author bio


By Laura Hird

He was driving home from his late shift in the early hours of a Sunday morning when he first saw her. She was staggering around the West End, trying to thumb down a free lift, gesturing angrily at any taxi that unwittingly slowed down. Two miles down the road, unable to shift the vision of her from his mind, he'd reversed.
      She wasn't hard to find —only a few yards from where he'd originally passed her, hurling insults at a carload of whistling Arabs. He felt extremely chivalrous as she climbed into his car, told him she'd run out of money and asked if he'd take her to her parents' house in Colinton.
      When they arrived there, she told him to park in the lane next to the rugby fields, as she didn't feel like going home yet. They sat talking until it started to get light, listening to the same Stones cassette over and over again until at 5.30 he told her he'd have to go pick up his children from the neighbours.
      Silently, she got out the car and gestured him to follow. His brief pang of confusion was surpassed by a compulsion to do exactly as she asked. He beeped the doors locked and walked quickly after her. When she sensed him immediately behind her she stepped off the pavement and squeezed through a hole in the fence to the fields. He followed automatically. At the side of the pitch, she lay down on the grass and spread her legs in invitation. As he bent down to join her though, she shunned him away.
      “No, you stand there and do it to yourself.”
      Momentary reservations were dismissed at the sight of her hand circling inside her knickers. Dropping his trousers, he did as she asked, as she lay watching and chuckling. Afterwards, she let him lie next to her as she stared at his semen on the wildlife, finishing herself off.
      He was smitten.
      Despite giving him her phone number, she had no intention of seeing him again. Her mother was used to scummy-sounding men phoning up for her over the weekends, and always told them they had they wrong number without her ever having to ask.
      But the telephone began ringing at 10.30 as she sat having a piss , watching a whirling blue ball diffuse seaweed into her steaming bath. Her mother was still zonked out on her tablets and dead to the world. She worried it might be someone decent.
      He stammered something about wanting to see her. He'd been stammering the night before but she'd put it down to nerves. She found the idea that he did it all the time distasteful. She couldn't even recall what he looked like but the probability of his ugliness and subsequent desperation gave her a thrill. He pleaded with her to see him. She countered with a line of insultingly unlikely excuses, enjoying the hopeless tone in his voice, until he suddenly spluttered out that two years previous, his wife had been killed in a road accident in which he was driving the car and that he had been unable to g-g-get hard s-s-since then until n-now. She stifled a yawn but he carried on pleading and drilling words endlessly until she decided he may be fun to torment a bit more, and submitted.
      He was to pick her up on the other side of the road from her parents' house at six that evening, but when she walked past the window at 5.15 he was already there. From a distance, his ugliness was disappointingly conventional and she could hear the Stones tape from the night before blaring out the car window. But, having fallen out further with the friend she'd walked out on prior to meeting him, she needed someone to take it out on. He'd told her he was loaded. She knew with people like him that meant a shitty twenty grand that didn't even cover the mortgage, but if he wanted to get into more debt with her for a week or so, so be it. She checked her reflection as she sniffed at a bottle of poppers. Who could blame him, she thought, grinding her perfectly capped teeth. Why not give the poor gimp a treat?
      She kept him waiting until 7.25.
      He seemed unconcerned as he managed to stop ogling her long enough to drive them to a small hotel in the New Town where he filled her with double gin and tonics. Although frequently but unintentionally amusing company, his stammer still repulsed her. He told her, with pantomime candour, that he worked for a s-s-s-s-security f-f-f-firm, made a fortune in b-b-back-back-handers but that the less-ess-ess she knew about it the b-b-better. Nonetheless, his awfulness tickled her as she connived ways she could help rid him of such a clandestine financial burden.
      In the hotel bar, he spoke louder than necessary so that other people would look over and see them together. He gawped, transfixed, as she told him she'd dreamt about him. About him! She'd been driving him very fast along a country road as he fingered her. For the first time, she appeared sad, as she told him that she couldn't drive so that could never come true; how much she wanted to learn to drive but didn't have the confidence. Made foolish by six pints of Murphy's, he suggested they drink up and he give her a lesson.
      An hour later, as she stalled and started the car round one of the Gyle's vast, deceptively beautiful monstrosities, he supped on her breasts as she brutalised his Citroen's inner mechanisms. With her tits as a spur, he blankly allowed her to circle the building a few dozen times before late night security had to finally pause their late night poker game and pretend to be bothered.
      She drove off, at his direction, into the wasteland of Broomhouse - her body pumping with the adrenaline of getting off the treadmill into the mire. She parked outside some bucket of a flat, breathless from it all. Absolutely alive. Launching her lips onto his, she forced his hand inside her bra, clamping it round her breast. Brushing his lips against her neck, he whispered that he l-l-loved her. He loved her so m-much. It h-h-hurt him because he loved her so m-much. Despite the alarm bells ringing in her ears, she unzipped his trousers, took out his small flabby penis and sucked him off with the painfully slow professionalism of experience.
