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In The Gentleman's Arms

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Nexus
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Location: UK *up north somewhere*

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Posted 11/26/12 - 9:21 PM:
Subject: In The Gentleman's Arms
In The Gentleman's Arms.


'The Gentleman's Arms' this one is called. Third in five years, I get bored I suppose. It's 'ard work running a pub, you should try it. It may look like we - landlords that is - are just standing around most of the time - pulling the occasional pint, nattering to the locals, gazing at the telly, but it's as 'ard if not 'arder than your average job. You're on show like, that's 'ard enough. It's stressful 'aving to be civil even to those wankers you don't want to be civil with. It's also stressful putting up with hassle from the brewery all the time. We do food too - just snacks and stuff, nothing fancy - and that means more demands, more distractions. I got a girl in to look after most of the cleaning up and food on weekends when it gets busy but during the week it's just me and the missus. This is me third missus actually; I get through 'em like pubs. She got pregnant last year and she worked most of the time 'till she 'ad it. We've got anuver little one too u's about four I think, I forget. Now child rearing is not the easiest job in the world I can tell you when you run a pub. They may not get all the attention they should sometimes but what can you do? You do your best but you've got to make a living 'aven't you?

I suppose it was his strength, his confidence that did it. I was working as a barmaid at the last place, 'The Queen's Head', and being close all the time, your bodies accidentally touching and that, you sort of end up 'aving certain thoughts and before you know it.... we did it in his car the first time. He had a girlfriend too, she worked like a dog like I do now and they had a young kid. Then there was his marriage from before that I found out about after we started going together. Of course he enjoys the fact all these women are falling for him; I think it's almost a rule for him to get them up the duff too. I'm only twenty-five and I've got A-levels. The barmaid job was just something to do until I decided what I was going to do with my life. I was nineteen when I started working with 'im.

I was first called on to investigate Mr and Mrs Compton's treatment of their youngest daughter after a complaint was made by a customer. Apparently Jenny seemed less than happy on the rare occasions she was seen downstairs. Mrs Compton would leave her to her own devices when she was busy and didn't seem as interested in the child as might be expected in a healthy mother, daughter, relationship. Mr Compton was said to be seldom on the premises and when he was would often shout at the girl with little or no provocation. Again, the concern - for the to remain anonymous customer - was that he did not show the degree of affection a normal parent might be expected to show a young daughter. The older daughter was out of the pub during the day at pre-school and was often at the mother-in-law's house at weekends so there was less concern - and no real evidence of poor treatment - as far as she was concerned.

I get distracted easy that's my problem. She knew what she was getting into when she married me, she know's I like to pop out and see mates, do a bit of business on the side, 'av a little bet now and then, the usual stuff. A man has interests outside 'is marriage, when you're stuck together under the same roof all day you end up at each other's throats if you're not careful. So I pop in and out and she keeps the gaff ticking over and it obviously can get a bit 'ectic but that's the business we're in. I did think this time it would be different. It did think it was love, sort of, not just lust. I honestly thought I wouldn't get tempted but the last girlfriend is quite demanding as I 'ad a boy by 'er and I feel obliged to pop in now and then and - she's still an attractive woman - one thing sometimes leads to another thing. Then there's my last wife u's in the next town and I've got two by 'er and I feel like I should do the right thing by them, go and visit like, keep the muver 'appy. She was in 'The Cockpit' with me for going on six years. Now that was a nice little pub and we done some good business, we was a good team but then I got led astray by my wandering eye. She was just a local lass, didn't work behind the bar.

I was surprised when I got pregnant again. It wasn't planned, I think I must have forgot to take the pill, can't remember. It was a shock actually. I told him I wouldn't 'av time for it, the pub gets too busy and we only 'av the other girl in during weekends and sometimes week nights get quite rowdy and if he's not around I'd end up leaving Kim on her own in her room all night often and I had to lock the door as you just never know who's wandering around in a place like this. She used to get upset and the best way to deal with it was to leave 'er to it and eventually she seemed to learn to shut up. My mum takes 'er sometimes but she's in demand as my sisters 'av kids too and she says she doesn't want 'em all round as they go crazy when they're all together. I'd leave some snacks with her and there's a little telly up there and a potty if she needs to go. Now I knew it was going to be too much but he wouldn't let me get rid of it. It's like as soon as a woman becomes pregnant by him the thing inside her belongs to him, he has the rights, it's his precious property and you are just the carrier. If the bastard treated them alright when they came out I wouldn't mind, but he doesn't. If I thought he loved any of his kids but the way he shouts at them and ignores them. Well in the old place he used to say he loved the kid he had there and I suppose I sort of believed him at the time because I thought he was a something special. Still I was young, I didn't really see it, the way he was, I reckon now the dog got more attention. He loves his dog, that fucking ugly dog of his.

