Friday, March 10, 2006
There was a lot of door-knocking, a daily pageant of young men with large hold-alls full of dusters and dish-mops; double glazing and home improvements salesmen in bad ties; matronly market researchers with clipboards; prospective burglars, gypsy rug sellers and roof repairers.
He particularly disliked the evangelists. They'd hit the street mob handed: middle aged men and women in hats and overcoats, even in the summer. They'd never simply rap once and then go away; sometimes they'd loiter for hours, flipping through their Bibles, chattering about God knew what, periodically rattling letterboxes and knocking.
He peered at them through a crack in the curtain. There was one of each: regulation hats, overcoats and Bibles, big white teeth and cavernous eyes full of spiritual luminosity. The man rattled and knocked and said something he couldn't quite catch. The woman giggled.
His breathing grew intense. They must have known he was home: Big T and The Badda-Bings blared out of the stereo - The Girl From Ipanema - and at one point the man came right up close to the window and peered in.
All attempts at communication had failed. He could smell her resentment all over the house: in the living room, the kitchen cupboards and the fridge, in the dust on the bookshelves and between the pages of the books themselves. It was especially pungent on the first floor landing around the closed door of her room. Something had to be done.
He gathered together a saw and a kitchen knife, a pair of secateurs, some black plastic sacks purchased from one of the hold-all men, and a large wooden chopping board. She looked up from her pillow as he entered, watched in silence as he got to work.
There was a lot of blood. He almost slipped over in it as he positioned himself to begin sawing through the neck.
The spinal cord was tough but finally he succeeded in detaching the head. It was while he was debating whether to remove the arms in one piece or cut off the hands first that he noticed the ring. The flesh had swollen around it and it wouldn't budge; he snipped off the finger with the secateurs.
Once the head and limbs had been removed, the middle section was light enough to be carried through to the bathroom. He placed it gently in the tub and slit open the stomach with the kitchen knife. The contents spilled into the bath. Then he opened up the chest cavity and began to remove the various organs, laying them carefully on the chopping board. These he cut up into small chunks and flushed down the lavatory in servings of about half a pound in weight. He then cut out the ribs one by one with the saw and quartered the torso, placing each piece into one of the sacks ready to be taken downstairs.
He boiled the head first, followed by the hands, feet and ribs, in a big, copper cooking pot. Once cleaned of flesh the bones were separated into smaller fragments, mixed with some general domestic waste and sealed away in another sack to be disposed of by the council garbage men.
It was nearly daylight. He was left with several large bones - a pair of femurs, shoulder blades, other arm and leg bones - on which some flesh still remained. Feeling suddenly exhausted and deciding it was time for a break, he poured himself a whisky. As he did so he turned, sensing her presence in the doorway. She said nothing, just stared at him with that I told you so look of hers. He shrugged. "All right, all right, I know," he sighed. "If only we had a garden...."