just gone when Mrs Mary
Evidence, wife of Gus Evidence and mother, through her first marriage, of
Michael Savage, arrived back at her flat on the
True, she might have to contend with the ceaseless noise of the numerous heavy vehicles, including lorries and double-decker buses, which passed up and down the busy main road outside; to listen to the local drunks shouting and brawling outside the all-too-local pub at night; to put up with occasional all-night parties in the immediate vicinity; to bear with the mind-numbing disturbance of some neighbourhood shop's unchecked burglar alarm every so often; or to live with noisy young juveniles playing their uncouth games in the adjoining streets and next-door back garden during the afternoon. But, all these and a host of other things besides, she still maintained that she was to some extent compensated by the consolation of knowing she was mostly her own boss in her own unpleasant little world, independent of those towering monoliths she regarded as infra dignum.
Gus Evidence, a laconic West Indian who worked at a local engineering plant specializing in precision tools, didn't normally arrive home until around 6.00pm, so Mary almost invariably spent the afternoons either dozing, listening to the radio, or reading books, albeit the kinds of books which her son, with his predilection for the classics, inevitably regarded as of inferior quality. Apart from a few occasional attempts at serious literature in her youth, Mary Evidence had absolutely no inclination, these days, to read works in that category, preferring the general run-of-the-mill library romance or thriller. But so much for that, and each to his or her individual tastes! She would read what her tastes and temperament permitted her to, and no more!
Having dusted and swept-up in the kitchen at the rear of her flat, prepared herself a small though nutritious salad, and brewed some mild tea, she took herself into the bedroom with tea in hand and sprawled out on the convertible settee which stood bathed in sunlight beneath the large front window there, expressly with the intention of reading from just one such romance - a novel by a certain Martin Curly entitled Nursed Back to Health. Opening it on page 69, she began, tentatively and without real enthusiasm, to read:-
"I wanted the nurse more and more with each appearance she made in the ward. She had only to hold my wrist in order to check my pulse and, to all intents and purposes, I could swear it virtually doubled. When she reached across the bed of my nearest neighbour to straighten his blankets or, better still from my point of view, bent down to tuck them in, I could swear my vision became ten times sharper at the sight of her sexy black-stockinged legs, the sudden violence of her movements momentarily exposing a glimpse of thighs which were among the most seductive I had ever seen. She was indeed sexy in the best sense of that word, with firm legs, a shapely behind, ample breasts, fleshy arms, a pretty face, and a mound of pinned-up hair, dark and fine, such as one usually only encountered on women of good breeding.
"We had scarcely spoken save in the context of matters appertaining to my health and comfort, but I sensed that she delighted in my presence, as I in hers, by what seemed to me the extraordinary efforts she was making to conceal her desire, to avoid looking at me too closely, to steady her nerves, and even by the way she remained shyly reserved with me in conversation, when she was anything but reserved with most of the other patients, seeming to overdo the formality of each routine visit as, with slightly moist palms, she checked my pulse or took my temperature. Indeed, on more than one occasion I had caught her looking at me when she evidently thought my attention elsewhere! But she swiftly averted her gaze and returned it to the business to hand, as soon as my optical penetration had found her out.
"The realization that I would soon be well enough to leave hospital encouraged me to stroll round the ward more often, and even to strike up friendly though inconsequential conversation with a number of my fellow patients who, for the most part, were still confined to their beds in various stages of post-op somnolence. Nevertheless, I was in some concern regarding my little nurse who, in all probability, would drift out of my life as casually as she had drifted into it, soon to forget that I had ever existed. Well, if that was the case, I would just have to bear up to it and carry on as best I could. Fortunately, however, I still had the consolation of knowing that such pessimistic conjectures in no way detracted from my admiration of her many physical assets, which somehow struck me as inviolable anyway, since belonging to one of those special categories of esteemed females of whom nurses, nuns, and teachers comprise the most conspicuous examples; women whose near-angelic activities seem to prohibit, in men, the formulation of lewd thoughts and, more especially, lewd actions in relation to their physical persons.
"However that may be I felt it incumbent on me to 'make' this curvaceous little angel if it was the last thing I did, my sole intention at this juncture in time being to take her in my arms and let her know just how much I thought of her, how much I wanted her, how much I would satisfy her, irrespective of the adversity I might encounter from the elderly Sister for accosting a junior nurse in the throes of ward duties. The question was not whether but when could a rendezvous be arranged on the sly?"
