Art Pact 205 - Anger

I had never been angrier in my life, a black rage that gripped all my muscles tight so that I shook violently and my jaw muscles bulged out at the side of my face. Something of it must have shown, because Mary took a step back, although John was oblivious to it and simple stood there with that same bland smug look on his face. I could feel the muscles in my forearms bunched up like steel wires, and knew that if I looked down I would see my hands in fists. I couldn't do that, though, because the certain knowledge that my fists were there would be the spur to use them, and no matter what I was feeling I couldn't start a fight. I took a step back myself, forced myself to focus on Mary's face. She was frightened, of course - she'd seen me get into fights in the past, so she must have been able to see in my expression how close I was to the edge - but I hoped she also knew that whatever happened I was not going to be taking it out on her. It was hardly her fault anyway. I took a deep breath - it was cold and quiet through my flared nostrils - and clenched my fists tighter so that I could then relax them, letting my fingers hang. John did not notice it. He was still staring at me, the edges of his mouth curled slightly up into an obnoxious smile.

"I have to go," I said, my voice strained.

"That's for the best," he said. His tone of voice was so patronising that I almost hit him there and then, but I just flinched with the effort. Perhaps he thought that I was stung by his little pronouncement, because he seemed to puff up a little more. It was like watching a petty bureaucrat getting ready to explain to some poor supplicant why it was not his job to help, and why they should be grateful for anything that he had done for them. His chest expanded, his head tipped back so that he might almost have been looking down his nose at me (had I not been an inch taller), and his smug smile turned into something more imperious. Again, the muscles in my arms twitched and yearned to be about their business, but again I forced myself to look at Mary and that allowed me to relax slightly. This situation was not going to sort itself out easily, and it certainly wasn't going to sort itself out in my favour if I was looking at it from the wrong side of some prison bars. I turned, walked out of the door, willed myself to shut it gently so that I didn't automatically slam it shut.

In the cold autumn air I could feel a seething energy coming off me, vapours of rage boiling out of my skull. Now safely out of arm's reach I imagined twisting John's head off, punching at his neck until it was just a mass of black and purple and he gasped for breath. But all that did was make me feel more angry - not just at him, but at myself. Why didn't I see the signs? Had there been any? He was always keen on her, but I thought that our acquaintance would at least have counted for something. He'd seemed keen on Mary and I as a couple before, almost solicitous - I remembered that he'd given Alex Drake pretty short shrift when Drake had criticised Mary for staying with me after the Dorking incident. In truth, he was more sure about our relationship than I was, because I had wondered whether Drake was right. I'd come close to having a talk with Mary, telling her that I wouldn't object if she wanted to break it off with me, but John's defence had persuaded not just Drake but me (or rather, it had persuaded me - although he was the target I suppose Drake's famous obstinance meant that he had clung on to his opinion as tightly as he could). I hadn't mentioned my doubts to Mary and after the difficult year it had seemed like a stupid idea. I'd constrained myself to simply following all her suggestions - it had been her that had sent me to anger management classes - and at the end of it we'd seemed stronger than ever. Until this, of course.

The thought of the classes reminded me that there were things I should be doing if I did not want this to build up in me until it exploded in some poor fellow's face. I couldn't focus enough to go through the whole routine, but once I'd got to the end of the garden and through the gate I leant up against a wall and began deep breaths and counting backwards, clenching and releasing the muscles in my feet, my legs, my arse, and so on and so on until at one I scrunched up my face and released it, opening my eyes to find two boys - somewhere between toddler and school-age - watching me from across the road.

"Weirdo!" one of them shouted, and the two of them sprinted away towards town. I felt a brief pang of rage, then a hot flush of embarrassment, but another couple of deep breaths banished that too, and I knew that I was at least out of the immediate danger zone. But I had to get away from the house, from Mary's confusion and fear and from John's smug patter, and out into the countryside where there were fewer people around. I still had the week bus-pass that I'd bought for the training course, so I headed away from town to the cluster of stops by the big supermarket and caught the first bus that turned up, then hopped one to another until finally I made it to the edge of the green belt and hit the bell as we came up to the forest by the old pig farm.

Once the bus was out of sight, I hopped the fence into the field of old sties. Checking that no-one was around, I began to dig.


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