THE TEXT

The Life of Henry Fuckit
(1950 - 2015)

 

56   Peeping Tom

There is irony in everything man does. Henry opened a quart bottle of Windhoek lager and seated himself in the easy chair before the open door. Over the brown and black confusion of rock and sand a vague haze hung beneath the sky. He was inclined to agree. The way life worked out one couldn't be blamed for suspecting the gods of mockery. The Missing Link! That was a good one. To devote your life to hunting for a missing link was downright foolhardy. Whoever found the Missing Link? Other than raving Christians or such similar intellectual suicides?

The sky was changing. The blue of the morning had seeped away imperceptibly until there was nothing left except a brightness. Now he saw that the brightness was a fine mist reflecting sunlight. The door swung half closed and then slammed back against the porch wall. The first rush of cold Atlantic air had reached the land and was condensing into fog.

He got up to close the door, to stop it banging, to shut out the draught. He walked over… He reached out, thinking only of closing it and returning to his beer. It was before his hand touched the handle that the idea burst like a soap bubble in his head. It must have been there, floating, and these circumstances had caused it, just at this moment of accumulation and alignment and auspiciousness, to go… POPF!

The lever handles both had a small screw securing them to either end of the spindle that operated the latch. His Swiss Army knife had a blade that was serrated like a saw, hooked like a bottle opener and square cut, with a flattened tip like a screwdriver. But this tip proved to be too broad for the slot in the screw head. The only time he called upon it for assistance and it didn't work. Fuckin' rubbish. How about the bradawl? For getting Boy Scouts out of horses' arseholes. He normally used it to clean out his pipe bowl or for scraping dirt from under his fingernails. Too sharply pointed. The tip of the knife blade?

It was only necessary to remove the one handle in order to withdraw the spindle still attached to the other. With a mixture of excitement and fear he began to repeat the wardrobe procedure. The fear of embarrassment. More than embarrassment? Like posing in front of a mirror, practising different smiles, searching for the best profile, throwing back the head and giving a deep chuckle, only to catch a movement in the glass that signified the presence of an observer. The hot flush, the humiliation, the utter impossibility of saving the situation. And if he were to be caught in THIS act his anguish would be intensified to an excruciating degree by a feeling of guilt. What right did he have to move the furniture about like this? What right did he have to slide the spindle through the top escutcheon plate into the dark privacy of this lock? How dare he thrill to the sensation of enjoyment, so smug and proper? Was he entirely without shame, that he would risk exposure as a pervert and a thief?

Yes.

He pressed down on the handle, ever so slowly, until it could turn no more. Then, inhaling deeply, he pushed inward. The door did not move far before stopping; but far enough to be beyond the point where the dead bolt would have held it almost immediately if it, the dead bolt, had been turned into the striker plate. Now, he knew, he was REALLY living dangerously. Having got this far he couldn't turn back, even though the risk of disaster was appallingly high. He was going to try to push the door open no matter what the consequences, and not knowing what he was pushing against made the consequences multiply in his mind like yeast spores cast into a bowl of sweet warm water. One inch, two inches. The resistance was not formidable, something was sliding. Six inches. A foot and progress was halted. He stood perfectly still, listening and trying to imagine the nature of this new world he was trying, uninvited, to enter. There was no sound at all and no light either.

He stepped into the threshold and eased his head between edge of door and frame. The light from behind him was just sufficient to penetrate the gloom and reveal a passage not much wider than the doorway and maybe three paces in length. The interior was cluttered with a jumble of murky shapes so haphazard that he at once guessed this to be some kind of store. Withdrawing his head he bent down and groped for the obstacle. It was a cardboard box and pulling and then pushing he moved it further away form him and was able to half open the door. The air smelt dusty. He had better not sneeze.

Now he was actually in the passage he realised the voices had been heard through two doors and not one. The mystery was solved. His room was part of the house, connected by this passage and they had merely closed his door and turned this dead space into a cupboard. With a twinge of annoyance he saw that he had reached the top of a false peak. Towering ahead lay the true summit. He moved sideways between the piles of boxes, stacks of picture frames and household junk to the real door. For an instant a mad impulse urged him to grasp the handle and ... But no, don't be a stupid shithead. Caution, caution.

In the centre of the door was a circular hole the diameter of a Coke bottle. Bending down he found himself looking through copper gauze and a metal grate into a room whose casual lack of formality, its flagrant untidiness, sent the blood to his face, and he prickled with a painful surge of emotion. This was a disgraceful intrusion. To run his slimy eyeball over this disarray was a violation. He shouldn't be doing it. The large table was spread with books and magazines in piles, a toy truck, shells, a toilet roll, pencil case, place mats and salt and pepper. This must be a dining room or part of a large kitchen. Just as he was thinking there was no one at home the little girl came into view, sat down at the table, opened a book and began colouring in. Long fair hair swept back in ponytail and a white Alice band to catch any loose strands. The chair was too low and her chin cleared the table by a mere six inches. Elbows spread out either side of her work, head slightly inclined, eyes downcast, for the moment her features were immobile in concentration. Then the boy appeared beside her with a suddenness that could only be explained if he had been on the floor. He reached for a crayon and the girl's eyelids flickered and she said sharply "You can't use purple."

"But you're not using it."

"I'm going to use it just now. They're my crayons."

"I let you use MY crayons."

"I said NO!"

"Stinky fart-face."

Hostilities had been established and things were warming up.

"Mummy! Tell…"

"Alright, both of you, go and do a wee. We're going for a walk." The mother had crossed the stage. A brief appearance. The children abandoned the fray and enthusiastically fled from his view.

By jamming a wad of newspaper between the leading edge of the door and its frame he was able to close it without clicking home the latch. He returned the wardrobe to its rightful position and replaced spindle and handles before lying down on the bed. The woman had a powerful effect on him. He could deal with a cockstand in this, the customary fashion - a temporary problem, a temporary solution - it was manageable. But as he allowed his imagination free rein a question arose in his mind. Was he or was he not capable of committing a rape? Well, of course he was, under the right circumstances, Homo sum, and all that. The textbook case studies portrayed individuals with a poor 'self-image' given to violent outbursts. He might have a warped image of himself, yes. But bursting out violently? No. Apart from verbal attacks aimed at the gods, when his eyes would protrude alarmingly and he would snarl and groan with rage, he was a mild and gentle creature, contemptuous of the bullyboys jostling each other as they trampled the streets and the aisles. He detested machismo, especially the South African version, so why such violent fantasies? Why the ripping? Why the rape? Why the force? When he read the nauseating details in the paper why the arousal? If he could be sure that there was no possibility of retribution and that he would feel no remorse would he abandon himself to the urge, to the primal drive to get in? It was highly unlikely. His self-image would get in he way. To inflict terror, humiliation, pain and despair would require a great deal of hatred and he did not hate himself. In fact, he realised with amusement, he felt an inordinate amount of compassion for himself. He was too compassionate to be a rapist.

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