My Dad has always had some strange and brilliant stories to tell from his childhood. He has started writing some of these down – with some fictional embellishment but with much truth in there – as short stories. They are brilliant, often sad and very darkly humorous. If you want to read more of these Doncaster/Yorkshire based tales from the 70s and 80s, there are some more here.
Sid had two lump hammers for Helena to choose from, so she probably made the wrong choice when she picked the larger of the two. Weighing in at nearly three pounds, it was unusual for a lump hammer to be that heavy, but Sid could wield it with a dexterity that defied its weight. Helena however was a twelve year old girl, and though she was strong for her age, she was struggling to carry the hammer.
Tall and slim, that’s how most people saw her, but she was actually quite statuesque. Her rippling biceps went mainly unnoticed, and most people just saw her as the pretty young girl that she was. Her slender frame belied just how strong she was.
She’d need all that strength today though. Today she was going to kill Hoggy.
It should have been her dad that she was mad with. He was the one who took Captain to the allotments. He was the one who took the lead off. Captain had never seen chickens before. What would anyone expect to happen? It should have been her dad she was mad with, because the cowardly sod just stood there and watched as Hoggy executed his punishment. He was the one who didn’t intervene. Tanked up on Pugwash’s homebrew, he stood by and let it happen.
No, it was Hoggy who had kicked Captain’s ribs in, so it was Hoggy who she was going to kill. She put the hammer on the floor, and rubbed some life back into her aching muscles. If she was going to smash Hoggy’s head in with a three pound lump hammer she needed to be ready.
If Hoggy had only kicked Captain once, she’d have been able to forgive him. If he’d have done it in an attempt to make him drop the chicken, then that would be understandable. But it had been a sustained and violent attack on a defenceless creature. Anger and alcohol had got the better of Hoggy, and Captain was lucky to have survived such a kicking.
Now it was time for revenge.
Helena picked up the hammer and walked in through the Hoggs’ back door. She never knocked. This was a close-knit community and friends didn’t need to knock when entering each other’s house. But Helena was no friend of the Hoggs, and the invitation hadn’t been extended to her. She never knocked, because she was an assassin, and assassins don’t knock.
Betty Hogg was sat in her favourite chair, getting warm by the fire. She was knitting, and peered over her half-moon glasses as Helena marched into the living room. She was startled to see her there, and lowered her knitting to her lap as she addressed Helena.
“Aye up Nellie. What are you doing here?”
Helena was surprised that she’d used the name “Nellie”. It grated on her as she said that name. Only Sid and John ever called her Nellie. Sid never called anyone by their real name, so when he called her Nellie she accepted it, because she knew that as Sid-names go Nellie wasn’t too bad.
John, when he called her Nellie that was a different. The name took on a certain softness as the word left his lips. It wasn’t just a nickname, it was almost a term of endearment. She liked it when John called her Nellie, it was like his special name for her.
But Betty, no. Who does she think she is calling me Nellie? She doesn’t even know me, the bitch.
Helena must have made an imposing sight as she surveyed the scene. A twelve year old girl with lump hammer, which she by now had managed to lift to above shoulder height.
Betty’s expression was quizzical, not that Helena noticed. All her attention was on the fat tub of blubber which was sprawled out on the floor in front of the fire.
Hoggy wasn’t the best looking bloke at the best of times, but this blob looked far worse than she’d seen him before. His hair was usually neatly groomed, held in position with an overabundance of Brylcreem. Now his hair was all over the place. There was a big greasy patch under his head which would indicate that that was the same spot where he would usually lay.
His shirt had ridden up, revealing his big fat gut. Although he was lying flat on his back, his belly had lolled over to one side. His navel, instead of pointing to the ceiling, faced into the room, and seemed to follow you around like an all-seeing-eye.
“Nellie……. What can I do for you?” Her voice was soft and calm, especially considering the intrusion.
“I’ve come to kill your fat bastard of an ‘usband!”
“Oh.. Well your timing’s good if nowt else. As you can see ‘e’s asleep.”
It shook Helena a bit, how calmly Betty was taking it. She’d expected her to defend her man. But no, she just took it in her stride, as though she’d seen it all before. She put her knitting to one side, but never seemed over moved by the turn of events.
“I’m just sticking t’ kettle on Nellie. Do you want a cup o’ tea, before or after you’ve killed me ‘usband?”
Stupid bloody woman. Hasn’t she grasped what I’m about to do? How can she be so calm about it?
“No. I don’t want a cup of tea. I’ve come to kill your husband.”
“Yeh. I got that, but it’s not as easy as you think. Killing someone. I’ll just make meself one if that’s alright.”
She was right it wasn’t easy, but she just had to think what this nasty sod had done to her dog. When she come home from school, Captain looked to be in such a sorry state. Sid had bandaged him up, but it wasn’t enough, he should have gone to the vets really. He looked so pitiful, sprawled across the floor, with blood still running from his nose.
Sid too was crying. Tears of shame as much as tears of sympathy for Captain. But he wouldn’t admit he’d done anything wrong though. He wouldn’t admit that his mate Hoggy was in the wrong either.
