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Friday, 21 January 2011


We sit and watch each other, like two animals who have been forced to share territory. I can't stop my gaze being drawn to the piece of metal that sticks out of her leg. It's thin, but not thin enough to be snapped with bare hands. Its length is dark with dried and crusted blood. Just looking at it makes my own leg tingle. Sensing my attention, Lisa shifts slightly, adjusting the hem of her skirt to hide the place where metal plunges into skin. Even this small movement makes her wince and catch her breath.

"That looks bad," I say.

She gives a weak kind of half-chuckle. "It feels bad too," she says. I get the sense that she's trying for humour, but her voice is so strained it doesn't quite work.

I pick my words carefully. "That's going to need to be treated," I say. "It's going to get infected otherwise."

She shuts her eyes and leans her head back against the wall. "It hurts. It really hurts," she says, her voice a groan. "I...I can't even touch it without wanting to scream."

I pause. We're both hovering around a suggestion here, but neither of us wants to voice it. For her part I imagine she's still too wary of me to invite any further contact. And I...well, the last thing I want is to take responsibility for the life of someone I've only just met. But we both know her leg needs treating, and we both know she can't do it herself. If I don't at least try to help then she's going to die, without a doubt.

Like Sharon. Like your mum and dad. Like everyone you've ever known. Couldn't help any of them, could you David? No. But you can help her.

"Can I see it?" I say. She doesn't answer, but she doesn't move either. I notice then that she's shaking slightly. I see her eyes flick very quickly from my face, to the gun stuck in my belt and then back again. All at once, I understand that she's still terribly afraid of what I might do to her.

"Listen," I say, struck by a sudden idea. "I want you to take this." Very slowly, using only my finger and thumb, I draw the gun from my belt and hold it out to her. "As far as I can tell it's loaded. That catch on the side is the safety. All you'd have to do is flick that up and pull the trigger. Go on, take it. If I try to hurt you I give you full permission to shoot me."

With the greatest of care, she does. The way she holds it, the thing might as well be made of acid. It looks huge in her small hand.

"Okay?" I say.

"Okay." She nods and extends her leg, pulling up the hem of her skirt to expose the injury. I crouch down and move close enough to examine it. It looks worse than I thought it would. The skin around the puncture is puffy and red and swollen. Infected? I wonder. Either way it's awful to look at. I know that the piece of metal has to be removed. There's no getting around that. It has to.

And I have to be the one to do it.

1 comment:

leroy miles said...

giving up his gun to a total stranger, even if she is injured and he wants to help, is big time stupid. A few more decisions like this and our hero will be a dead one.