      When she looked up again there were tears rolling down his pasty cheeks and she realised that his gasps had been sobs. She felt a bizarre pang of affection sautéed gently in disgust.
      "Nobody's ever done that to me before", he said, without stammering.
      She bit her lip and tried not to laugh, till his eyes suddenly collapsed somewhere and he blurted out that his wife was in fact alive and cooking but he, poor sap, was in love with HER now…
      and had
      never felt
      She waited for him to shut up and start stammering again. God, how she wanted him to stammer, but he just kept on this awful, monotonous, dreadful, incessant shitty noise. She belched his spunk back in his face without a let-up. She reminded him that he'd only known her fifteen hours, but he just continued simpering and insisting that he loved her and he'd never felt like this before; that marriage wasn't a word but a sentence. She remembered seeing that cliché printed on an enormous badge at the counter of the card shop she'd been in the other day. He was immediately an idiot. Not the sort of idiot she liked to humiliate for fun any more. Just some worthless cunt she immediately felt sick about being alone with.
      But he was on a stuttering, fuckering roll now that wouldn't stop. His family meant nothing to him any more. He yanked his wallet out the glove compartment and thrust two gnarled photos at her. One was of a blond, bland woman in her thirties; the other of two fat, ghastly kids, grinning affectedly in their school uniforms. Melodramatically retrieving the photo of the woman from her, he flicked a cheap, orange disposable lighter with an unfeasibly large flame and set light to the edge of it. Fumes and black smoke quickly engulfed the blond and he threw her out the window. The foul smell caught the back of her throat, partly from the photo and partly from a now singed patch on the ceiling of the car. Despite herself though, she felt impressed and gestured at the photo of the kids on his lap.
      "What about them? Don't you love me more than them?"
      Despite his look of broken disbelief, he picked up the photo and set the lighter to it as well. Grinning as they burned, she felt almost more attracted to him for having lied so mercilessly in the first place.
      The following day she let him pick her up at work at midday and drive her to his house while his wife was at the away for a pampering session at the local spa (his treat) and the brood were at school. Wandering through the house she grimaced at family photos and rummaged through drawers looking for bank statements while he nonchalantly tried to engage her in some lunch.
      Wanting to see her face, he sought her upstairs, sitting on his marital bed, stirring her finger round the water in a goldfish bowl on the bedside table.
       "Jesus Christ, has this thing ever been cleaned out?"
      "It's h-h-hers", he struggled, trying to make out the frantic fish amidst the camouflage of filth, “I forgot it was th-th-there.”
      Swiping the muck off her finger onto the carpet, she stood up and walked out the room, sniggering.
      Following her into his daughter's bedroom, he watched as she threw herself onto the rainbow coloured quilt, kicked her shoe off and ground her foot it into his groin.
      "Do you really love me more than them?"
      He gasped in affirmation.
      "Would you leave them for me? Never see them again?"
      He moved onto the bed beside her.
      "Is that what you want? If that's what you want…"
      She laughed at his bug-eyed ignorance, lay back on the bed and opened her legs. Unfastening himself, he tried to climb on top of her but like before, she pushed him away and told him she just wanted to watch. Frustrated, he knelt on the bed between her legs and pulled at his cock as she fingered herself.
      “Is that where you want to go?” she smirked.
      “Let me, please,” he gasped, trying again to get on top and penetrate her. She pushed him away again, but this time he didn't give in. Quickly grabbing her wrists behind her head, he forced all his weight upon her so she couldn't move.
      “Get off me you fucking creep,” she screamed, jerking one hand free and smacking him round the face with it, tearing at his hair. He kept going, trying to get inside her but only managing to rub his cock roughly against the entrance to her cunt. It was painful but he couldn't stop now. He crunched his lips against hers and felt her spitting onto his mouth. He sucked it in and swallowed. As she struggled to free her mouth from his, she managed to bite down hard on his eyebrow. By the time he pulled away in pain, he was already ejaculating onto her. She squealed and wiped at the mess, rubbing it onto his face, pounding her fists on the side of his head. He stood up, stammering apologies as he struggled back into his trousers.
      “Why couldn't you j-j-just let me? I l-l-l-love you.”
      All she could think was that she desperately wanted to come. She'd wanted it to continue. Her delight at having turned him bad so quickly had enlivened her, but instead, she feigned offence and pretended to be hurt and horrified.
      “I thought you were a good person. How could you do that?”
      “Oh just shut the fuck up, eh?”
      Getting up from the bed, she noticed a line of spunk glinting across the duvet cover. She smiled as he followed her back downstairs, imagining how the stammering shit was going to explain that when his missus got back from her pampering session.
      Disappointingly though, when they next met, the stain wasn't mentioned. Instead he was full of ideas about them moving in together. They had holiday money saved he could use for a deposit on a flat. In a matter of just five days he'd realised his marriage was over. There was no point pretending any more.