“That dog o’ yours just went mad and killed two chickens. Hoggy only did what anyone else woulda.”
He knew they were both in the wrong, but he wouldn’t admit it. He even tried to blame Helena for not training it right. If she’d have taken him to the brickyard ponds, and taught him how to behave around ducks, he wouldn’t have got so excited when he saw chickens. But Helena knew exactly whose fault it was, and that’s why she was where she was.
Betty went into the kitchen and returned with a steaming hot cup of tea and a plate of biscuits. She sat back in the same chair, but shuffled forward in it, as though to get a grandstand view. Hoggy’s head lolled over to the other side, the dribble and slaver which had run out of the corner of his mouth coated his uppermost cheek. That side of his face was now mottled red with the imprint of the rough carpet.
“Crack on Nellie, you’ll be doin’ me a favour.” Betty egged her on. “Tek yur time though, he’ll not wake up for ages.”
Helena positioned herself near to Hoggy’s head. The hammer seemed even heavier now, so she struggled to lift it even two handed. She managed to lift it to chest height when Betty intervened.
“Wait a minute. You’ve got the wrong hammer. If he wakes up, you’ll never lift it up again to get a second shot in. If you use that ‘un you’ll ‘ave to make sure you finish ‘im in a oner.”
“Well, have you got a better plan?”
“No, but I’ve got a better hammer.”
She fished about under the cushion of her armchair, and when she brought her hand out, she was carrying a claw hammer. Well, what used to be a claw hammer. One of the claws was missing, and the wood of the shaft was splayed out, as though someone had used it for knocking bricks down with. She seemed quite pleased with herself for owning such a tool. She passed it to Helena.
“Betty. Why have you got a claw hammer down the side of your chair?”
“Twenty years I’ve been married to that fat bastard. Don’t you think I want to kill him too? That’s my special hammer, the one I use when I try to smash his head in. Most nights I get it out and try, but I just can’t do it. That’s why I was glad you came, you can do it for me.”
Helena accepted the lighter hammer from Betty. It felt much better in her hand than the three-pounder did. It was still a difficult task, but it had just got a lot easier. Once again she stood just by his head. She lifted the hammer, this time well above her head. Tears welled in her eyes. She was only too well aware of the enormity of what she was about to do, but she was psyched up. There was no way that she was going to fail in her task.
The sound was excruciating. When you’re really concentrating on such a task, all your senses are heightened. In the tranquillity of the room, one single crunch like that sounds like a crescendo. It broke the silence, and Helena’s heart felt like it was pounding out of her chest.
“Bloody hell Betty. Can’t you eat your biscuit quietly, I’m trying to concentrate here.”
The moment was lost, and she’d have to psych herself up all over again. Tears rolled down her cheeks, and her hand was now shaking. It should have been so easy. This person had brutalised her innocent dog in such a way that he deserved whatever punishment she metered out. All she had to do was bring the hammer down. Why couldn’t she do it?
“I told you it wasn’t easy.” Betty chipped in. “If it was, I’d have done it long ago. Let me make you that cuppa tea, you can try again in a bit.”
This time Helena did accept, and they sat side by side on the settee. Hoggy still laid on the floor, sprawled out, and totally unaware of what had so nearly happened to him.
“Cig Nellie?” Betty held out what was left of a ten packet of Park Drives.
“No thanks. I don’t smoke, I’m only twelve.”
“Go on tek one. I won’t tell thi dad.”
Helena didn’t know if she was being tested, but she was starting to warm to Betty, so she cautiously accepted a cigarette. Betty lit both fags up, and then took a deep drag on her own. Helena followed suit. Then Betty flicked the ash off her cig, straight into Hoggy’s face. It hit him clean on the nose, rolled down his cheek, and finally came to rest on a sticky patch of spittle.
Helena flicked her ash at him too. It wasn’t quite the same as smashing his head in, but it gave her a great deal of satisfaction. She’d wanted to inflict some real harm on him for what he had done. This was just a token gesture, but it would have to do.
“Right Nellie, tea break over. Do you want another crack at it?”
No. the moment had been lost. Whether it was the calming effect of the tea and ciggy, or just because of the passing of time, who knows. Maybe she saw the red mist, just as her dad did, and now it had passed. Whatever, she no longer felt like killing him. She still wished him dead, but it wouldn’t be by her hand.
“Never mind. If ever you feel like killing him again, you know you’re always welcome. Or if you just want to come round for a cuppa tea, and to flick some ash at him, you’re welcome to do that too.”
It was never going to happen. Helena had a newfound respect for Betty, but she was hardly her new best friend. They had nothing in common except for a mutual loathing for a certain fat sod. No, she liked Betty now, more than she thought she was going to, but she hadn’t exactly found a new bosom buddy.
“Whenever you’re passin’ Nellie. Just pop in.”
Somehow it didn’t grate on her this time when she called her Nellie. There were three people now allowed to address her by that name, and Betty was one of them.