'Can you kill someone with a butter knife?'

Submitted into Contest #151 in response to: Repeat the same line of dialogue, from the same character, three separate times.... view prompt


Contemporary Fiction Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of physical violence, gore, or abuse.

‘Can you kill someone with a butter knife?’

‘Take that child home immediately!’

The words had unintentionally escaped seven-year-old Jeremy. Once a month, he accompanied his parents on their duty visit to Grandmother. He endured four hours of boredom, sitting wedged between Mother and Father on her lumpy sofa. He was allowed to take a book to read, but no other form of entertainment. The adults prattled on about people and events that he had no interest in, whilst he was expected to sit there silent and still.

           Before leaving, they would all move into the dining room, where they sat around the lace-covered table on hard chairs. Grandmother would bring in trays laden with sandwiches and a plate of cakes.

           ‘Sandwich first, young man.’ Jeremy would cram a crustless grated cheese sandwich into his mouth. ‘Eat nicely…use the napkin provided – not the back of your hand.’ At least once on each visit, he was told ‘Sit up straight.’, ‘Eat with your mouth closed.’, and ‘Stop fidgeting.’ Until finally he was allowed to choose a cake. This month there were scones, jam, and cream. Jeremy ladled a generous dollop of strawberry jam onto his scone, before joyously popping the spoon into his mouth. Quick as a flash, Grandmother lent over and slapped the back of his hand, and this was when he’d asked the offending question.


Seven years later, Jeremy, or Jez as he now preferred to be known sat alone in the school dining hall. Whoever said ‘School days are the happiest days of your life.’, was an inveterate liar. From 8.00 am, the time he caught the school bus until 4.30 pm when he reached the safety of home, for Jeremy, school was a period of mental and physical torture. Whether it was the sly kicks on the ankle, sticking posit notes with obscene comments on his back, to damaging his property the cruelty of his peers seemed limitless.

           He had just emerged from the physics lab, where he had endured the humiliation of no one wanting to work with him, the end of his pencil case being melted over a Bunsen burner, and his stool being pulled away as he was about to sit. When Mr. Ahmed finally said ‘Class dismissed.’ Jez let his classmates leave first. Giving it a few minutes, he made his way to the door and looked suspiciously down the corridor. They had been known to wait outside and leap on him as he came out. All was clear, so he walked to the dining area. Most tables were full of young people talking, laughing, maybe throwing the odd bit of food at each other. Jeremy chose an empty table in the corner, laid up with cutlery for school dinner, but he didn’t need it. He had a packed lunch.

           Clicking open his lunch box, he saw: a chocolate biscuit wrapper, sandwiches that had evidently been dropped and trodden on, and an apple that had something indescribable smeared over it. Jeremy reshut the box and as he prepared to return it to his backpack, they were on him.

           ‘What’s up Jez old mate? Not feeling hungry?’

           ‘Jez the Puny, will never become Jez the Hunky if he doesn’t eat up.’ And then with hope he heard, Annabelle ask,

           ‘I’ve got one of my sandwiches left if you’d like it?’ Looking up, he saw the proffered sandwich, two slices of bread filled with clay from the art room. Seeing his eyes fill with tears they laughed until he picked up a knife from the table.

           ‘Can you kill someone with a butter knife?’


           ‘Hi, I’m Kirsty Felgar. I work for Innovative Recycling and I’m here as their representative today.’

           ‘Erm, Good Morning. I’m Jez Goldstein and I’m here on behalf of the Quiet Air Conditioning Company.’

The delegates at their table each introduced themselves and then a tall woman took to the podium and began to give a PowerPoint presentation on ‘Climate Change this Century.’ Kirsty leaned over and whispered,

           ‘I’m on after lunch… I’m bricking it.’ Jez laughed. Throughout the two-day conference, she made a point of sitting near him and making conversation. It made Jez feel good about himself. In the past, he hadn’t had much luck in the friendship stakes.

           As the conference closed, she slipped him her business card. On the back, she had written a mobile number.

           ‘Bye Jez. Hope to see you again.’

Back in his bachelor flat, he withdrew the card from his wallet and looked at it, searching for a hidden meaning. Finding none, he placed it on top of the microwave and wandered through to the sitting room.

           His days were busy. He worked full-time designing air conditioning units and then there was the business of fending for himself. On Sundays, he dined with his parents. Occasionally, Kirsty and her card filtered into his mind. Did the card mean what he thought it did? There was only one way to find out.

           ‘Kirsty, it’s Jez. We met at the conference.’

           ‘Lovely to hear from you. What took you so long. Treat ‘em mean keep ‘em keen is it?' Then, her throaty laugh. She lived two hours away from him, and so for their first date, they met midway. After, a few meetings, she said,

           'There's something you should know.'


           'I've got a two-year-old daughter.'

