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16 October 2014
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Brian Gogarty
Brian Gogarty

Brian is a 'Bardist' from mid-Ulster who is married with three weans. He works as a Banker, a job that is driving him insane. He was brought up in the 'City' but has lived in the countryside since 1984. He was runner-up in the Spring artsextra short story competition with his story Dishpan Hands.

Dishpan Hands by Brian Gogarty

She stood at the sink looking at her hands. Dishpan hands he’d called them, more than once and in a mean way. She wouldn’t argue that point. She knew and agreed that that’s what she now had - dishpan hands. But they were talented hands, experienced hands, hands that held a secret. They were her hands, good, strong, almost honest, and loyal. Loyal to him, they’d never wandered, never strayed, never held or touched another, not since they’d been together. That meant a lot to her and it should have meant a lot to him.

She couldn’t decide what to do about the dishes that lay in the sink, whether to wash them or not. She glanced at the kettle – no, she would leave them for now and make herself some tea. That was always the best thing to do in a crisis, have a cup of tea. She filled the kettle and lit the gas on the cooker, placed the kettle on the ring, sat down at the kitchen table, lit a cigarette and waited. As she watched the kettle her mind wandered, she looked at her hands and she remembered that he hadn’t always been like that. He’d met her in the park when she was sketching. She was going to be an artist.

The kettle whistled. She stubbed out the cigarette and walked across the kitchen, careful not to slip. She stared at the dishes in the sink and the frying-pan as it sat on the draining board – maybe she should just wash it, she thought. No - tea first. She carefully returned to her seat and lit another cigarette. She didn’t used to smoke so much. She didn’t used to smoke at all. But that’s what happens when your circumstances change – you change with them. She held the cup between her hands. Hands that were worked rough and calloused – no longer artist’s hands. She sipped the unsweetened tea and looked around the kitchen. So what if she never cleaned another dish, or washed another floor, or cooked another meal? He’d never complain again. He’d never tell her that she was nothing without him. He was gone and she was glad. He’d left her a couple of times before, but this time he wouldn’t be back. She was free.

They’d known each other two weeks when they moved in together. She told him it was the happiest day of her life, actually the second happiest. The day they met was the happiest and he was the best thing to have happened to her. He was kind, generous and considerate. But men always are, for a while. They buy flowers and chocolates. They take you for romantic meals and tell you how gorgeous you look. They notice everything about you, if you’ve changed your hair, your lipstick, your eye shadow or your perfume. They notice your smile and your eyes. Especially your eyes – they tell you how beautiful they are and how they ‘get lost’ in them.

Her eyes scanned the wreckage of the kitchen as she sipped her tea. She didn’t drink herbal tea anymore – another of the changes in her life. She didn’t paint or draw or sketch. She had hundreds of pieces of artwork in the attic, all from a very long time ago. Or was it? She’d met him just three years ago and it was perfect. But as time passed the little things she’d do, that he once found endearing, irritated him. No matter how hard she tried to meet his standards within the home they were never good enough. He’d changed and it wasn’t just because of her. She couldn’t remember when the changes happened, but she did notice that gradually he became different. He would become sullen and introverted, he wouldn’t discuss his day and showed no interest in hers. As he became more isolated he snapped and criticised anything and everything about her. She’d try to explain. “Excuses” he’d say, dismissing her with a roll of his eyes, or worse.

She remembered the first time he hit her. He’d been drinking and came home very late. He came into the bedroom, stumbled and staggered, fell onto the bed and tore at his clothes. Her eyes were shut tight, senses on full alert, as he crawled up the bed. He still had his shirt and jacket on, his trousers around his ankles, his stale alcoholic breath on her neck. He turned her towards him and pressed his mouth to hers. She asked him to stop, tears trickling down her cheeks.
Then came the slap. Hard and unrestrained, it split her lip and she bled onto the pillowcase. She was stunned and submitted. No amount of make-up could cover the bruises. It was too late for her – he was possessive and violent. She was trapped.

She looked at the sink and the dishes and the frying-pan. No. She wasn’t going to wash a thing. No more dishpan hands. She lit another cigarette and looked at herself in her compact mirror. Her face was swollen, battered and bruised. Her whole body ached. Her clothes were encrusted in blood. She looked at him. She wasn’t going to clean this up. He would just have to lie there on the floor, in his own blood, until she called the police.


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