[Section 6 introduces another witness to the attempted murders. The character is loosely based on Jude in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure but could be anyone in modern Britain.]
You don’t get much unluckier than being named
for the traitor who betrayed your savior
after dinner with a kiss. Bullied for being Jewish
when you’re not, bullied for having learning
disabilities, back in the day, when that
wasn’t yet a thing. Bullied
for being weak. Bullied for trying to be strong,
when you stand up & snap & throw a brick back
across the playing field, narrowly missing some kid’s
head. Headmaster yanked you up to his office
and threatened you with a now-illegal thrashing.
Protest was useless. You just said ‘Yes, sir’
over and over again, as he battered platitudes
into your brain. Jude dropped out
of school after disappointing O level results
and got a job on a building site. Paddies ragged him
and he ragged them back, with uplifted middle-
finger, tending the concrete mixer.
Jude would trudge back to his DSS funded bedsit
and attempt to write verse;
hang out in bars; met a girl. Jessie
had dribble issues, owing to her high functional
spina bifida, and a serious problem with the booze.
Jude picked her up out of a pool of vomit outside the pub
and took her home. They fucked. Another child was born.
Jessie was not the stuff parents
are supposedly made of; nor Jude.
After birth, Jessie flipped; tried to drown the baby
in the baby bath; came after Jude,
cowering in the cupboard under the stairs,
with a kitchen-knife, calling Satan,
mouth frothing as she dug the blade deep
into the cheap chipboard of the cupboard door.
Police and NHS hospital staff struggled to stuff her
into a wailing waiting ambulance and whisk her away.
Jude had little in the way of regular income
and a somewhat wayward lifestyle,
as the family court magistrate finally put it.
And Baby Jess was thus duly carted off into care.
The scaffolding around the steeple looks Medieval. Some
privatized, some perilously propped up by priests and prayer,
collection plates and the national lottery. The church
totters out over Salisbury Plain, no more durable than
Coventry or Stonehenge come the end of days.
Jude looks down upon the tiny city below, and wishes
himself the will to drum up the courage
to throw himself off out
into this suburban world.
Jude trudges past Yu and Da squirming
on the graveyard bench, hunched up
in his dark coat, and shrugs. “What the fuck!
Nothing to do with me.” Jude walks on homeward;
shoves a bag of prawn curry into his microwave
oven and settles down to watch
zombie movies on his DVD.