excited I must have forgotten to swap them over when I put her to bed. The old bitch heard every word!

'Oh, Mum, don't be silly, I must’ve been singing along to the radio. I'll never leave, you. You know that. How could I?’

After lifting her from the commode, he crept out. Pippa had returned to him, and he smiled as he closed the bedroom door. As he let go of the handle the ancient spring sent its latch bolt clattering through the strike plate, the report echoing up the linoleumed hallway. He paused, listening. His mother was right on cue:

‘Timmy? What was that noise?’

He could barely make her out as she delivered her line, but they both knew the script. He rewarded himself: It’s the same as every night, you old witch!

‘Just that wonky door handle, Mum, I must fix it.’

In the cluttered kitchen, he scrubbed his red hands under the burning cold water until he could bear it no more.

‘Do it tomorrow,’ Pippa had said.

He had two hours left to comply. Sitting on the warming wooden toilet seat he saw again his pallid image in the spattered, flaking mirror. The black eyes, centre parting and acne mocked him through a snowstorm of toothpaste spits. Pulling his trousers up, — I’ll wipe next time, he promised himself — he turned to scrub his hands.

He dabbed his seared hands on the bloody towel, then inhaled with delight at the soothing, metallic coolness of the brass cistern chain. Reaching up, he unclipped it from its lever, as he had rehearsed, doubled it to a handy length and snapped it straight to test its strength.

‘Do it,’ Pippa had said, again.

‘Sorry, Mummy. I need to nip back in for something. Not for long, I promise.’

He sat on the pouffe, breathless. Hands hurting after gripping the chain, when he lifted the receiver some cuts opened. He dialled Pippa’s number. There was that fault on her line again: he heard the familiar noise he had always thought was the engaged tone. Until Pippa had explained. Impatiently he dialled again. He had to tell her. The irritating beeps hurt his ears. He placed the receiver down, silently, before smiling in realisation. He could make as much noise as he wished. Standing up, he roared, “You can’t hear me now, you old witch!”

Triumphant, Timothy banged the door open and clumped to his room. Next to his pillow, on the suitcase which served as a lamp table and still bore its mail order label, sat his pride. He lifted the square, plastic frame, to cradle it. It left a dust shadow on the case, and flakes of plastic gilt on his sweaty palm. He had cut Pippa’s letter from the page without smudges, as Mummy had taught him for his scrap book, and now like a framed certificate of pious sacrifice it overlaid the sepia snap of a boy led on a donkey by a father.

The simple, beautiful, cartoon self-portrait caused a tightening in his pants every time ... swept hair, cleavage, pointed bosom ... Below, she wrote to him,

Call me NOW and we’ll have a lovely time.

I’ll take you places you never imagined!

I’m only ever one call away! Do it NOW! Do it Today! Do it Tomorrow!”

Underneath, larger, bolder text:

Fulfill Your Fantasies 24/7 !

Call PIPPA now on 0900 900 9000.


Nick Edmunds

@nje36 #shortstory

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