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(A short story of 2839 words)

The Justice Box


by Suzanne Conboy-Hill

Emmy is singing as I try to get her supper into her. I’m singing too, but she’s singing for Jesus in a cutesy, trit-trotty kind of way. I hover the spoon in the air, and wait for her to take a breath. Pop it in/swallow it down/good girl. I wipe her mouth with my pinny. Shouldn’t really but it saves time. All those doors to lock and unlock just for a flannel.

‘Jesus loves her, Jesus loves her, Jesus loves the murdering bitch.’ Emmy chuckles to herself in that private way only people whose heads are somewhere else can do. She hunches up on the bed and grabs her knees; pulling them up to her chin, and hugging them like babies.

‘Pretty boys,’ she says; and bites into her knee cap.

‘Eric, in here now!’ I yell, hoping Eric is within ear shot and not having a can’t-be-arsed moment. Meanwhile, I start singing again; if Emmy picks it up, I’ll have a strap in there quick as. Eric will have the needle. When he’s not selling stuff he’s nicked from the patients’ lockers, or running bets on who’s going to kick off, Eric isn’t a bad nurse.

There’s a rumbling, echoing sound in the corridor, like a synchronised stampede. Steel capped boots, several pairs. Eric has brought the cavalry. Seconds later, Emmy is wrapped, strapped, and taking delivery of a bolus of antipsychotics in the backside. Her head is hanging over the edge of the bed like it doesn’t quite belong to her; and the scabby skin she’s torn off her knee is hanging from her front teeth like an old curtain; splotting drops of bloody saliva onto the lino. Emmy convulses and throws up the supper I just spent an hour getting into her. There’s more blood, and a few bits of stuff I know I didn’t give her. Emmy’s been gouging again. ‘Exorcising my sins,’ she calls it. Well, she has a few, that’s for sure. Looks like she didn’t hit an artery though, or Jesus might have got to show his love in person...

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