Mary Evidence put down the book at this point and reflected, while sipping some tea, upon the number of words she had been obliged to skip because of an inadequate education. True, she had grasped the gist of the narrative thus far. But that wasn't enough to prevent her from feeling annoyed with herself for having to indulge in yet another superficial assimilation of the many difficult words and phrases encountered, Curly's novel being more complex and even highbrow than she had initially suspected. Ah well, maybe she simply wasn't in the mood to lavish patience on this brand of literary foreplay today. She would give it another try, however, because there was little else to do but read at this time of day and, besides, the afternoon still had some hours to run.
…"As it happened, an opportunity fell to me to make my desires known to Nurse Adams the day before my discharge. For I accidentally-on-purpose touched the back of her left thigh with my right hand as she dramatically bent over my bedside locker to retrieve a book she had knocked to the floor while making my empty bed, and, in doing so, caused her to smile in what I took to be rather a coquettish fashion. Caught between a disinclination to make a blundering fool of myself and an overwhelming inclination to appease my desire, I had unwittingly proffered an ambiguous gesture which, fortunately for me, met with her approval. However, now that her attention was momentarily fixed on me, I hastened to consolidate my advantage by placing an arm round her waist, while she, in what I could only suppose to be instinctive reciprocity, delicately brushed her hand over my forehead and smoothed my mop of hair, thereby inducing me to smile up at her from where I was sitting. Since my nearest neighbour was preoccupied in his customary studious fashion, and nobody else seemed to be aware of us, I furtively slipped my right hand down the back of her left thigh again and gently ran it up and down the flesh above her stocking top a few times, while simultaneously looking up at her with an eye to catching her approval. Blushing profusely, she moistened her lips and, bending down, kissed me tenderly on the brow. She evidently approved of my act!
"However, not wishing to get caught in such an amorous position by anyone in the ward, least of all her superiors, and, fearing that I might have the audacity to take matters further, Nurse Adams quickly disengaged herself from my wandering hand and summarily made off in the direction of a nearby patient, an old sod on the other side of the ward who, to judge by the pathetic noise he was making, evidently had need of some urgent medical attention! That being the case, I straightaway groped for my writing pad and scribbled my nurse a brief note to the effect that I desperately wanted to see her after my discharge, adding, in block capitals, my full name and address, together with telephone number, and concluding with a line in praise of her beauty. I slipped the note, suitably folded, into her hand at the first favourable opportunity later that day, taking care to ascertain whether this further gesture met with her approval. It did! She smiled reassuringly and then safely tucked it into her breast pocket. The deed was done!"
Yawning profusely, Mary Evidence closed the book, got up from her settee, and returned to the kitchen, wherein she proceeded to eat her salad. She was of the opinion that it was always wiser to leave the salad there an hour or two in order to have sufficient time to acquire an appetite, and now that one had arisen she lost no time in placating it.
Oddly enough, it was at this point that her mind began to return to what her son had said, the previous evening, about his hereditary influences, the main reasons for his innate coolness towards her and preference, during childhood, for his maternal grandmother, a rheumatic old Galway woman with a loving smile who had died when he was barely nine years old, to be shipped back to Ireland for burial. It was rather vexing to her that he should now choose to uncover and understand things which, out of tact, she had contrived to hide from him in the past, especially in light of the fact that he seemed to know on which side of the ethnic divide that effectively though unofficially existed between them his bread was buttered, so to speak, and had no qualms about being ruthlessly frank with her. Had he not been so much a product of his late-father's genetic legacy, of the sperm which that man had sown during his brief but productive existence, Michael would doubtless have viewed her in a rosier light. But the Savage in him was too strong and this, with her predominantly loyalist instincts, Mary Evidence bitterly regretted.
She, too, was largely a product of her
father, a Donegal Protestant who had met his Catholic wife-to-be while serving
with the British army in
Once there, they swiftly acquired the lease of a pub which the pair of them were to run, amid much bickering and quarrelling, until such time as Michael's father-to-be further complicated matters by appearing on the scene and precipitating Mary into the worse calamity, from her viewpoint, of a hastily arranged and fundamentally misguided marriage, a marriage she thought would save her from her domineering mother but which was soon to flounder on the rocks of an apparently compatible but essentially incompatible relationship between socially and ethnically mismatched partners. For Patrick Savage was an entirely different kettle-of-fish from anything she had known before, the middle-class product of a deeply intellectual and catholic family who, try as she might, had about as much interest in becoming an assistant publican as in abandoning the more stimulating company of his friends in other public places.
