Art Pact 232 - The Scar


She would some it up later, when asked at a dinner party, as "saws and drills". That was all she would say, staring miserably down into her starter. A minestrone so thick with rice that it could almost have been a risotto, stained deep red and spattered with slivers and chunks of unidentifiable vegetables that the hostess bought at her local farmer's market. The rest of the table was quiet - the question had come at one of those moments when everyone else stopped talking at the same moment, as though there had been some previous agreement. A negative flash mob, she thought, stirring the contents of the bowl. The silverware was nice - so clean, a mirrored surface in which she had examined her face earlier, surreptitiously checking for any sign of the experience that might have been left on her face. It seemed almost obscene that she could find no visible scar. There was the off-colour pale patch across her cheek where she'd been knocked off her bike and landed heavily. The little scar on her neck where Millie's girlfriend had taken a swipe at her, the woman's long fake nails catching just under her ear and opening up a cut that took months to heal. But there was no sign of her time in the underside, no exterior marks to match the interior wounds. She was just as she had always been, a perfectly plain middle-aged woman, crows feet around her eyes and slightly lax skin around her jaw where she'd lost weight.

There were saws and drills everywhere, that was the thing. It was as if someone - The Over - had been preparing to cut everything in the world in half, or make holes in every living person. An army of carpenters could have been supplied from that dark warehouse, or a shadow economy in DIY supported. She had never been keen on carpentry - she'd done it in school, of course, but it was one of the few jobs she was willing to concede entirely to her father, then later to her husband and finally to her ex-boyfriend. It was as though the experience had reached back in time to warn her about what was to come, about the defining event (so it felt now) of her life. That warning manifesting itself in a distaste for the honest use of saws and drills, let alone the illicit use that her enemy had put them to.

"Saws and drills?" said her questioner. She was one of the hostess's old school friends, a sort of jolly-hockey-sticks kind of person, but the annoyingly thin variety. No-one else said anything, and staring down into her soup she felt like a sort of perverse lens. Everyone else must be looking at her, and she took those gazes and focused them down into the depths of the minestrone. All of that attention poured into a stock and some dead plants trapped in a ceramic bowl. Did that leave its mark in the past, that moment flowing back through the preparation of the dish so that their hostess, muddling about in her kitchen, would have sensed somehow that the starter was the most momentous item of food she would ever prepare. How much obligation must have sat on her shoulders! That no doubt explained the effort she'd gone to to find the strange and unusual vegetables, the amount of rice she'd bestowed on the pot. In truth it was good - perhaps the best minestrone that she'd ever tasted - but her memories of enjoyment seemed only to stretch back as far as the underside. It was a step-break in her memory - before it, she had simple memories, like something she was watching on TV. Detailed, but shorn of emotion. Afterwards there were more solid memories, memories of minor pleasures, but between the two sets of memories was the tar-black scar of the underside. The newer memories were nice, but they could not grow into their full form without the connection to the past, like salmon parr blocked from returning to their spawning grounds by a new dam.

"Perhaps we shouldn't ask too many questions," their hostess said nervously. She looked up from her minestrone soup to see the hostess had a sort of fixed smile on her face, a mask that poorly concealed embarrassed horror.

"Molly's probably under some sort of legal restriction," the man to her left (John? A lawyer, she remembered, from their brief conversation over cocktails) said. If she had remembered correctly about his profession then he either wasn't very good at it or he was lying in order to give her a plausible excuse. Either way she could take advantage. She nodded, lips pressed tightly so that they curled in a little between her teeth. She pushed the spoon forward, stirring up the rice, then let it rest gently on the edge of the bowl.

There had been no court case, of course, just the inquiry. The Over was dead, there had been no chance to arrest him (or her, but the inquiry had settled on the pronoun he as a convenient shorthand). There was no body that could have settled the case - the divers had found nothing, but there was no doubt that the final wound she had inflicted had been fatal. Her colleagues reminded her (with varying degrees of amusement or malice) that there were plenty of documented cases of people surviving quite serious wounds to the head. Sometimes when they said that there were moments when she doubted herself - but they did not last long. There was no way that The Over could have survived.

"This soup is amazing," she said, beaming at their hostess. "I can't wait to see what you have for us next, June." The hostess blushed coyly.

"Oh, well - thank you! I'm glad it turned out well. I don't want to spoil the surprise!"

A ripple of nervous laughter ran through the diners. She smiled politely, turned to look at John. He nodded, winked at her. She remembered that men had done that in the past, but it was before the scar in her memories.

The scar.

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