They met every Saturday, until after a few weeks she asked,

           ‘Next week, would you like to come to mine for dinner…Stay over if you like…Then, you can have a drink.’

Jez was nervous, even he knew what ‘stay over’ meant. He had slept with people before, of course, he had. Well, alright just one - a couple of years ago. Anyway, he packed an overnight bag and bought wine and an impressive bouquet. When Kirsty opened the door, she looked lovely. He was flattered that she would make such an effort for him. The table was laid with candles and soft music was playing.

           ‘Flowers…And wine…How thoughtful…You shouldn’t have…But I’m glad you did.’  She hugged and kissed him on the cheek. ‘Come in, come in.’

Dinner was simple – steak and salad. They chatted and laughed until Jez asked,

           ‘Where’s your little girl?’

           ‘She doesn’t live here at the moment. She lives with my ex. I’m trying to get her back.’

Eventually, the crucial time came and it was alright. Kirsty seemed happy, saying,

           ‘You’re so gentle Jez. I appreciate that.’

And so, it went on. Jez would arrive at Kirsty’s on Saturdays, sometimes they’d go out, or sometimes stay in. Until, one evening, she broke down in tears,

           ‘I can’t go on like this. I’m crazy about you, Jez, you know I am, but seeing you just once a week is crucifying me.’ They talked for hours until they agreed on a solution. Kirsty had a three-bedroomed house, a well-paid job, and needed to live near her daughter. Jez had a small flat, a less well-paid job, and no ties. He handed his notice in at Quiet Air Conditioning left his flat and moved in.

           He soon found employment, although at a lower rate of pay than before. Kirsty saw her daughter on Sundays. Jez continued with his habit of seeing his parents despite it being a four-hour round trip.

           ‘When am I going to meet Eva?’

           ‘Whenever you like, but Sundays are my only day with her.’

           The next Sunday, he broke with tradition and for the first time in years failed to see his parents. When Kirsty let herself back into the house, she was carrying a small blonde girl.

           ‘Here’s Daddy-Jez. You going to say hello?’ The child buried her head in Kirsty’s shoulder, occasionally peeping out to look at Jez. Dangling from one of her hands was a knitted monkey.

           ‘Hello, who’s this?’ No answer. In a funny, squeaky voice, ‘I’m Melanie monkey.’ reaching out, Jez shook one of the toy’s paws. ‘Pleased to meet you, Melanie.’ Silly voice again, ‘Where’s your Mummy?’ Normal voice, ‘She lives a long, long, way away’. Eva began to smile, and then fidget to be put down.

           All day, Jez played with her. They went out into the garden and picked a bouquet of dandelions, and talked about the birds. In the house, they played hide and seek, and used Jez’s biros to draw. He was entranced. From then on, his Sundays were spent at home with Kirsty and Eva.

One evening, when he got home from work, he found Kirsty sitting at the dining table, head in hands.

           ‘What’s up, have you got a headache?’

           ‘No this came.’ Handing Jez a letter, he skim-read it. It was from the Family Court.

           ‘My ex has made an application to have Eva’s residency with him made permanent. I always thought she’d end up back with me’

           ‘Can’t you fight it?’

           ‘I can and I will, but I’d have much more chance if one of us was at home to look after her. He lives with his mother, so he has a full-time babysitter on tap.’

           ‘We wouldn’t be able to manage on my wage.’

           ‘No, but we could on mine.’ And so it was that Jez handed his notice in at his new position.

           On the day of the court hearing, Kirsty came home in tears.

           ‘What happened?’

           ‘The current arrangement stays.’


           ‘I don’t know.’

           ‘So, I gave up my job for nothing.’

‘That’s my fault to is it?! You ungrateful bastard, I’ve been working all hours so that you can sit around on your scrawny arse doing nothing all day.’ Jez had never seen her like this. He understood that she was upset and taking it out on him.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll soon find something else.’ But he couldn’t, his employment record didn’t look great.

A couple of months later, Jez sat in the house alone, worrying. Kirsty was three hours late coming home, and her mobile phone was switched off. He’d kept her dinner warm in the oven until now it was an unrecognisable desiccated blob. Finally, he heard her key in the door. He rushed down the hall to greet her.

‘I’ve been worried about you.’

‘Can’t a girl go out and celebrate?’ She wove her way unsteadily down the hall, careering off the walls as she went. Seeing the remains of her dinner, ‘What’s this shit?’

‘It was your dinner, but it dried out in the oven.’

‘You useless piece of crap. Here all day and you can’t even have a decent meal waiting for me.’

‘You’re so late.’ He felt rather than saw the slap as her hand smacked his cheek. He reeled backward into the kitchen cabinet, rubbing where she had struck. By the time he had recovered, she had disappeared into the bathroom, and he could hear her being sick. He followed her in with a glass of water. When she had finished vomiting, he washed her face and helped her into bed.

