Justifiable by Maisie Bishop

It was one of those super-sharp French knives, the type you get in wooden knife blocks which stand in smart kitchens like armies ready for the attack. It was battered now, the gleaming blade marked with tiny scratches, the black handle cracked, faded, and missing a chunk which had come away in the dishwasher. Still, it felt comfortable, familiar in my hand as I wielded it over the carrots and courgettes. 

The radio was on in the background, and I heard a reporter talking about ‘justifiable homicide, justifiable self-defence’, something like that, I wasn’t sure exactly what they called it. The story was about a woman who had stabbed and killed her husband who had been abusing her for years. I became fixated on that word ‘justifiable’. At what point did murder become justifiable? What did it feel like to be acquitted of the crime on the grounds that it was justifiable? What did you do afterwards? Did you continue to live in the house you had shared? Did the neighbours shun you? Refuse to let your children play with theirs? Did you lose your job? Your friends? The questions just kept on coming. 

The knife continued to work its way ferociously through onions, tomatoes, peppers, blood red and juicy. The pounding heartbeat of the knife, the pulsing blood in my ears, the excitement of each cut, the thud of metal on the wooden chopping board, and then the key turning in the front door. 

It was partly my fault, I suppose. I was away somewhere inside my head and I had the knife in my hand. I never thought it would be so real, or so utterly unjustifiable. 

All I remember are the words of the police officer as he strode into my kitchen. ‘Whatever you do, don’t move!’

Published in Issue #14

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