I was punched in the
stomach and had my wind knocked out in 6th Grade by David Macintyre. It was in Mr. Leroy’s home class. I remember it as clear as day, even though it
was 28 years ago. I don’t remember the
reason for it of course, it may have had something to do with the fact that I
thought I was better looking than he was, although I’m just guessing, and am
probably biased. What I do remember is
how it felt. It fucking hurt! I remember collapsing to my knees, struggling
to breathe, this ball of pain rolling around my midriff like a runaway marble
spinning top, as my lungs struggled to inflate to a point where they could
ingest oxygen again. I remember tears
coming to my eyes, and that probably hurt the most because the classroom was
full of other children, most of them laughing.
I was by no means the most popular kid in school either, in fact, I was
way too small for my age, I had coke-bottle thick spectacles, and greasy hair
parted to the side, Face from The A-Team style.
David Macintyre was twice my size.
He had Greek features, beautiful hair, lean and tanned and he was a
First team Rugby player, even though he was a year too young, but I think even
the teachers at President Primary weren’t going to tell him that to his face!
It was also the first time I’d been in a fight, if you can call it that. When only one punch is thrown it’s more like an ambush, I guess. I was in a couple more after that, mostly on the losing end for a couple of years, until I grew a small pair. However, it was the punch from David Macintyre that I remember the most. In addition, it was particularly relevant right now, as I lay on the floor again, clutching my stomach, struggling to breathe. The only difference this time was the blood pulsing through my fingers as I lay holding my ruptured stomach. Blood has a weird smell, have you noticed? It’s similar to the smell of a rusted piece of metal up close, and for some reason it reminded me of watermelons as well. It’s also stickier than you’d think. Unlike the few moments of excruciating pain I experienced thanks to my primary school classmate, the pain I had now was not subsiding.
I guess I was fading in and out of consciousness, because there were moments of darkness during which I don’t recall thinking any thoughts. As I’d fade back into reality, akin to walking through a fine African morning mist, the blinding headache would return. The sensation of the blood soaked carpet under my head seemed to press into and right through me, as that awful blood smell would encase me once again.
My horizontal view from my position on the floor was of the front door of my house. It was early morning; I knew that from the sliver of light trying to creep in beneath the door. I’m not sure exactly what day it was today, which is weird, because I’m usually intently aware of things like that. I heard a car being driven by in the street outside, it sounded like my neighbor’s beat up old Mazda Soho with the hole in the silencer… Hard to miss! Which meant it was probably a weekday, because that lazy shit wouldn’t be out of the house at sunrise on a weekend unless they were giving away free chicken at KFC. Therefore, that narrowed it down to somewhere between Monday and Friday. I could be related to Sherlock Holmes!
As I focused my blurred gaze away from the front door and along the floor towards me, my eyes stopped at a small object lying on the carpet about six feet away from me, near the leg of the sofa. It was round and silver, like a ball bearing, only much bigger, with two finger-sized indentations on either side. I tried to make sense of what I was seeing, but all I could wonder was what the hell an oversized ball bearing was doing lying around on my lounge floor? My wife would have a…
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Jackie!
My mind started flopping about like a fish fresh out of the water, trying with all its might to get back into the ocean and breathe, breathe, breathe! The image of her face was as clear as daylight suddenly, her long flowing black hair, green eyes that turned grey when she was in a certain mood, that smile that had the ability to grab my heart and twist it into a pretzel in an instant. I could remember the day we met, the day we got married, the day we fucked like spring rabbits after getting high on some quality weed at her sister’s 21st… it was all there. For some reason I just couldn’t remember what we did yesterday or maybe even the day or week before today… and even more frightening, where she was right now while I was bleeding out on the living room floor! I forced myself to roll over, and it was the hardest thing I had ever tried to do in my life! My muscles were not responding, refusing to react to the messages from my brain. Even the slightest movement of my torso sent a piercing slice of pain through my stomach, and I could feel the darkness creeping in around the edge of my blurring vision as my head tried to change its view of the doorway. Then it closed in completely. The darkness.
