“Men Who Throw Knives At Women” by Simon Webster (Published by Visual Verse August 2016)

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I’m sitting on the steps leading up to the Courthouse. People will see, I hear my Mam say. Let them see! I find I’m talking back to her these days. You can’t fight City Hall, says my Dad. You can shut up too.

There was a man on stage in Butlin’s, do you remember? Forty years ago. And he did this trick where he threw knives at a woman in a sparkly dress. She was all sparkly like a disco ball and she was standing in front of a board and the man was in a smart suit with a blindfold tied about his head. Throwing knives at a woman, he was, with his blindfold on. Mam couldn’t look but I knew nothing bad would happen. It was on a stage. Bad things don’t happen on a stage.

Roy will come and tell me when it’s time to go back in. He says he’s still hopeful. There’s a layer of grime on these steps. My skirt may pick up some of it at the back but it doesn’t matter. Dressing nicely was for the first impression and we’re at the last impression now. I told him right at the start, What if I lose, Roy? He said, Is that you talking or your Mother? He said, What would your Father say if he was here? You can’t fight City Hall.

Some boy tied the blindfold. I would’ve checked it first. The knives were real. The woman in the sparkly dress was real. Thwump (gasp!), thwump (gasp!), thwump (gasp!). And the applause at the end, boisterous from the relief, with extra treble from sweating palms. I knew nothing bad would happen. I’d guessed how it was done.

What’s wrong with what I’m wearing? Roy said, Think of the Court like it’s a performance. Extra thought goes into what people on a stage wear, he said. You can’t fight City Hall, I heard my Dad say. Bad things don’t happen on a stage, I answered.

There are the rooms in buildings where everyone sees, large rooms right at the front, then there are the smaller rooms, the ones hidden at the back. Bad things can happen in those hidden rooms. Mistakes. Blunders without audiences. What if I lose, Roy? He said, Stop listening to your Mother. My Mam was saying, Good solicitors aren’t referred to by their first names.

My new skirt is black and expensive and I’ve probably ruined it now from the grime on these steps. I’ll know soon. I should’ve got a sparkly dress and dazzled them into the right verdict. You can’t fight City Hall. Roy was as nervous in there as poor Katie in her first school play.

If I lose I won’t be able to afford the costs. Justice is blind, he said. But I’ve been thinking. People who are blind don’t wear blindfolds. Only those pretending they can’t see wear blindfolds, standing up on some stage, with a stack of real knives in their grip.

More Visual Verse stories by Simon Webster here

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