The cat is dead.
She killed it.
She came here today, into my home – uninvited.
I didn’t say anything.
I never say anything.
I should not have gone out into the garden.
I should have stayed inside, in the kitchen, but she kept lighting up cigarette after cigarette.
The carcinogenic fumes are not good for my baby.
She is not good for my baby.
She glared at me.
‘It’s not too late to get rid of the thing, you know.’
I said nothing.
The cat should have stayed hidden, in the bushes, sleeping peacefully.
But no, the foolish creature came out from under the rhododendron, the branches heavy with deep purple blooms. It yawned, and stretched, mewed softly and came rubbing its delicate body up against my legs. I bent and stroked its soft black fur that glistened in the afternoon sunshine. It delighted in the gentle touch.
‘I told you to get rid of that cat. I hate cats. Dirty, filthy creatures.’
She lashes out with her foot. The cat is too quick. Her eyes flash – that insane gleam that I’ve seen too many times before.
There’s a shovel nearby.
The cat’s back is broken.
The tiny skulls splits open. Red. Grey. Yellow. It all spills out onto the concrete path.
She slaps me.
She hates me – has hated me from the moment I was conceived. Two brothers and a sister preceded me. They were perfect.
She never had any trouble with them.
They don’t resemble her in looks, or mannerisms.
I am despicable. I am loathsome.
Twenty-eight years ago, I was born, a screaming premature baby with no hair, and no finger or toenails, surprisingly plump, and entirely unwelcome.
She was forty-two, and about to leave my father.
But, because of my untimely arrival, she wasted her life; remained trapped in a tedious marriage to a tall, thin man, with very little hair, and faded blue eyes.
I knew that her suffering was nothing compared to that which my gentle, softly spoken father had to endure.
He mentioned it only once – that service station he had seen for sale in South Australia – the one that a mechanically minded fellow with an infant son and a fit young wife could have managed.
The one dream he had dared to have.
The last dream he dared to share with her.
‘Me, pump petrol! You must be crazy.’ She had shouted those words at him. Then, after throwing an empty beer bottle at his head, had rushed at him, her talons outstretched, scratching, and beating; deranged.
Father had spent the rest of his working life shovelling silicone-based sand at an iron foundry.
It wasn’t the silicosis that killed him. It wasn’t the rare blood disorder, either, and it wasn’t the rat poison he suspected she’d been putting in his meal each night for years. It wasn’t even the fumes from the hose he had connected to the exhaust pipe and jammed into the window of his small Japanese sedan that killed him.
It was her.
She had sucked the life out of him.
She is sucking the life out of me.
She wants to suck the life out of my unborn baby.
He walks in the door, doesn’t speak, doesn’t smile, just picks up his plate and takes his meal into the lounge room.
As always, I follow and stand in the doorway.
He picks up the remote control, and flops onto the couch. The massive plasma screen comes alive. The shriek of an excited sports commentator resonates from the speakers dotted about the room. Several horses thunder past a finishing line. No one knows who has won. It’s a photo finish.
She loves gambling.
I hate it.
A woman’s sad face now fills the screen. She is explaining why funeral insurance is vital.
Bored, he looks up. ‘You’re covered in blood!’
‘The cat is dead.’
‘Did it get run over?’
He never liked the cat. I wanted a dog, but he wouldn’t let me have one. ‘Mother was here. She killed it.’
He’s irritated. ‘I don’t want to hear about it.’ He shoves a forkful of sausage into his mouth and stares at the big screen.
A sweet little girl is sitting outside with her devoted father, making shapes out of the clouds. They laugh as they share a joke.
I feel my baby move inside me.
I am not alone.
I go to the bathroom and strip off my soiled clothing.
There is a mirror above the vanity unit.
I don’t look at it.
I never look in mirrors.
It’s not my face that looks back at me.
It is hers.
It’s after midnight. He has finally turned off the TV and come to bed. His back is to me. I roll over and put an arm about him, hugging him tight.
I love him.
‘I felt the baby move this afternoon.’
‘It’s moving now.’ I take hold of his hand. ‘Feel it.’
He snatches it back, tucks it in under his chest. His body goes rigid.
‘It’s Mothers’ Day tomorrow,’ I remind him.
I turn over.
Tears flow silently.
He had to go to his mate’s today. It was important. There’s a big fight on TV. They want to watch it together, drinking.
I wander outside. The garden is lonely without the cat. I pick a handful of rhododendron flowers and place them over the shallow grave I dug yesterday.
I want to weep, but can’t.
