Estimated reading time — 6 minutes
Howard Simpkin was a quiet man, a nice man, everybody said so. Who could have foreseen the future?
Howard grew up in the small town of Dakenby, the son of average parents of average wealth. In fact everything about Howard’s life was decidedly average. Even his job; an accountant. He was a stand up comedian’s wet dream.
As a young man, Howard found it difficult mixing with others of his age, and therefore became a bit of a loner. His life like his balance sheets calculated to boredom, definitely in to the minus column. That was until July of the summer of 1975 when he met Brenda and the balance of his life moved firmly in to the plus column. He fell in love with her immediately. Howard however held no hope of Brenda feeling the same way about him, how could she? Brenda to look at was nothing special, most people wouldn’t have given her a second glance, but to Howard she was the air that he breathed, the sun that warmed him.
One day summoning all the courage he possessed he asked Brenda out, and to his amazement she agreed. Howard spent the rest of that day walking on air. To think that a beautiful woman like Brenda had agreed to go out with a nobody like him! His parents who were kind people took an instant dislike to Brenda right from the start; which Howard couldn’t understand as he was blinded by love and could see no wrong in her.
Howard was not a wealthy man but had saved most of his money up till now as his lifestyle had been meagre. This changed, in the coming months he started spending with vigour, his savings diminishing with every additional gift he bought for Brenda. “The smile on her face is worth all that I own” he would tell others. However, Howard was aware of the gossip mongers, the trouble makers who had nothing to do but spread their vicious rumours. They would say that Brenda was only with him for what she could get; that she was nothing but a gold digger!
Shortly after, his father died. Howard asked Brenda to marry him but she said it was too soon. That she wasn’t ready. Months after his father’s death his mother passed away too; as if her need to be reunited with her husband outweighed her need for life.
Howard was left everything, the house, the car and a sizeable chunk of money from life insurance policies. These gains did nothing to ease his loss. He felt like his life was rapidly being drawn downwards back in to the minus column. Having nothing to lose, except for rejection, he plucked up the courage to ask Brenda to be his wife. This time, to his overwhelming joy, she accepted.
It seemed everyone knew what was going on except poor old Howard. The gravy train had pulled up and good old Brenda was determined to grab a first class seat up front.
For Howard, the wedding was one of the happiest days of his life, and Brenda..? Well, Brenda turned up.
For the first year of their marriage everything seemed to be good, Howard still worshipped her and showered her with gifts. Then it happened… Brenda became pregnant. Howard was thrilled to bits, Brenda was not! Talk of abortion from Brenda’s lips, but for the first time in their relationship Howard put his foot down. Eight months later, at 2:32am, an eight pound seven ounce baby girl was born. Emma Louise Simpkin, Howard’s pride and joy. To Howard, Emma was a blessing, to Brenda she was a rival, a rival for Howard’s affections and more importantly his gifts.
Things between Howard and Brenda went steadily down hill from the birth of their daughter. Brenda showed little to no interest in Emma and spent more and more time going out for various reasons. She had disclosed to Howard before they married that both her parents were dead and that she had no family to speak of, yet all of a sudden she had sick relatives all over the country that she just had to visit. Howard had also noticed Brenda was turning more heads lately, in part due to the fine clothes and expensive make overs he had paid for. Slowly he began to take over the roll of mother as well as that of provider and due to his very understanding boss he was able to do more and more of his work from home in order to spend as much time as he could with his daughter.
Over time as Howard’s love for his daughter grew, so did his hatred for Brenda. He wasn’t stupid, he knew what she got up to on her little trips. He smelt the aftershave on her clothes, he noticed the smug look on her heavily made up face. If it wasn’t for Emma his life would have been unbearable.
Every year on Father’s Day Howard would stand Emma against the kitchen door and measure her height, making up a poem as he did and singing it to her. Emma always laughed and hugged her father, while her mother would stand and sneer, assuming of course that she was around that particular day.
It was on one of these occasions that things changed, Emma was nine and Howard had just measured her “Quiet Emma, soo good, soo sweet. Four foot two, from head to feet” he sang. Emma, as usual hugged her father and laughed. Brenda on the other hand appeared in the doorway, 2 suitcases by her side, the familiar sneer upon her face. She told him he was pathetic and that she was leaving him. She told him a few home truths, truths that anybody in the town could and did tell him years ago.
Brenda’s leaving made no difference to Howard as he had spent the best part of the last 7 years hating the sight of her any way and from that day forward she was referred to only as ‘burn in hell Brenda’
For years after her departure everything was great, Emma was doing really well at school and had became Howard’s life. He worshipped her and showered her with love and gifts as he had once done with burn in hell Brenda.
Then things gradually started to change when Emma hit her teens. She became unruly and disobedient. She began to run around with what he had decided were a bad crowd. He could not believe it was his Emma’s fault, not even when he had visits from the police about her shoplifting. He even decided it must be something he was doing wrong; he could never think ill of his precious Emma. She would scream obscenities at him and show him the finger, but he still thought it was his doing. Years before, she was grateful for the gifts he gave her, now, she expected things; throwing temper tantrums until she got what she wanted.
As time passed, things just became steadily worse and worse and Howard yearned for the days when his daughter would hug him and laugh with him like she did every father’s day. Time passed and he began to realise he could no longer blame others, not even himself, for Emma’s behaviour. It was obvious that Emma was becoming more like her mother burn in hell Brenda. A clone of the woman he’d grown to despise and one bitch was enough, Howard would not suffer another, certainly not his precious daughter Emma.
So here he was, another year had passed around and again it was Father’s Day. Howard checked the temperature of the water in the bowl and draping the flannel over the edge picked it up. Making his way upstairs he shouldered open the door to Emma’s room, walked over to the chair next to the bed and sat down. After wetting and wringing out the flannel, Howard began to gently bathe the stumps just below the knees where Emma’s legs had once been. The legs that ran around with a bad crowd. He then began to bath the stumps just below the elbows, where the arms and hands had been . The hands that had given him the finger. As he bathed her he looked in to Emma’s eyes to see if there was any gratitude there. Her eyes had become a lot more expressive since the removal of her tongue, the tongue that had screamed profanities at him. All Howard saw were the cold eyes of burn in hell Brenda staring back at him sneer-fully. Draping the flannel over the bowl, Howard stood up and reaching in to his pocket withdrew a tape measure. Bending over Emma’s dismembered torso he began to measure her, smiled, straightened up and began to sing “daddies little sugar lump, four foot two from head to stump” At this point Howard was sure he saw laughter in Emma’s eyes, the hug was missing, but he thought, you can’t have everything.