When I first visited the Compton's pub 'The Gentleman's Arms' it was a scheduled visit and only Mrs Compton was in. The pub was fairly quiet and so she showed me the room the youngest daughter shared with her sister which appeared reasonably comfortable. One daughter was said to be at pre-school while Jenny was staying at her grandmother's house. Mrs Compton assured me that it was often the case that the grandmother would take the child if the pub got busy and she was seldom left by herself. Also the older sister liked to play with her sister and they were often happy together if left alone in the room and I was told they would be checked at least every half hour. She seemed to think that the anonymous customer who had made the complaint had some sort of greviance against Mr Compton who his wife said was a 'strong character' but a good husband.

The weekend girl has started to get the treatment now. It's getting to become a bit of a habit, I know, and it's true I moved around a bit partly because of problems with, well, 'customer relations'. It's jealousy if you ask me. There are these lovely young girls that seem to end up in my pub and of course those miserable tossers would love to 'ave a shot at 'em but I always ward them off. I suppose you could say it's because they've started to 'ave a certain effect on me and when it gets like that I always get protective. Well I've started doing it with Sarah at 'er place, she got this shared 'ous and the others aren't around much and weekdays she's just got this course she's doing at college and it's just part-time so 'er afternoons are free. She's still got that spark that the missus used to 'ave before she turned into a baby machine and a complaining machine and all the fucking rest. It doesn't feel special like it did with 'er and some of my others yet but it's all just started so who knows.

When I had her it didn't feel like the first one. I mean, it was painful of course, I felt it all right, but I didn't have the same feelings when that was all over. All I could think of was that bleeding pub and how I was going to juggle looking after her and the other one and everything else. I suppose all that worry got in the way of the things I should have been feeling, she was a really pretty baby. He didn't come to the hospital too after I'd had her, it was the next day in fact. He just said I needed to hurry up and get back as he was run off his feet. He barely looked at the child. Well he drove me back to the 'Gentleman's', he did that much. I put the baby in the room and got Kim to watch over her as she was on cloud nine that she 'ad a little sister and all that. I know when I lock that door she doesn't like it. There's always this little squeak, but she know's crying isn't going to get her anywhere. Well by the time I've got those two settled he's fucked off somewhere and left me on my own the day after childbirth on the busiest weekday and I honestly wanted to just leave it all behind. You know, find a new life somewhere with somebody who would look after me. It was 'im that wanted the kids so much, 'im that made me go through it both times and the first time I was only twenty. He told me he would look after me, make me feel like a queen.

We kept an eye on the Compton's, that is, we were aware the baby had started going to a local nursery close to her first birthday. There hadn't been any more complaints about the couple so I did not think it was necessary to pay them another visit. Although there have been cases in the past where when a scheduled visit has been made there have been attempts to cover up the circumstances of neglect, the mother's assurances that the baby was often at her grandmother's house reassured me that the baby was getting the attention she needed. The reports I received from the day centre were positive. The baby seemed quite normal and healthy. There was a comment suggesting she was a little reserved for her age but I assumed she was just a shy child. My training has taught me to only become concerned over a child's well-being if certain behavioural patterns intersect with empirical evidence such as body weight, cleanliness, actual recorded observations of neglect of the infant. The shyness in itself wasn't particularly odd. I did not inspect the girl myself and it is true that it was a busy nursery.

I'd been away for a day or two: business. To tell you the truth I've got so many that they begin to seem all alike; this one's just like that one was at that age and so on. It sort of gets boring, you get sick of the noise and the tantrums and all that. They get a bit better as they get older. Of course, there are techniques of stopping them being such a nuisance. You just don't react, don't show them you're bothered that they're screaming or whatever. The missus started to learn it too. When you run a busy pub, if you have kids, you've got no choice. If I 'ad the time to give them piggy back rides and read them bedtime stories then I would and I did with the first couple but it just becomes so boring. I told 'er if you make too much fuss they just get more clingy and make more noise. Anyway when the bitch suddenly turns up one afternoon it caught us by surprise, we weren't ready. They'd 'arranged a visit' the last time so we just made things look a bit tidier and sent 'er over to stay with the muver-in-law (don't get me started on 'er!). She stood there in the bar and she's with this other bloke and asked to see the room where Jenny was sleeping or whatever she was doing. The missus must have known it was 'er as I 'eard 'er going up the stairs like the clappers. The other one was away at playschool I think. As I'd only recently returned the night before a bit the worst for wear I 'adn't seen either of them for a few days. Actually it was more like a week now I think about it. With my other commitments I've started seeing the kids as more the woman's problem. The way the bitch caught us of guard it was just impossible to prevent her from 'aving a nosy around. I let 'er go up but told 'er I 'ad to look after the bar. I didn't really give a damn what the punter's were thinking, silly cunts. Don't even want to think about what goes on in their 'ouses with their 'orrible families.

I was carrying some crisp boxes up from the cellar when I heard her posh accent. I knew he wasn't going to be able to get rid of her, the bastard. I 'adn't seen 'im for days and I'd almost forgotten she was up there I'd been so busy. Kim's a good girl, she sort of looks after her self most of the time. Well I run up the stairs and she's just lying there staring like she's on drugs or something. The room didn't look too good. I 'adn't been getting rid of the used nappies so I quickly got rid of all them but the stink was still in the air. I got some bedding out of the cupboard as the bed didn't look too good. I knew I 'ad a couple of minutes before she'd be coming up the stairs. I took all the stinking clothes off her and luckily there were some clean ones in the drawer and put those on her. I stuck her in the cot as she 'adn't been in there for a while and it looked ok. But the stink! There wasn't any time to do anything. I was just opening the window when the black widow herself and her side kick walk in looking all high and mighty.

