Monday, March 29, 2010

The Fourth Monkey

Prompt.......“Shhh… did you hear that?”
“Shhh .. did you hear that?”
“Relax Bec, She’s not due back for ages. Come on in here and see what I mean.”
I motioned to my pony-tailed accomplice. She crept up the creaky wooden floorboards of the houses hallway with cat-like movements; her tiny feet hardly touching the ground. My hand clasped the brass door handle and turned it; lifting the heavy latch allowing the wooden door to swing inward.
Heavy, musty, imprisoned air burst outward, desperate for freedom as our eyes adjusted to the dim lighting within the room. The windows were taped shut unsuccessfully attempting to shun the sunshine desperate to burst out of the seams and into the room.
A tiny murmer and the sounds of sheets moving as a body shifted. With the light coming through the doorway I could make out the form of the sleeping child. He mumbled again and shifted in his cot.
“And this is what I am talking about - its disgusting. Something has to be done” 
Becs normally animated face moulded into a neutral expression and she picked up the   unlabled brown bottle beside his cot.
“Bec! What do I do about it?”
She swished the contents and sniffed and then carefully replaced the bottle and looked at the sleeping form. “ This is what she uses to sedate him every day? Where would she get this sort of stuff?” 
“She’s some sort of nurse up at the hospital so I’m sure she gets this stuff on the sly.”
“Smells like the stuff they used to give grandad. That stuff used to knock out an elephant.”
Neat piles of clothes balanced precariously on the scant furniture within the room. Fluffy toys and toy trucks littered the floor. Bec turned the bottle carefully to face the way it had been when she’d picked it up and turned to leave. I held her shoulder, looking past it at the sleeping boy.
“Basically she knocks him out while she goes to work. She has different shifts, so I didn’t really notice or realise for a while.”  My hand twitched on Becs shoulder, desperate to reach out and touch the small form.  “Hes a sweet little kid; full of smiles - but like I said only really awake for a few hours a day.”
Bec pushed me out of door and hissed. “Its none of our business. She’s obvious got it worked out - the dosages and stuff. He looks fine.”  I carefully closed the door behind us shocked at her disinterest and followed her to the kitchen.  Bec silently flicked the electric kettle on and pulled down two chipped mugs from the shelf.
Silence continued as she made tea, the buzzing of a dying blow fly against the dirty window punctuating the icy atmosphere. Bec sipped her steaming mug and stared ahead of her, avoiding my gaze. I couldn't believe she had nothing to say, no advice or insight on what she had just witnessed.
“So?  What do I do?”
“Do? Nothing. We’ll agree not talk about it again - its not our place.”
“Not our place?  You are happy to be chained up in front of parliament to protest the rights of immigrants, of starving whales, of the demise of pigmy frogs - but can’t be bothered about the safety of a little boy in my house.  Something that we can do something tangible about?”
“Whats she supposed to do with him then?  You said yourself - Shes’ a single mum; no family around. What is she supposed to do with a kid while she works? Give her a break. And if you say something, report her. What do you think will happen to her?  To him? No, Ginny. You stay out of it. Say nothing.”
I was dumfounded. Of all my friends, I was certain Bec would be the most outraged “Its not right Bec.  A kid shouldn’t sleep all this time - be drugged all the time.  Its got to be messing with his development or something. What sort of life is it for him?”
Bec sipped loudly and stared at the fly spinning upside down now in the corner of the window frame. 
“Damn it Bec - you’re the revolutionary here.  The one who goes to all the marches - The one who gets up with the megaphone and demands the rights of workers or whoever it is that you are protesting for at the time. You’re the one who only last week told me I needed to get a backbone and stand up for the meek and defend those who couldn’t help themselves.  Can’t you see some injustice right here?” My voice rose to a shrieking pitch as spittle formed in the side of my mouth.
Bec slammed her mug down. “Wake up Ginny. Its complicated. Shes not the bad guy here - shes doing what she can to support herself and her little boy. And if that means drugging him so he stays safe, asleep in his cot while she is away at work - the so be it.”  
“We’re in suburbia for christ sake. This is a criminal act gross abuse of that child and if we walk away that means we might as well be dosing that kid up in stead of her.  we are just as guilty.”
Becs mug slid across the draining board and tinkled into the washing up basin. “Its too early in the day to get so worked up about something we can do nothing about. Come on grab your bag. we need to get to class.”
I threw an apple on top of my folders and glared at Bec. “Remind me to quote you at the next protest meeting. And here I was thinking you’d be the first to help me out; help that little kid.”
The front door rattled as Lousia pushed her way and threw her keys down on the kitchen bench.  “Hey girls. what a day.”  She pulled off her uniform blue tunic and stood in the doorway in her bra. 
Bec smiled “For some. Ours hasn’t even started though.”
I fumbled with the electric jug, unable to meet her in the eyes. “You want a cuppa?”
Louisa raked her fingers through her hair and shook out her high ponytail. “Yeah . Actually no - I’m beat. I need to get to sleep before Lockie wakes up . Hes a bit of handful in the mornings. If you don’t mind, I’ll put on the kids program on TV and when he wakes up he can just go and watch that while I snooze.”
“Oh no - go for it. We are on our way to class.”
I narrowed my eyes at her as I shrugged on my backpack. “You’re lucky he sleeps like he does.”
Yawning, Lousia nodded. “Yeah hes a good boy.” Her tired eyes wandered over my expression suspiciously as I attempted to keep as neutral as possible. A deep flush beginning to creep up my neck under her scrutiny. 
“Good night or morning Louisa”
Bec and I exchanged looks and we went down the front stair. 
“She needs to be reported.  “
“And you need to keep out of it.”


Adam Byatt said...

Such a moral dilemma; each of the characters has their own part and perspective and no decision can be made.
I enjoy the twists that your stories take, such a unique angle and direction.