Digby ruined the white peacocks for me. There I was, pencil poised over my sketchbook as the pride of peafowl came strolling through the great park of Flintlock Hall. One paused near me and spread its tail and it was … just awesome but I couldn’t focus on its beauty, how its sublime white feathers fanned, till they looked like angels, holding hands - all I could hear was Digby saying ‘I’m going to kill that little fucker Stingray – poison him or electrocute him in the bath – I’ll lure him up to the attic and stove his head in with a pick axe and leave him there to rot.’
I left him ranting on the tartan blanket beside the picnic hamper and followed the peacocks around the lake, trying to photograph them - I’d never get peace to draw them with Digby muttering evils in my ear and I couldn’t bear the stench of hatred coming off him - an electric smell like dodgem cars.
Stingray was Digby’s cousin, Little-Peter. He‘d come to live with Digby and his ma after his junky mother drowned in a bowl of cornflakes. He was only eleven and Ma Digby doted on the poor wee orphan. Digby resented having to take Little-Peter along when he went out to play football or go mountain biking in the woods. When Little-Peter grassed Digby up – told his ma he’d started smoking, Digby got it around the back of the legs with a wet dishcloth and his resentment of Little-Peter grew into loathing.
Little-Peter fancied himself as Batman and used to spread out the sleeves of his long coat when he ran. He was livid when it earned him the nickname Stingray – until he discovered how toxic the fish were and then he wore the name with pride.
On her deathbed Digby’s Ma made him promise to look after Little-Peter even though he was nineteen and already dealing powders. Digby reluctantly agreed and now Stingray lived like a lord in our spare room - hiding from his suppliers. He owed money to everyone but especially us.
I don’t know why I’d married Digby. I suppose he wore me down with persistence. He was a good man but … weak. When Stingray flirted with me Digby would scowl and make strangling motions with his hands but only behind his back - he was scared of him, everyone was, for though Stingray was just a skinny little runt there was a darkness in him. If Stingray was a stick of rock, the word VENOM would run right through him. When I told him he’d have to move out for he was bringing heat to our house, he just laughed his shrill, hyena laugh, ruffled my hair and blew me an air kiss.
Digby prayed he’d go the same way as his junky mother and took to leaving heroin wraps beside large milky bowls of cornflakes on the kitchen table.