      Much as she knew such declarations were the words of a sad, deluded idiot, the offer was slightly tempting. For years, when she went through housing schemes and poor areas on the bus or train, she'd fantasised about getting fucked by some rough-necked nobody in one of these filthy, low-ceilinged, high-rise coffins. She was desperate to move from her parents' house but could never hold onto enough money to save up the deposit and first month's rent for a place of her own. Her mother, though only semi-conscious for most of the time, interfered in her life too much — searching her room, opening her mail then going berserk at the things she subsequently discovered.
      It would be worth it just to see the look of horror on her mother's face when she told her she was moving in with a jumped-up fucking porter. She just needed to humour him till he signed the lease. Then he could do whatever the fuck he wanted. Besides, he worked shifts. They wouldn't even need to see each other.
      Although the idea was growing on her, she remained aloof as this seemed to make him all the more persistent; however, this soon bored her. As he drove her home from work the following evening, she told him to arrange it all and let her know when they could move in. Luckily the lights were at red. In floods of tears, he pulled the ring from his index finger and pressed it earnestly into the palm of her hand.
      "Please, I want you to have this. It was my dad's."
      She placed the large, ugly band of silver on her right thumb. It was little more than a ring-pull but she forced a smile and wondered if he was any good at decorating. He was still in tears, muttering and stuttering about love, when he dropped her off at her house. It was Parents' Evening at his kids' school and he had to look after them while his wife attended it. Although reluctant to leave her, he said he wanted to spend some time with Ross and Mandy before he abandoned them. It offended her to hear their names. It was way too much information. There'd be no more sentimental shit like that once they got their flat.
      It was her birthday the following day. He arranged to pick her up after work to take her for a double celebratory meal. She'd already arranged a party with friends but planned to meet him prior to this and get drunk at his expense, although as far away from where she was meeting her friends as possible. If anyone ever saw her with him, she'd just die. She blocked the unpleasant thought from her mind.
      When she glanced out of her office window at 4.30 the next day, however, he wasn't there. Although he wasn't due until 5.00 she sensed something was wrong. He usually liked to creep around outside for hours before they were due to meet. He said it made him feel close to her.
      She stayed in the office until 5.45, watching with growing fury as a large, grey cloud drifted slowly in her direction, opening up just as it reached her street. Livid as she ran towards the bus stop in driving rain, she swore she would never see him again.
      Arriving home to her mother in a rage about unpaid Visa bills or some such shit, she locked herself in the shower and beat her fists off the tiles. What a bastard. She felt like crying, but she never cried. She refused to cry over a worthless twat like him. It was just the uncertainty over what she was supposed to be doing now. It was nothing to do with feelings. No way had he got to her. It was her fucking birthday. Fucking bastard.
      In her bedroom, she tore into a pile of unopened presents, looking for the little black dress her stepfather had bought her. Throwing everything else across the room, without even looking at it, she found his parcel and squeezed into the dress. He mother came through as she was admiring her reflection in the mirror, seeking reconciliation and full of compliments about the new outfit. She gestured to the discarded presents.
      "Ocht, I'm in a hurry. I'll look later.”
      Despite being far too early to meet her friends, she got a taxi into the West End. Checking the time on the clock above Frazers, she entered the busy pub. There was an hour and a half to kill, but what the hell, it was her birthday. As she tried to get the barman's attention, she caught the eye of a man standing joking with friends. Still staring, she walked over and asked him the time.
      "Time you stopped waiting on whoever you're waiting on and had a drink with me,” he said hopefully. His friends all laughed. She walked back to where she'd been standing and ordered a drink. This was a joke. Where was that fucking bastard? She just wanted to know.
      Checking she had change, she called the number she'd noted down off a phone bill she'd found in his house. Almost immediately, a tearful woman answered and nervously asked who was calling, so she hung up.
      She hadn't liked him anyway. He was just some wanker who bought her drink, let her drive his car and treat him like shit. The idea that she'd almost moved in with the moron made her glad he was gone. She hoped he was dead. Glancing back across at the man she'd asked the time, she noticed him still smiling over at her. She smiled back. Edinburgh was full of unbalanced arseholes waiting to be pushed.

©  Laura Hird 2006

This electronic version of "Victims" appears in The Barcelona Review with kind permission of the author. It appears in the author's collection Hope and Other Urban Tales, published by Canongate Books, 2006.   Book ordering available through

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Author Bio
Laura Hird
Laura Hird lives and works in Edinburgh. With her short story collection Nail and Other Stories (Rebel Inc, 1997; short-listed for the Saltire Society Literary Awards 1998), she was swiftly recognised as one of the hottest literary talents on the Scottish scene. Her novel Born Free (Rebel Inc., 1999) was shortlisted for the 2000 Whitbread First Novel Award. Her writing has appeared in numerous magazines in both Britain and abroad. Hird's second short-story collection, Hope and Other Urban Tales, Canongate, was published in October, 2006. Click here to visit her website.

See interview with Laura Hird.
See also other previous stories by Laura Hird in TBR:
Routes, Of Cats and Women, I am Gone and The Happening

November- December 2006 #56