When the child was approaching her second birthday a two factors intersected to draw our attention again to the case. Firstly the mother had withdrawn her from nursery after four months of attendence. Complaints from the anonymous source in the pub also resurfaced. Apparently the older daughter, Kim, had been in the bar and been asked about her sister and appeared confused and evasive. The source had been told that night that the child was at her grandmother's house and this conflicted with what they were told by the older daughter who said she was in a room upstairs. The source claimed the youngest child was almost never seen or heard and that it seemed peculiar as previously she had been seen on accasion with toys near the bar area. We decided on an unscheduled visit. My colleague Mr Smart accompanied me as I was a little nervous over the reaction of Mr Compton who already has a criminal record which included several convictions for assault. I was allowed access to the room and discovered a nervous Mrs Compton seemingly in a hurry to make things appear acceptable for our inspection. The room was not in good condition and worse than what I had observed previously but the child had clean clothes on and her bedding was unsoiled. The was an unpleasant smell in the air yet I could not believe she had managed to change her daughter to a presentable state in the short time available to her from when I had first appeared in the bar up to the point when I entered the room. The child was on her side and appeared to be sleeping. The mother said she was tired because she'd been at her grandmother's house all morning. I did not notice, at that point, any signs of malnutrution though the body was covered. My colleague carried out a quick inspection of Jenny and she was breathing normally. At that point we thought it unwise to carry out a more detailed inspection for fear of arousing the mother who was already nervous and unhappy at our sudden visit. We decided we would carry out another unscheduled visit in a month's time.

"Well that's it," I said. "We'll lose everything now, 'ow we going to explain this one?" I don't know 'ow it got that bad. It beats me. I didn't go in there, it smelt. The other one must 'ave been sleeping in the living room I suppose. She's independent see, you don't 'ave to worry about 'er, that's what the missus said anyway. She comes down when I'm changing the barrels and says, "Jenny's dead," blank, just like that. She looks pale, I thought maybe she was just tired and was seeing things or something. She 'adn't been 'erself for a while, she'd even stopped giving me an earful for popping in and out all the time. Well I followed 'er up to the room and the body was just lying there pathetic like a doll. I couldn't believe 'ow thin its body was. We didn't even argue. Knew we just 'ad to make eveything look as best we could before we called someone. At first I wanted to 'ave a go at 'er but I know now that I 'ave to take some of the responsibility. There is no way they'll let me 'ave another pub after this.

I know now it was wrong. It's just, right from the beginning, back at the hospital, it was like something had been removed when they took her out. I didn't have those feelings any more, I just felt like a machine that 'ad been used by him to get what he wanted. I tried at first to play with her a bit, like I said she was really pretty and that. I never had any time. My mother just stopped helping out. She said I needed to get someone to look at her, she was too quiet, didn't seem normal. She even said there might be some mental problems The playgroup helped a bit but they started giving me problems saying she wasn't happy and that and my mother just refused to take her any more. I think I started to forget. I thought Kim was helping feed her, she used to take crisps up to her and things like that. It was a game for a while. I think the smell put her off. I went just before the evening rush and there she was, my daughter. Jenny. She was dead. I got hold of her and I held her properly and I.....

We were made aware of the events of that night the following day. It was three weeks after our second visit and only a week away from our next planned unscheduled visit during which we were going to carry out a much more thorough inspection if we felt there was real cause for concern. I cannot help but feel that this department is partly to blame for what happened to Jenny. It is clear that the second visit should have led to temporary removal of the child at least and a doctor's inspection. Unfortunately current guidlines in our department have been to avoid removal of children, even for short periods, unless there is palpable evidence of abuse. Actual reports of physical violence, bruising on the body, contorted movement, cries of distress. None of the latter were in evidence. That does not mean that I or my colleague should not have made an on-the-spot judgement in this case.






















libertygrl
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Posted 01/06/13 - 4:32 PM:

I'm not sure how I feel about the changes in voice. As I started reading it, I first thought, oh, the character is a gay man. Then I was thinking... it's a gay woman? No... multiple personality disorder? Well of course one eventually catches on to what's going on there. And in one sense I do rather like it - it's kind of like a puzzle at first. Trooper was like that too. And I ask myself, what would I prefer, a heading at the top of each paragraph? And the answer would be no. Nonetheless the somewhat schizoid feel of it interferes with its accessibility to some extent, I think. Having read so many of your stories, I always feel confident enough that some form of payoff is coming to not give up on the story, but there have been stories of a good many short story writers, Isaac Asimov for example, where I have quickly lost interest in a story for not making itself accessible quickly enough to my personal taste. I can't say I would have you do without the changes in voice, though. It's very creative, and the story itself is thought-provoking too.
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