The dragonfly was beating its wings with a frantic fluttering against the glass. A hissing sound mingled with the steady beat of its confusion. Col took out a plastic takeaway container and rifled through the paperwork looking for something suitably heavy and broad. He leant heavily across the old wooden table with a grunt, his belly grazing the surface.

It didn’t take long to capture the dragonfly inside the container, where its confusion multiplied. It was surrounded by colour and light which looked tantalizingly like the outdoors. Col felt the chaotic thump of the wings and body thrown with repeated passion against the inside of the plastic. He slid the cardboard in underneath and split the sunlight away from the dragonfly, cutting it away from the light and temporarily silencing the thrumming.

Col grunted his satisfaction as he walked over the carpet towards the small kitchen. He rummaged for a lid that would fit. In a deft movement he slid off the board and squeezed down the lid, confining the dragonfly in confusion. The feel of the beat of the wings against the plastic felt good. He liked the way it felt.

He put the dragonfly down on the old wooden table, in the sunlight of the window. ‘Bloody busy bashing your head against the plastic,’ he thought. ‘Mate, give it a rest.’

Col went back to his stained coffee mug and his cigarette. He’d been sitting in the chair by the side window when the dragonfly had gotten into the house. He had watched it for a while before he had decided what to do with it. Felt like he’d dealt with it now.

He’d show it to Rachel when she got home later from work. He knew she liked that kind of thing. She’d get all upset about it in the container.

“Oh Col, why didn’t you set it free?” she’d most likely say, with her face in that mask of concern for the creature. And he’d say he was keeping it for her to check out. He liked her with that face, but it annoyed him too. Why the hell did she care for the stupid insect? Pissed him off really if he thought about how she’d react to the dragonfly. Still, he left it in the plastic container.

Rachel was late again. She always seemed to be late these days. She never had enough time for him since she’d gotten the new job. She said it was the distance she had to travel, something about two buses. Ah, yeah, they’d talked about it and her with that quiet voice of hers that he knew she went into if she was saying something he didn’t like. He recognized the voice now. Knew what it meant. Could feel his own irritation at even the thought of her quiet voice, and the two spots of colour she got on her cheeks when she had to bring something up that she knew full well was going to annoy him.

He put his coffee cup down a little harder than he meant to, and the coffee sloshed onto the arm of the chair. He cursed.

She really didn’t understand him, he thought, as he wiped at the stain haphazardly. She didn’t get it. Here he was concerned for her safety, protecting her from all those threats – those other men out there – and she was insisting on taking two buses for the stupid job. She was always on at him about how they needed the money, and yes, with him laid up from the accident with his back and not in a position to go back to labouring, he took her point. But there was no need to choose a job so far from home. It meant she was vulnerable. There were all sorts of threats – anyone could take advantage of her. She just didn’t take him seriously. It felt like she was mocking him.

He rubbed at the stain with his hand, and then rubbed his hand on his shorts. Taking another drag on his cigarette, he caught the smell of tar off his fingers. He ran his hand over his jaw thoughtfully, rasping over his graying two day growth.

Rachel didn’t get it. She just didn’t truly understand how women needed to be protected. Take his mum, for instance. His jaw tightened. She needed protecting from that bastard of a husband she had. He could still remember the sound of the air leaving his mother’s lungs in a grunt, or like the sound of a bag of rice falling to the ground – thickly, heavily. She didn’t cry, she’d just plead quietly that the children leave the room. As a child he didn’t, though. He remembers now watching from the doorway, but his memories are jumbled and confused. The movements of his father in slow motion which looked like they were part of a dance. He remembers seeing her arm hit the side of the sink and her wedding ring making a noise against the metal. But that might not have happened then, that sound could have been from another time, another memory.

The bubbling had started in his chest. The tightening again, the dark patches around his vision. He righted himself, and gripped the coffee cup. The dragonfly hadn’t let up on its beat, beat, beat against the plastic.

Bastard, he thought.

There was no one there to protect his mother. He’d been only a boy. He couldn’t. He didn’t. So he’d make a promise to himself he’d protect Rachel. There was a need to protect women from bastards like that – and these guys were everywhere. And the stupid cow couldn’t see that.

