Ice Cold Finale

Ever since my first day at Infants’ school Raymond had latched on to me. I never knew what I had done to be the focus of his attention, but he hardly ever let me alone. I was terrified of Raymond. He bullied and tormented me, body-whipping me with a water-soaked rolled-up towel.

I learned later that he had ‘verbally abused’ me too. I did not understand what that meant or then know how to explain it, but that’s what he did and I could never tell anyone. I became timid and withdrawn. Any confidence I once had was seriously damaged and there was not much left by the time I went on to Junior school. A scared little boy and nobody knew why.

Several years later I discovered contact sports. Rugby was my baptism of fire. Tough and a great game. I felt very comfortable in this environment and it was hardly surprising that I should raise the level to the one-on-one combat sports of boxing and martial arts. I became a very capable fighter, yet without a violent nature. Perhaps it’s self-confidence that determines the difference between assertiveness and just being aggressive.

In my middle age, I was running through a local park as part of my regular training regime. It was lightly snowing. Near the middle of the park, surrounded by trees was a small lake that had frozen over. My balaclava, gloves and winter running clothes kept me warm while I sweated from the result of my exertions but I was used to outdoor sport in the winter.

I passed a lone man exercising his dog off the lead. I noticed the dog run onto the ice and then heard the man screaming at his dog to ‘come back, boy’. I stopped and turned towards the unpleasant sounding tone. The man was walking over towards the nervous-looking animal as it stood still on the ice. As he approached, the dog ran off leaving the man standing on the frozen lake near the bank. He was a heavy man and the inevitable happened. The ice cracked under his weight and he began to sink into the freezing cold water beneath, gasping in surprise.

I instinctively ran towards the bank. Maybe I could get hold of him and pull him out, though I’d consciously decided I wouldn't venture onto the ice. There was nobody else about that I could see. Even the dog seemed to have deserted his master. The two of us were absolutely alone. I had to do something. By the time I reached the frozen-water’s edge, the man had managed to pull himself clear and was reaching out and scrabbling for a hold on the snow-covered bank.

I looked down into his face. Raymond.

It was possible that his shock and my balaclava may have conspired to hide my identity. He didn't know who I was. All my early school-day terrors returned and transformed into rage as the memories flooded into my mind. In a moment of unthinking madness I kicked Raymond’s head – hard - as he struggled to stand. This single blow must have rendered him momentarily unconscious as he released his grip on the snow-covered bank. He slipped back into the freezing water this time disappearing completely under the ice.

I never saw Raymond again, though I did retrieve the dog’s lead that had been dropped.

I wondered how long in advance it was necessary to define premeditation in first-degree murder. A day? A week? A month? In my case it was nearly forty years. I knew in a flash when I saw it was Raymond trying to reach the bank that I had wanted him dead for all that time. Still, was it premeditation or manslaughter maybe with diminished responsibility? I didn’t care. Raymond was dead.

Three weeks later all the ice had disappeared and Raymond's body, bloated and putrefying, was found.. From the bruise on his left temple it was concluded at the inquest that he had lost his footing and struck the ice with his head. The ice had cracked, his body had slipped through into the freezing water and he had drowned.

Nobody had missed Raymond. No explanation could be offered to explain his being on the ice and it was supposed he had lost his way during a snowstorm. A verdict of accidental death was returned, but I knew differently.

I had possibly managed to get away with murder and I felt not the slightest sense of guilt though I was not particularly proud of what I had done - killing a defenseless man, but I was at last free of those childhood terrors. The bully had at last met with his, very much delayed, comeuppance.

I stroked my newly adopted dog, Raymond, with the very foot that had dispatched his previous owner. I told my friends that my dog was a stray I’d found roaming in the terribly cold weather and they thought it very generous of me to give the animal a new home. As he contentedly lay on the floor in front of me I smiled, confident that my damaged soul had finally been fully repaired.

© Louis Brothnias v.2 (2019)