“It’s God’s punishment for your sins. He’s getting you ready for hell. Giving you a taste of it every day for the rest of your living days.” Her voice was flat, detached.
“If I didn’t know you couldn’t have made your way uphill to the old cowshed, I’d think it was you who let him loose. If you’re such a saint then why did you go along with it. It was alright me making the son you couldn’t have with her and giving him to you to raise as your own.”
“I didn’t know then how you’d done it, did I? Thought you’d paid a willing woman a lot of money to carry your child for us and give him up after birth. Trusted you, didn’t I? Didn’t know you for the sick bastard you are.”
“He needn’t have known that he wasn’t your flesh and blood. What did you have to tell him for? It was you who killed him.” He jerked the chair out from under the kitchen table and it made a screeching sound on the stone tiled floor. He sat down letting his hand rest on the table, palm flat on the surface and looked at her.
She was leaning against the Aga cooker holding her side. She had been beautiful in a red-cheeked plump kind of way when she was younger and her bruises and broken ribs had healed a lot more quickly back then. Red curls she’d had. He’d had a thing for red curls. In girls and women that is. They were white curls now, her cheeks no longer red but instead a doughy sort of off-white, and she’d put on more weight since the arthritis had got into her joints and made them swell up. She never left the house these days. Not that she’d been allowed out much even before that, not without him so that he could keep watch on who she talked to and what she said.
They’d had one good year together after they got married, when he had thought that she was perfect for him. She had the looks he fancied. She was ten years younger than him. She was an orphan and he didn’t have any in-laws to bother with. She had been eager to please him, even allowed him to be a bit rough with her although he could tell that she wasn’t into that violent submission thing which he had needed. She had obeyed his instructions and scratched and punched him when he forced himself on her whenever he had the urge to do so. He was over those urges now, too old to keep going as he had been, but he still liked to give her a good beating now and again, and that young red head in the village shop sure looked tasty. So maybe there was some fire in those old loins yet.
But a farmer needed a son. She had wanted a house full of children, he had needed a son to carry on the farming and the family genes when he’d no longer be able, and then she couldn’t get pregnant. It was her that was the problem, not him. There had been nothing wrong with him. The way things turned out then was all her fault. He had been raging when she suggested that they could try adopt and no one need to know about it. The son had to be his own flesh and blood he had insisted and to leave it to him. He’d sort it out somehow. There were plenty of young girls in the city who’d be willing to earn themselves some easy money by having his child and giving it up after birth.
He had decided to call on an old mate from school days who had moved to the city – one of nine children in the family five of whom were boys and he being the middle boy he fancied his chances of a better life there. Eoin had boasted that he was making a fortune there, taking care of special orders as he had called it with a wink. He’d been quite drunk but Eoin had always been wild so he took his chances and placed his special order. His had been rather different to the more standard special orders of cars and bikes, and Eoin had charged him the price of the two heifers he had been forced to sell to fund the purchase. The delivery fee would be another 100 quid then on top of the advance payment. Eoin had explained that the risk with the fulfilment of this order was much greater than what himself and the lads did by way of regular business. He had no regrets over not having paid the additional delivery fee.
No one had ever traced the disappearance of the young biker who had acted as the delivery boy and had so very nearly botched the job to him. Eoin hadn’t been likely to act on it nor report anything to the authorities under whose radar he had been flying. He’d been gunned down in a gangland style shooting in Dublin a few years back and any residue of a risk of discovery had died with him.
The couples who had bought the baby girls he had fathered in the years after Peter was born at a discounted price compared to the going rate the religious had been charging would keep their mouths well shut. There were no papers linking him to the illegally adopted children. No one needed to know, no one would ever know.
The biggest risk was right here, at home. It was all her fault. She had never been allowed in the tool shed on the far side of the farmyard next to where the tractor was parked. No one except him had been allowed in, it was known as dad’s shed and off limits. She had never explained to him why after years of having obeyed that rule, she had gone in there one day last year and found her. The woman must have whimpered inside the locked room. And his wife had summoned a strength he didn’t know she had and had forced the door open with a pickaxe. He had been away at a cattle market that afternoon and she had served up the dinner on his return as though nothing had happened. While she was washing the dishes he filled up a thermos with tea and filled a lunch box with some leftovers from the dinner to take to the tool shed for the woman. There had been no sign of Peter. He’d gone out with Blacky for some fresh air the wife had said.
The tool shed had been a mess. Splintered wood everywhere, and the woman was gone. He knew she couldn’t have gone very far, would be disoriented and would not know which way to turn. The farms being very thinly spread in the area there was a good chance she wouldn’t have met anyone yet, that no one might have seen or noticed her just yet. He had run to his car and gone out looking for her driving around the maze of narrow country roads, his vision blurred with hot tears of fury and fear. Coming around the bend towards the straight downhill section that leads into the village, he had felt a soft thud against the side of his car. He had hit the breaks and reversed the car back to the spot where he had felt the impact.
If he had known she would be found in time to save the life that had seemed to be ebbing out of her when he looked down on her lying in the ditch, unconscious, blood streaming from her head, he would have finished her off. As it was she had been found not long after he had left her there to die and the papers had reported that she had lost her memory and there had been no new developments in the case in the year since. He had hurried back home that evening, fuelled by the grim intention of letting loose a battery of punches on his wife’s ribcage.
He had found her drunk when he arrived back, the whiskey bottle empty, his whiskey bottle. If she had felt the pain of his furious punches she hadn’t let on. She didn’t normally drink so she had most likely been out of it and insensitive to any pain he had inflicted. His last punch had been to her stomach and she had puked strong smelling liquid onto herself and the kitchen floor. He had left her lying there, told her to sort herself out and clean up the mess before he returned with Peter.
Peter. His boy. His own flesh and blood, he had looked a lot like him. Curly black hair, long slender nose, a dimple in his chin, broad shoulders and large hands. The eyes were the same colour as the woman’s, an intense hazel. His own were blue, and the wife’s green. The photographer had remarked on that when they’d had a family picture taken the day Peter started school.
He had found Peter up in the loft in the old cowshed with Blacky by his side. “I’m not coming back to the house with you, dad. I need to be alone for a while. I need you to leave me alone until I’m ready to talk to you.”
The next day Peter had still avoided any contact. He’d left Blacky by himself in the cowshed for a few hours. It was only later that it became known that he had been seeing that weird doctor up on the hill. Peter had gone straight back into the cowshed when he came back. The old man had been keeping an eye on the shed from the bedroom window with his binoculars. The next morning Peter was dead. He had thought it odd that Peter hadn’t come out with Blacky for his morning walk through the field and had gone up to check on him.
Now Blacky was gone as well, the last connection he had left with Peter, and it was her fault for not wanting him near her.
He raised his arm off the table and hit its surface hard with a clenched fist. “Get me my whiskey out of the cupboard and set the bottle down here now. Don’t bother with a glass, you stupid woman.”
She knew then that he would punch her again later, but it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered anymore.
© Ash N. Finn, 2016