FICTION: Busman’s Holiday by Ian M Macdonald

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When he first fucked her it hurt worse than when her mother had pushed her down the stairs that one time when she was four-years-old and she broke her arm in two places. Those ragged wooden stairs which had the nail heads poking out and were not really compatible with children at the best of times, let alone with a mother who drank quite as much as hers did, and with a daughter like her, who had a mouth on her like the girl from the exorcist.

Her blackness had never really meant all that much to her, seeing as how when she was just old enough to begin to realise her world of blackness – the streets and yards and corners in her neighbourhood – was not all there was, she woke up in that basement room with the whitewash walls and the iron bed and the fluorescent strip light. And the little, warm orange lamp on the bedside table for the night times when he wanted that more boudoir kind of feel. She had no memory of how she got there, vague recollections of the same man sitting on her mother’s sofa sweating, staring at her, massaging his knees.

It was only the fourth or fifth time he fucked her that she really noticed his skin was a different colour from her own, and she wondered if he was an albino like her mother had told her about, the breed the witches liked in Africa. Boiled Albino brains for infertility, sluggishness, bad luck.

You read all this stuff in the papers and books about the serially abused becoming numb, vacant, lost inside their own heads, and that doesn’t come from inexperience. She froze and considered the maiming and beating of the albino, the boiling of his brains, while he fucked her and pushed her face aside so she wouldn’t look at him, as if she would want to anyway. The next time, she found herself considering the lines on the ceiling, how the wooden house had been put together and who by. It looked similar to the basement in her own home but much larger, and with a thin strip of window between the ceiling and wall. She tried to remember the seven-times-table that she hadn’t ever quite got her head around in school, and by the 105th time he had fucked her she had mapped it all out perfectly, those divisions of seven, up into 31 times. Then she moved on to eight.

He was drunk, one evening, she could smell it on his breath like her own mother. That time she considered her mother drunk, tumbling down those nail-ridden stairs, her arm cracking and the skin ripping and the blood on the hallway floor and the pain she should be in, and she considered her dying there. And as she considered this she smiled, and he pushed her face further into the pillow and her neck made a cracking sound, the same crunch some of the boys in school had liked to make with their own necks, and they would laugh as she and the other girls winced.

He’d left the door open as he staggered off to throw up in the kitchen sink, and when she walked up and out onto the ground floor, she noticed this whole other world of green grass and endless countryside and corn and woodland, all framed outside the large kitchen window. She had only ever seen grey, dry, brown earth, chicken wire, bloated growling dogs and broken bottles from her mother’s kitchen window. The only green, that one plant she didn’t know the name of which crawled up the metal fence in the white-hot sun and became peppered with purple once a year for a fortnight. The outside here, beyond the silhouette of his retching body, looked lush and calm, like there would be birds.

On the table in the kitchen were three dead rabbits. The old man shook and groaned.

Little did she know that in six months he would be dead anyway, from the obligatory liver disease that came with the amount of drinking required to live with the repeatedly dreadful acts he had inflict upon a fellow human being. He was one of those who knew that it was wrong, he knew he was going to hell and all that. And that, if anything, made it worse, and he deserved more than what he got.

The shotgun which had been placed at an angle next to the three dead, brown rabbits on the table, she had seen before – one of her mother’s boyfriends had shown her a shortened version, the shooting-end all chipped and torn from amateur saw-work – and with the same numbness she had learned while he did the things he did to her, she picked up the shotgun without even considering, and she aimed it in the centre of his back like her mother’s boyfriend had explained (the heads the sweet spot but aim for the torso, for god’s sake girl you don’t ever want to miss) and she pulled the trigger. The old sick man was one of those poachers who vacantly reloaded whenever, wherever, cuz who knows when a pretty little deer is going to show herself from behind a redwood on the walk home.

And then, after an hour’s walk, more albinos.

Then a cell, and more albinos in uniform.

A courtroom, another prison cell, a stainless-steel canteen, a smaller prison cell, bars, tin cups, shackles.

The judges hammer, the dock.

There she was again, being fucked by a white man.


Ian M Macdonald

Ian M Macdonald lives in North London, England, and for the past ten years he has made a living (of sorts) working for the National Health Service. His stories – which focus on the sick and the troubled – have been published in Ambit Magazine and online at Fictive Dream and daCunha. His morally dubious novella, Things We Get Away With, is available as an ebook.


If you enjoyed ‘Busman’s Holiday’ leave a comment and let Ian know.
You can purchase a copy of Ian’s novella ‘Things We Get Away With’ here


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