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Laura Solomon – The Scarecrow

Profile Laura Solomon Live Encounters Magazine August 2017

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The Scarecrow, short story by Laura Solomon

Laura Solomon has a 2.1 in English Literature (Victoria University, 1997) and a Masters degree in Computer Science (University of London, 2003). Her books include Black Light, Nothing Lasting, Alternative Medicine, An Imitation of Life, Instant Messages, Vera Magpie, Hilary and David, In Vitro, The Shingle Bar Taniwha and Other Stories, University Days, Freda Kahlo’s Cry and Brain Graft. She has won prizes in Bridport, Edwin Morgan, Ware Poets, Willesden Herald, Mere Literary Festival, and Essex Poetry Festival competitions. She was short-listed for the 2009 Virginia Prize and the 2014 International Rubery Award and won the 2009 Proverse Prize. She has had work accepted in the Edinburgh Review and Wasafiri (UK), Takahe and Landfall (NZ). She has judged the Sentinel Quarterly Short Story Competition. Her play ‘The Dummy Bride’ was part of the 1996 Wellington Fringe Festival and her play ‘Sprout’ was part of the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Laura’s new collection ‘Tales of Love and Disability’ will be out soon from Woven Words Publishers.   www.laurasolomon.co.nz 

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1They had me written off for dead.  They found me in the field behind Kev Thompson’s place, my eyes wide open, staring at the sun, my mouth hanging open, slack-jawed.  It was a group of skin heads that did me over – I must have looked at them the wrong way, next thing I knew they attacked me down a Christchurch city alleyway, did me over good.  They drove with my body out to a farm on the outskirts of the city and dumped me.  I was found the next morning by Kevin, the farmer.

He drove with me to the nearest A&E which was located at St George’s Hospital.  I was patched up and sent back out to face the world after being kept in overnight for observation.  In their cruelty, they had beaten me violently around the head with an iron bar and when I went back to my old life, I noticed that I suffered short term memory loss.  I worked as an usher at the local theatre, but I took three months off work to recover.  I joined the local brain injury support group and thanked my lucky stars when I saw some of the members – perhaps I had gotten off lightly.  Some of the group’s members could not walk or talk – those were mostly the car crash victims.  We also had a couple of people who’d had brain tumours removed and another man who had been beaten up.  We used to meet for coffees, pumpkin and chocolate chip muffins and chat at the Dux de Lux each Thursday.

I did exercises to improve my memory – sudoku and luminosity.  I also utilised mnemonic devices.

I ate a lot of fish and fresh fruit and vegetables and consumed vitamins B, C, E and Omega-3 fish oil supplements.  I did all I could to help myself.  I did not smoke or drink.  I lived the life of a saint.  I treated my brain as a precious commodity.  I could not afford to damage any more of its cells.

I met Molly through the brain injury support group.  She’d had an astrocytoma brain tumour removed the previous spring and although the operation had gone smoothly it had still been scary.  She’d had to learn how to walk again, with the aid of a physiotherapist.  She still couldn’t run.  I took her on a date to the movies – I got free tickets.  We went to see This Beautiful Fantastic – a British romantic drama.  I took her hand half an hour into the film.  She squeezed my hand tightly which I took to be a good sign.

The doctor had told me not to drive, but I hated not having my independence, so I was driving Molly home from the film along a dark Christchurch back road to her flat.  Molly got a bit frisky on the way home and unzipped my trousers.  I got a bit excited and didn’t mind my driving like perhaps I should have.  I veered off the road – there was an awful thump; something heavy bounced off the bonnet and then the windscreen.  O God what had I hit, a sheep? A dog?

I stopped the car told Molly to stay put and went out to investigate. The headlights were still on so I could clearly see what I had hit. It was a man. I rushed over he was lying so still. I bent down to hear if he was still breathing and could smell the overwhelming odour of alcohol. I  panicked – I had hit a person!

“We hit him, it’s our fault, we could go to jail.” I jumped and turned Molly had gotten out of the car and was standing behind me. Her face registered shock and she was shaking. I stared at her not knowing what to say or do. She stared back at me then suddenly burst into tears, sobbing uncontrollably.

“Don’t worry.” I squeaked. Surprised at my strained voice I cleared my throat. I think he’s dead but I’ll call an ambulance.

“No.” she retorted back at me “We can’t involve the authorities, it was my fault I was distracting you, I’ll get into trouble. We will both get into trouble. We’ll go to jail!”

“What are we going to do then?” I said “We can’t just leave him here.”

“We need to dispose of the body,” she whispered back at me looking around as she did so as if there might be ears around to hear her outrageous idea.

“C’mon help me,” she said bending over the body and grabbing the dead man’s shoulders.

I was in shock –  I didn’t know what to do. I felt I wasn’t in control of my body at that moment let alone my mind. I found myself mechanically moving and bending down to pick up his legs. We carried him to the car, placed him in the back seat in a lying down position, and got into the front seats. We drove without speaking. I had given up thinking of what to do I was just following Molly’s orders on autopilot. We approached the Rakaia Bridge. Molly told me to stop, so I did.

Next thing you know we were dragging the body out of the back seat and hurling it over the edge of the bridge.

I drove Molly home in silence. Dropped her back at her flat and told her I hoped she could sleep ok after what we had done.

“I’ll be ok,” she said “I have some sleeping pills.”

 

The body washed up six weeks later.  There were news reports on TV and the radio.  Molly and I argued about whether to confess or not.  I wanted to come clean, she didn’t.

“We could be had on manslaughter or even murder charges”, said Molly.  “Your doctor and the DVLA had told you not to drive and you were driving.  I was distracting you.  It doesn’t look good.  We didn’t own up at the time.  We tried to cover up.  It’ll look terrible in court.”

The guilt started to get to us.  I jumped at every knock at the door, imagining it to be a policeman come to handcuff me and take me away, and then the nightmares started up.  They were terrible dark dreams where I was buried alive next to the man we had killed, locked in the coffin with him, unable to break free.

Somebody dobbed us in.  As it turns out somebody had seen our car stopped at the edge of the Rakaia Bridge and thought it odd and noted down our licence plate number in case something fishy was going on.  Bloody snoops.  We got ten years each – the judge said our brain injuries were a mitigating factor or it would have been longer.  She served her sentence in Arohata Prison in Tawa, I did time at Christchurch Men’s.  We wrote longing love letters to each other from our cells, told each other to keep thinking of our release date, that glorious day in the future when we would have served our sentence and would be set free – free to roam planet earth once more, free to shop and cook and take delight in each other, free to console one another over our injuries, free to smile and understand.

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© Laura Solomon