I go inside. I don’t like his big hi-tech TV with the surround sound system. I prefer my little old telly in the bedroom. I curl up on the bed; feet tucked under me, my knitting at my side, and discover there’s a British series about to commence. The cars are old, it’s set in the 1950s, I guess.
The story is about a doctor in a Scottish village. He is handsome, single and just demonstrated that he’s brave.
I like his dark eyes and honest smile.
I pick up my knitting: a jacket for my baby, and enjoy the intriguing tale as it unfolds.
A young woman is married to a boxer in training. He hasn’t been allowed to have sex with her for months, but she’s pregnant!
The phone rings. Before I drop my knitting and reach over to pick it up, I turn down the volume, but leave the picture playing.
It’s my sister. She wants to tell me about the new car she and her husband have just bought.
The Scottish girl is about to be found out. She has to get rid of her baby!
I sigh as my sister segues into her usual diatribe about me.
‘You’re stupid having a baby. I don’t know how you two can survive on one wage.’
I lost my last job more than a year ago. I don’t know why I keep getting fired. I shrug. ‘We do okay,’ I lie.
The pregnant girl is in a bathroom, running water.
‘Instead of having his baby, you should be leaving him–’
‘I’ve got to go. Someone’s here.’ I hang up the phone.
‘She’s right,’ she snaps in my face.
The Scottish girl has a knitting needle.
She’s looking at the TV.
I don’t want her to watch, to see what the girl might do with that terrible instrument.
She looks at my knitting.
I shudder. There’s a mirror in front of me.
I can still see her.
I look into her hate filled brown eyes.
Her red lips work over her yellowed teeth as she shouts at me. Her dentures click, click, click with each odious word she utters. Her arthritic hand points at me. Her sharp finger stabs at my arm.
‘Get rid of it. Kill the baby, now, before it’s too late, before it ruins your life, the way you ruined mine.’
I move away.
I shouldn’t have done that.
Her hand is as large as a man’s, her blow equally as strong.
My cheek stings.
I don’t cry – not in front of her.
She only ever saw me cry the once.
I was very young, just a baby, but I remember.
Oh, yes, I remember.
She picked me up, and in a fit of insane rage, threw me to the ground. My back broke. It’s been twisted ever since.
Scoliosis, the doctors say.
She lunges at the bed, snatches up a knitting needle. The green wool tears away, trailing to the floor.
‘I’m going to do you a favour.’
I shake my head, trembling.
Oh God. Save me. Save my baby.
She drags me into the bathroom. Turns on the hot water tap. The room quickly fills with steam. I struggle. She knocks me to the ground. The knitting needle is long, and sharp.
‘No. Don’t. Please, don’t. DON’T.’
She is strong, too strong for me.
I fight, thrashing, and lashing out at her, but she has me pinned beneath the bulk of her body.
She pulls down my tracksuit pants. Tears off my panties.
I sob hysterically.
She shoves the needle deep, painfully deep inside me.
I feel it.
I feel every savage thrust. Each brutal stab.
How I scream … and scream … as my baby dies.
The pain. Oh God, the pain.
She gets up. Stares down at me, smirking.
No remorse. No guilt.
She is stone. She is Evil.
I am bruised. I am bleeding.
I am finished.
The house is strangely quiet. There is no smell of cooking.
Where is she?
I call her name.
I head towards the bedroom. ‘Where are you?’ I shout.
She’s not in there. The bed’s messed up. The telly is still going.
‘Where the hell are you?’
The guy I wanted to win the title match, got KO’d in the third round. I’m pissed off. I’ve had too much to drink, and I don’t want to play her stupid games.
I open the bathroom door. Water is running over the side of the bath. It trickles down the drain hole in the centre of the white-tiled floor, taking with it a stream of scarlet fluid.
I step inside.
She’s there, lying half naked in a pool of blood. I bend over her.
She’s alive, barely.
I lift her into my arms. A blood-smeared knitting needle falls to the ground from between her legs.
I want to spew. Instead, I carry her to the bedroom.
She’s lost our baby.
Do I care?
Her head touches the pillow. Her eyes flicker open.
I hold her hand and rub it against my cheek. ‘What happened?’
‘Mother.’ Her voice is so low, so weak.
I squeeze her hand, feeling the life drain from her poor battered body.
Her eyes close.
I lay my head against her lifeless breast and sob.
It’s over. No more suffering. No more pain.
I weep for what was, and for what never was.
‘That fucking bitch. If your mother hadn’t died last year, I’d kill her myself.’
The Australian Literature Review