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The Beast by Don Taylor

06 Nov 2017, Posted by JL Jacobs in Short Fiction

Art: Vera Fonseka

THE BEAST

Sometimes you lie on your bed and remember.

You remember the time uncle Josh came back from Canada and brought you the air pistol. He had to smuggle it in through customs. It was just like the ones you saw advertised on the back of the Superman comics. You could really send away for them, but Alfie Watt said not if you didn’t live in America, because you needed dollars. But sometimes you got half a dollar off your Nan, but Alfie said that wasn’t the same.

Anyway, Josh got you one, and a wee box of slugs. They were really heavy in the box, but fiddly to put in the barrel. First you had to open the gun. ‘Break it’, uncle Josh said, but you didn’t really break it you just kind of opened it. It was stiff and you had to press it down on your leg. Then you put the slug into the barrel. Sometimes it went in squint and it got stuck and you had to get a nail to get it out. When the slug was in you closed it up again, aimed, and fired. Then you reloaded it.

That first day uncle Josh took you up the woods and you shot at tin cans out of the bins. Uncle Josh was really good but after a wee while you were just as good, or even better. “You’re a real dead-eye’ uncle Josh would say. That’s something the cowboys said. You would lie on the bed and remember times like that. And then you would think about where you were now.

You would be thinking that it would be tea-time in half an hour and you would have to go down to the dinner hall and queue up and Wilson would start kicking the back of your legs again. Wilson would come up dead close behind you so you could smell his rotten green teeth, and he would dig the edge of his tray into your back, and whisper in your ear: “Baby killer, Thomson’s a fucking baby killer. Ah’m gonnae claim you Thomson ‘cos anybody kills a baby’s a beast”.

And that would make you think of the court again. All those faces staring down at you and the man sitting up in the gallery who looked like he was drawing, really quick. And the baby’s dad too, his eyes staring at you the whole time and your stomach empty and like a knot the whole time. When they took you out with a blanket, scratchy and smelling of cigarettes, over your head, you could hear them shouting out: ‘BEAST’, ‘ANIMAL’, ‘MURDERER’. You knew then that wasn’t all a dream that it was real and they were shouting at you even though you knew that it wasn’t a beast.

It was you.


About the Author: 

Don Taylor is a retired public servant living in Scotland. His main influences have been short story writers and novelists such as Alice Munro, David Malouf and Kasuo Ishiguro. He has been previously published in New Writing Scotland : Macdougall, Carl and Strachan, Zoe ed. (2012) A Little Touch of Cliff in the Evening, Glasgow, Association for Scottish Literary Studies.

Art: Vera Fonseka, @verafonsekaart. verafonseka.com

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