Reluctantly, Mary Evidence pondered awhile the unfortunate consequences of that premature, unsettled, and subsequently short-lived marriage to a man whose social and occupational intransigence was a contributory factor in bringing about the demise, through flagging revenue and willpower alike, of their business, duly resulting in the return of both mother and daughter, plus tiny son, to the town from whence they had previously come, where alternative accommodation and, in her case, menial work were assured them through old contacts. This return, she reflected, was probably for the best, so far as young Michael was concerned. For although he had subsequently experienced an unhappy and unsettled childhood in the sole company of his mother and grandmother, had suffered from undernourishment and physical neglect, missed out on a considerable amount of elementary schooling (though by the time he went to school at six-and-a-half years of age he could already read simple books, thanks to the private tuition of a local priest), and, following his protective grandmother's death, been sent to a Protestant Children's Home in Carshalton Beeches (from whence he immediately wrote a shocked letter informing his mother that the house parents of the place, being Baptist, were of 'the wrong faith' - a thing he would never cease to hold against her thereafter), he had nevertheless managed to weather the storm, make a few friends in Surrey, improve in health, and acquire, through an intellectual persistency doubtless inherited from his father's side of the family, an uncommonly high standard of education. So, in spite of his misfortunes, he still had something for which to be grateful.
However, as to her son's attitude to England, she realized, despite his English upbringing, that he was not and would never become an Englishman, but always be an outsider: a quiet, withdrawn, solitary man who would rely on himself as much as possible rather than seek an accommodation, culturally or professionally, with that which was fundamentally alien to him and for which he had no great respect.... Not that he was incapable of establishing close ties with the odd individual here and there if the opportunity presented itself, a big 'if', however, in view of the extent of his latter-day solitariness! Still, even if he hadn't found a mind worthy of his attentions since moving from Surrey, and didn't profess the warmest of attitudes towards his mother's largely philistine mentality, nonetheless he had acquired, through reading and observation, a number of useful realizations which partly mitigated the pain of his ethnic isolation.
Yet his mother had been extremely vexed when, following the pattern of his daily ruminations of late, he had suddenly sprung that piece of genetic detection on her in his endeavour to comprehend the reasons why he had become so solitary, why he favoured one thing rather than another, why he disagreed with her on so many issues, why he was so often discontented with life, so often sad. "By Christ!" he had said to her one evening, "most other men in my position would have committed suicide by now."
"Oh, don't be so silly!" she had automatically responded, not quite understanding him. "Why don't you go out and meet someone?"
"Meet someone?" he had incredulously echoed. "And just where do you suppose I'm going to do that?" But the implication of what he regarded as his intellectual and moral superiority over most others in this inner-city environment was wasted on her, and whenever he sought to remind her that he was the product of a broken marriage, that his self-hatred partly derived from the fact that she had not only married socially above herself but to some extent ethnically contrary to herself, in consequence of which he had never known his father and was of ambivalent class and ethnic allegiance, she would tell him not to dig up the past because the past was dead and he ought to be living in the present. As if the tortuous present wasn't in some measure conditioned by the past! It was the present that was troubling him because he was living as a kind of shadow of his father and absolutely despising his mother, not having anywhere else to go in the evenings but to her place.
And so the plot thickens as we come to the realization that, after barely six months out of England, his mother had married the first good-looking man to come her way, her congenial and protective father having already passed away and accordingly engendered in her the need to escape from the clutches of what she regarded as an imperious, unreasoning, and contemptuous Catholic mother.... With the unfortunate consequence that, in jumping out of the familial frying pan of mother/daughter friction, she had duly landed smack in the ethnic fire of premature marriage to a staunchly Catholic Irishman who hadn't realized, initially, that her Catholicism was only a thin cultural veneer, so to speak, over her late-father's Protestant influence, and that she was the daughter of someone, moreover, who had married a British soldier and spent many years of her life outside the country. In consequence of which their marriage, beset by deprecatory rumours, would quickly go downhill, with the inevitable corollary of separation and, so far as Mary was concerned, the difficulty of bringing up a young son in conditions of acute poverty, living with her rheumatic mother in an upstairs front room of an old house on the Victoria Road in Aldershot.
In fact, it was this latter aspect of her social make up, this confinement to poverty in such a densely urban part of North London as she was now living in that her son, with his traditionally suburban sympathies, artistic temperament, and intellectual aspirations - which had been given a boost by several years domicile in leafy Carshalton Beeches - mainly objected to, insofar as he would have preferred to feel more compatible within the family link, to have had a mother who would appreciate and encourage his literary ambitions rather than one who, by her actions and thoughts, only sufficed to remind him that he was the product of a failed marriage, an incompatible and short-lived parental liaison. His impatience with her was more often than not the manifestation, purely and simply, of a young intellectual's defence mechanism designed to protect him from the encroaching influences of an alien lifestyle and to maintain, as far as possible, his studious integrity in the midst of an unsympathetic and often hostile environment, particularly now that his mother's ethnic sympathies were channelled into the bonds of her second marriage, with her allegiance to Gus - the dour, unambitious, television-addicted West Indian who only succeeded, it seemed to Michael, in further accentuating the underlying ethnic disparities which already existed between them and making him feel even more unwanted than before.