* * *
I crawled back into the light again a while later. This time the room seemed brighter, which meant some time had passed, enough time so that the sunlight had reached the windows and entered the house. It also appeared that in my attempt at changing position I had managed to change my view of the front door to a view of the ceiling. My throat was dry. So dry. That didn’t matter right now though. Jackie was all I could think about. I shifted my hand into position at my side, to give myself some leverage to turn over again, and I felt the cold hard steel of an object lying next to me. I traced my fingers over it, and they quickly sent the recognition via touch to my brain… a knife. Long triangular blade, handle shaped to fit comfortably in the palm, sturdy and professional. Even though I could not see it, I recognized it as part of the collection of Arcos kitchen knives I’d bought for Jackie a couple of years ago. This was the biggest of them, a butcher knife.
As my fingers followed the trace of the handle, my hand touched something softer. It felt strangely familiar, yet somehow different. As I moved my hand over it, an ice cold, sinking feeling enveloped me, running from the base of my neck down my spine and to my motionless legs, and along with it a combination of fear and utter despair. It was the shape of a human hand.
Her hand. Ice cold.
I knew she was dead before I even looked. I could feel it in the texture of the cold skin of her hand, so motionless and lifeless. Not at all like the hands that used to clasp my neck tenderly as we’d kiss, standing on her tiptoes, or like the hands that would curl over my sleeping chest at night, pulling me closer to her. Not those hands. Not these hands now. I couldn’t stop myself from letting out a choking gasp, and a tear welled up in the corner of my eye and then traced a wet and warm path down the side of my face. I wanted to believe that when I turned my head to look, it would be somebody else’s hand attached to somebody else’s lifeless body, but I already knew that wasn’t going to be the case. It was another sensation in my stomach… not the pain from the bleeding wound, or the memory of a bullying fist… it was almost transcendent and unnatural… a certainty that had wrapped itself around my every cell and was banging on the walls of my stomach cavity and soul. Intuition. A gut feeling. I just knew, without any doubt, before I even turned my head…
She was still beautiful. Her hair had fallen across her face, gently resting on the bridge of her nose. Her eyes were closed, seeming peacefully at rest. The once graceful curve of her neck flowed down into her open nightgown, a stark pale grey against the bright pink of the gown, yet the thick black belt pulled so tightly around it seemed completely out of place. One of her breasts were exposed, beautifully curved and shaped to fit my hand, her nipple, once a playground for my mouth, now just a dark reminder of life no more. Jackie Melissa Hesse, thirty-three old, a confident, beautiful, charismatic self-employed dressmaker, a devoted wife to Lionel James Hesse – a thirty-nine year old nerdy mathematics lecturer at the University of Fort Hare who now lies in a pool of his own blood, stabbed in the stomach by… by whom? The only logical thing I could think of right now was that she had stabbed me, but that seemed like a crazy man’s thoughts. Why would she have? What about the belt around her neck? Was that my doing? It seemed impossible; yet looking at the two of us laying here on our living room floor it seemed to be the only logical, yet insane, conclusion.
With my head twisted round, to stare at her body, my throat wanted to close up, and I coughed violently, spewing fine drops of scarlet mist. This must be it. The end of Lionel Hesse - a man who never really amounted to much, except wife killer. I curled back over to my side, fetal position, staring once again at the gap under the front door. It seemed fitting that I would die in a pool of my own blood, that it would be a deserved reward for killing the only woman I had ever loved - strangled to death with a R25.00 rip-off leather belt I had bought at the flea market three months ago. There was no more pain. No more burning sensation from my bleeding stomach. No more head-stomping migraine. The darkness flirted around the edge of my vision again. I stared beyond the out of place silver ball bearing, beyond the creamy field of carpet fibers, beyond the brightly lit gap at the bottom of the door, stared out into the world beyond, as that darkness crept closer, closer still.
Shadows were moving out there, distant muffled voices as if played back on slow motion tape recorders, the knock knocking of imaginary fists on wood… I closed my eyes and welcomed the escape offered by death… come in my friend! The fading sound of the voices and imaginary knocking sound again…
“Fuck you, David Macintyre,” I whispered, just before it all went away.
“You hit like a pussy…To read the rest of my novel, "The Days Beyond" you can download it for free via this site only during June 2015 at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/334281 using Coupon Code "RR83H"