In the morning, she woke with a roaring hangover.

‘Cup of coffee?’

‘Please. I was a bitch last night, wasn’t I?’

‘You were drunk, that was all.’

‘Did I hit you?’

‘It was only a little slap.’

‘Oh, my darling, I’m so sorry.’

‘It was nothing… What were you celebrating anyway?’

‘I’ve got a promotion. Company car and everything…I’ll take you out tonight, so we can celebrate together properly.’

For the next few weeks, all was well, although Kirsty’s promotion meant that she did need to travel for work, sometimes staying away overnight. And then,

‘I’ve been thinking, now that we’ve got a company car, we don’t need yours.’

‘It’s handy when you’re at work.’

‘Well, that’s just it. You’re not working, so it would save some money if we got rid of it.’ That was it, Jez’s car was sold.

One evening, when Kirsty was working away, Jez took himself out for a walk. His mobile rang, it was her.

‘Where the fuck are you?’

‘Out for a walk.’

‘I rang home and you weren’t there.’

‘No, I’ve just popped out to stretch my legs.’

‘I don’t believe you, you’re with another woman.’

‘No, really I’m just having a stroll.’

‘You lying bastard.’ After that, Jez always stayed in the house.

Another evening, she returned home, her face blotchy, mascara spread down her cheeks.

‘What’s happened?’

‘That lazy cheat Elroy has been promoted.’

‘He doesn’t deserve it.’

‘Too right, that was my pay rise.’

‘But you’ve just had one.’

Whack, around the face again. ‘Side with him would you?’ Later, ‘I’m so sorry. I don’t know what came over me.’

           ‘It doesn’t matter. You were upset that’s all.’

           ‘Tell you what, let’s book a little holiday…a romantic break together…We deserve it.’

           Kirsty has become unpredictable, sometimes her old loving, humorous self, other times critical and cruel. ‘What d’you do with yourself all day…This place is like a pig sty.’ ‘I don’t need a man who can’t pay his way.’ The taunts are endless.

           One night after they’d made love. ‘You’ve no idea have you.’


           ‘No idea how to please a woman…You’re useless.’ Jez didn’t make overtures again, but Kirsty makes it clear when she wants sex. To his humiliation, he fails to get an erection.

           ‘Can’t even get a stiffy with your pathetic little weaner…You’re completely useless, d’you know that?’ Jez rolls over onto his side, his back to Kirsty so that she can’t see his tears.

           ‘That’s it…Have a snivel to yourself. You pathetic excuse for a man.’

           He begins to suspect that she may be seeing someone else. Her overnight stays become more frequent, and she is often late home from work. Sometimes, her mobile will ring, she will look at the display and then cut the call without answering. She has taken to buying exotic underwear. The signs are there, and yet he doesn’t dare to challenge her.   

           Sundays become the highlight of Jez’s week. He looks forward to Eva coming, the things that they do together, and her cheerful prattle. He loves this little girl. Lately, Kirsty has taken to laying in, allowing him to take her car to go and collect Eva. Quite often she won’t get up until lunchtime, sometimes asking Jez to take the child home early because she has a headache.    

           The final Sunday, Jez and Eva are making pastry for jam tarts when Kirsty finally surfaces.

           ‘Mummy! Come and see what Daddy Jez and me is making’

‘A fucking mess.’

‘Don’t talk to her like that, Kirsty. She’s only a little girl.’

‘Shut -the-fuck -up. I’ve been working like a dog all week, only to be woken up on my day off by you two trashing the kitchen.’ Eva begins to cry and cling to Jez.

‘Kirsty…please. You’ve made her cry.’

‘Whingeing brat.’ And then she grabs the child by her shoulders, leans down, and shouts in her face, ‘Stop that fucking noise!’ Jez pushes Kirsty back, picks up Eva, and dashes out of the house.

When he returns, Kirsty is showered and dressed, sitting calmly at the kitchen table.

‘How’d you fancy going out for lunch…My treat.’

‘No thanks.’

‘Suit yourself.’

He walks across the kitchen, and opens the cutlery drawer.

‘Can you kill someone with a butter knife?’ Picking up a carving knife, ‘No, but you can with a carving knife.’    

June 22, 2022 12:51

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Carl Tengstrom
13:03 Jun 26, 2022

Thank you for this story. It wasn’t at all as cruel as I expected. I also did not see it coming that the woman turned into a monster. Well done. Perhaps the preludium was a little too long. One was wondering if there would happen something next. The languge you used was magnificent The change from nice to cruel was terrific.


Sharon Williams
17:33 Jun 26, 2022

Thank you Carl for your kind comments. It actually started off as 'Can you kill yourself with a butter knife', but morphed into something different.


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