Well, that was how things were, irrespective of any good intentions he may have had. Things were what they were, and for good reason. History could never be reversed. He would just have to put up with the indifference and largely commonplace attitudes of his mother and stepfather until he either found someone suitable with whom to set up home or acquired himself quieter and more congenial lodgings. That was all!
Having consumed her salad and returned to the settee in the front room, Mary Evidence decided to spend the rest of the afternoon merely dozing, since there wasn't anything to which she particularly wanted to listen on the radio, and that extract from Nursed Back to Health, with its highbrow connotations and general beating about the bush, hadn't really fulfilled her initial expectations, so didn't warrant further attention this afternoon. She would see how she felt about it the following day.
For the time being, however, she might just as well delve into the pages of her own unwritten book, the book of her life, to see if she could discover anything especially worth remembering, anything unusual that had happened to her during the course of her humble existence, rather than a rehash of long-standing grievances - like the recollection, for instance, of what had happened in connection with her father's funeral, all those years ago, when, given due military honours, his bier was wheeled through Ulster to the Donegal border with the Irish Republic by a cortège of mixed military and civilian composition, the civilians all northern Protestants who had no idea that he had married a southern Catholic because he had always been careful to hide that fact from his relatives and who, on encountering a priest at the border, now turned back in shock and embarrassment while the military continued apace towards Carndonagh, the destination of his burial, along with the startled priest and such Catholic relatives, including her mother, as had either directly or circuitously made their way from various parts of Britain and the Irish Republic to his ancestral home. She had been with her mother at the time and was only too glad, despite the shock of hearing firsthand from the priest later on, that she hadn't been party to that larger cortège which, out of sectarian intransigence, had been unwilling to cross the border and follow their relative's coffin to its final resting-place. Even now the thought of what had happened that fateful day still rankled with her, though something inside her told her that his secret was bound to have been found out one day anyway, and that he probably got no more than he deserved.
Frantically, she scanned her memory for
more agreeable material to delve into, like that time some twenty years ago
when she had given birth to a girl which, following baptism, was subsequently
entrusted to the care of local foster parents.
It was such a sweet little child that life could have been so much
better if fate had permitted her to keep it.
But the fact was she lacked adequate domestic facilities, had to work at
an hotel in
As it happened, she had just turned twenty-three when the 'accident' that led to the birth of her baby occurred. It was a Thursday afternoon and, being off work that day, she had dressed up and gone out for a leisurely stroll. Not having had any sex for a number of months, she didn't mind the idea of giving somebody handsome a good long, lingering look at her shapely legs if the opportunity were to present itself. She had opted for a red skirt and a white blouse, she recalled, and had taken the precaution of putting on a clean set of white underclothes, including a matching petticoat, with her then-customary black stockings and high heels. The weather was agreeably warm, and her stroll had taken her to a pleasantly deserted location out towards Farnborough, where she had decided to sit on the grass and while away an hour or two with the help of a women's magazine. As luck would have it, she hadn't been sitting there longer than twenty minutes when she noticed a fairly handsome, clean-shaven man of about thirty, possibly an off-duty soldier, take a nearby seat from which he proceeded to stare at her in a conspicuously shameless manner. Maybe she ought to let him see a bit more of herself, she thought, considering that he was seated in a favourable position, with his bright-blue eyes fixed firmly upon her face.
Yes, she ought to do something daring, now there was no-one else about to inhibit her. So she lay back on the grass and, keeping her attention superficially fixed on the magazine in her hands, opened her legs just wide enough to give him optical access to what lay between them. And how well she remembered her next move! How, after a few polite exchanges during which it was ascertained that he was only too interested in sampling what she had on offer, they went off together to a more remote part of the field where, out of harm's reach from marauding eyes, he proceeded to sample it for all he was worth, his large powerful hands busily caressing her body, as his small though far from powerless tongue elected to probe her flesh.
Yes, he was very powerful all over and would dominate and condition her every move. Soon her clothes were in complete disarray. She sensed the futility of putting up a struggle with him, of running the risk of getting her clothing torn. After all, she had voluntarily brought this upon herself and would just have to take the consequences. He had her where he wanted her. There was absolutely no point in trying to close her legs, not now that something hard had forced its way up between them and violated the sanctity of her womb, driving its way deep into the cavernous depths of her vaginal interior with a ferocity which momentarily caused her to wet her drawers and loose her sphincter in the confusion of the moment.