Like she didn’t understand about a year ago when he told her she shouldn’t wear skirts to work. Her face got that confused look and she opened and closed her mouth a few times until he had to tell her she looked like a fish. When he told her later that she was only wearing makeup because she wanted to attract men, she denied it and told him that mascara and foundation made her “feel better”. What for? He had raged at the time. What do you need to feel better for? You’ve got everything you need. Obviously you’ve got something wrong with what you’ve got, you’re obviously not happy with what we’ve got here if you think makeup will make you feel better.

She wore pants to work now. But really, when she walked you could see the outline of her arse through the cloth, and he knew some leering bastard would get off on it when she ran to catch the bus.

The dragonfly continued it’s drumming. Col stood up suddenly, grabbed the plastic container and shook it hard. ‘Stop with the damn racket,’ he whispered under his breath, with his teeth together.

Rachel should be on her second bus by now. He knew by the sinking sun. He opened the front door expectantly, even though she wasn’t due. The smell of the suburb hit him with its freshness, its jolly ‘come and play’ scent. He could feel it wafting in uninvited. He shut the door again.

She’d be on the bus, he thought. Rachel had said recently that her new boss had suggested she get a mobile phone, just to stay in touch she’d added too bloody quickly. He thought it was a stupid idea. ‘What do you need one of those for?’ he’d queried. ‘So you can keep in touch with your boyfriends?’ He made sure he said it sharply, because this new boss, well, put it frankly he didn’t trust him. He remembers that she went very red, and protested about that. But she didn’t talk to him again about the phone.

The sun was sinking lower. The colours were being sapped out of the suburban landscapes and the lawns were turning blue. Col hadn’t moved out of his chair. Didn’t turn the lights on. His coffee had gone cold. He felt the evening chill steal in over his legs, but he didn’t get up. He decided to just damn well wait. Wait to see what time she decided she was going to get home this evening.

He lit another cigarette. He knew Rachel hated him smoking, and years ago she told him once that she could still smell him in bed even after he’d cleaned his teeth, but well, that was him. She should know this by now and not try and change him. She’d just have to put up with it. The ashtray was overflowing, and the ash was even on the carpet. Bit of a reminder, he smiled to himself.

The lights had come on in the culdesac. He was sure she was later than ever now. ‘Stupid cow, she probably thinks she’s getting one over on me by staying out so late,’ thought Col. ‘She blames it on the buses, on her workload, but I reckon she’s playing with me. She knows how I feel about her being out past dark. She should know better.’

Col dug his nails into his palms. ‘All I want to do is protect her,’ he thought. ‘All I want to do is make her safe, and she’s taking everything for granted. She doesn’t appreciate what I’m trying to do. She’s mocking me. Laughing at me.’

He grabbed at the sides of the chair and put his chin out.

‘She’s got no idea the kind of monsters that are out there. Christ, if she knew what my dad had done to my mum, she’d understand.’

Col was seriously angry now. The bubbling burst up through his chest.

“She’s got no fucking gratitude,” he spat out quietly. “No fucking gratitude at all.”

He could feel his heart thumping. He knew now that she was probably playing around with that new boss at work. And all this bus travel she kept going on about. She’d probably met some guy on the bus route, another traveller. She was probably talking and laughing with him right now – laughing at him. The stupid mug who sat at home waiting for his woman to come home.

What was that word they used? Cuckold. That’s it. She’s playing with me.

There was the sound of her key in the lock.

Col leaned up out of his chair, ready to confront this so called ‘traveller’, this bus rider. It was time to get this out into the open. If she wasn’t going to listen then he’d have to show her how to listen to him. If she was fucking around with some bastard at work or on the bus, then he’d have no choice but to show her that it wasn’t on.

She wasn’t paying enough attention to him. It had to stop.

‘I’ll have to teach her a fucking lesson,’ he thought to himself. ‘Here I am trying to protect her from the bastards out there and she comes home smelling of them.’

His rage drove him forward towards the door. His vision was focused on the turning handle. As he strode past the table to grab the opening door he knocked the forgotten plastic container which held the dragonfly.

It gave out a final whirr of protest.



Joined August 2008

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