Twisted Fiction Press

HELPLESS: Part One

by on Jun.15, 2009, under Uncategorized

When Turner blinked in the park in the glare of the morning the hand was still there. It lay on the wood chips where Clint Eastwood had bitten it off at the wrist. The child stood staring at it and a bubble of spit rose and fell from her mouth with every breath. Turner shuffled to one side and glanced around him. The park was as empty as ever at this scant-shadowed time of day. Pale dry leaves lay scattered on the wood chips and the little hand could have been camouflaged among them but for the blood clinging brightly to the edge. He heard Clint Eastwood muttering in confusion at the edge of the playground.
He could see the mother. She was over by the gondola talking on the phone with her back to them. She was tall and very thin wearing black tights and a short jacket. Her knee-high boots had a crack in one heel. The park was empty apart from Turner standing by the seesaw and the child in her parka staring at her hand on the wood chips and the mother on the phone and Clint Eastwood licking the unfamiliar taste of human blood off his muzzle.

‘You should get one,’ the mother’s words floated across the grass. ‘They’ll go on special next month.’

Turner saw that the child was in shock but not yet bleeding to death. Out of one dirty pink jacket sleeve poked a stubby hand with dirt under the nails. Out of the other sleeve there was an ungodly nothing. Blood began to trickle from the edge of the sleeve. The neatly severed hand floated brightly among the scattered leaves and Turner had no idea what to do with it. Hurl it into the bushes. Pick it up and screw it back on. There was a building thwok thwok in his temples like a chopper was landing. He wanted to duck. He heard someone say ‘faaaark’ below the hammering of his heart and recognised the voice as his own.

The mother over by the gondola thumbed her purse higher on her shoulder and hunched against the winter chill. Her fine dark hair wisped around the phone she pressed to her ear. Turner pulled off his belt and wound it tightly around the child’s right arm over her jacket and he lifted the arm up so that the blood would flow back to her heart. Look ma no hand. The child watched him and her face was as pale as paper. He scanned the empty park. Clint Eastwood was not a big talker so when he did you listened. Low in his throat. Time to go. Turner glanced once more at the mother and then back at the child. He raised his own arm in good-bye and then he followed Clint Eastwood out through the avenue of trees past the swimming pool closed for the winter and an hour later they were on the road.

The world was no longer a safe place for them. They put dogs down for mauling kids. Turner sat behind the wheel of the old Astina he picked up from a lot by a LiquorLand. He had had his tragus pierced the day before and the whole right side of his head was throbbing. He hadn’t counted on so much pain. The big dog snored on the back seat. Turner glanced frequently into the rear view mirrors. He’d phoned in his resignation at the plant and felt guilty because it was his birthday tomorrow and he knew Anu on the desk would have ordered a cake.

They left the city and kept going until dawn. They pulled off the freeway for gas and Turner sat in the car drinking a V and reading in the Telegraph about the dog who’d bit the hand off the child in the park back in Sydney. The girl was in a stable condition in the hospital. The bruising and scratches on her back and arms were explained by the savagery of the attack. It was a Pit Bull, the mother said that knocked her daughter to the ground. She said she’d seen the whole thing “‘like in slow motion.’’’

“‘I had to pull it off with my bare hands. You just find the strength when you have to.’”

The dog dropped the hand on the ground and ran off ‘like a thief in the night.’ The mother said she saw an old belt lying by the side of the playground and used it to tie the tourniquet and the experts praised her knowledge of first-aid. ‘You never know when these things’ll come in handy,’ the mother said. She said that it took some doing just to find the hand lying hidden among the winter leaves, which would explain the fact that the blood had begun to clot. How the child was no help but just stood there staring wordlessly past the trees with her arm raised like she was waving at someone.

‘Not waving,’ Turner said to Clint Eastwood with the newspaper spread out between them.

Fortunately no one thought to get a description of the dog from the little girl but according to the mother it was a large white Pit Bull with red eyes and yellow fangs and the authorities rounded up the dogs in the area matching that description but they all had alibis. They described the owner of the dog as a coward. The silenced little girl was a hero. Her mother was a hero too but ‘that’s my job,’ she said. ’That’s what we do.’

Clint Eastwood was not a Pit Bull. He was a Rhodesian Ridgeback, wheaten with a black mask and one white left paw but Turner wasn’t taking any chances. Behind the petrol station, he threw a stick to tire him out but Clint Eastwood just wanted to get back in the car again.

‘What would you do if I they put me down?’ Turner asked Clint Eastwood as night swiftly fell. The road swung ahead of them into a dark bowl peppered faintly with lights.

‘Wrroooogh, wroooogh,’ said Clint Eastwood.

‘Me too,’ said Turner. ‘We’re heading west now. South and west. Is that okay?’

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