That there, that there, she said, pointing at the man seated in a chair behind a table. He had his head down. He didn’t dare catch her eye. She started to shake. A frenzy now took hold of her. Her knees buckled, like a filly striking a pot hole. She was down. A crumpled mess of skirt and cloth in the dock. She was weeping too. Blubbering really. Someone had to help her but mostly they just stood by, unused to the spectacle.
But now it was almost over, she could let herself fall. She felt like she would go through the court room boards, as hard as they were, and beneath the building, so prim and proper, and through the dirt and deep into the earth where it was black and cloying and warm and cold. Part of her could not escape it. It would come upon her again and again. She could once more feel the soil on her face. After all, they’d filled her with grit, and not only her mouth.
She’d been dragged behind a shed. One had pushed her down and stood with his foot on her hand, grinding her skin beneath his army boot. Are you ready? he’d said to the other man. After raping her, one after the other, in the railway yard, they’d filled her up with sand and stones as far as they could put them. They’d been two boys in a gravel pit; she – a broken kewpie doll, their vessel.
She’d pleaded with them not to kill her for the sake of her baby. They’d been heedless. The one that had done her first complained to the other that he’d filled her too soon. He’d wanted to go again. So they started on her mouth. He broke her teeth.
Left alone in the yard of soot and black metal she rolled over and pulled down her dress. She found her shoe. She’d not been wearing a hat. They would despise her for this. It would become evidence of her poor standing. She wiped blood from her mouth. She coughed dirt. She saw them running off, again two boys. Army greens, same as her son. They too were heading for the Front. Perhaps in a foreign trench mud would fill their mouths.
She crawled to the outside, to the world she felt no longer part of. Into the night she called, Police Murder.
(this story was inspired by true events reported in the newspaper of the day. The story was reported under the headline “East Perth Horror” – Emily Lawson was raped by two returned soldiers in the July of 1917 and both were found guilty by a judge and were given life sentences. The judge said,” Were you standing before me as a judge in NSW it would be my duty to sentence you to death. The legislature here is more merciful perhaps but it has never the less armed me with power to deal with you severely. I cannot conceive a worse case or one more richly deserving the full penalty of the law than in this case. You both must be imprisoned for life.”)