“Perfectly Healthy Behaviour” by Matthew Twigg

Still from the award-winning short Room 8, unofficial companion piece for “Perfectly Healthy Behaviour”

In cell block D, the inmate masturbated furiously. The other inmates poked through the bars of their cells, watching his pale, pudgy buttocks pumping rampantly back and forth. He slapped his cheeks hard like an eager jockey aboard a tiring racehorse, his grey flannel trousers crumpled in a heap around his ankles.
“Go on, my son, finish it off!” shouted one.
“What a gent!” saluted another.
“Alright, alright, what’s all the fuss about?” bellowed the warden as he approached.
The crowd groaned in flaccid unison.
“Okay, knock it off!” banged the warden, thumping his truncheon against the narrow passageway as the inmate came to a juddering stop. “Pull your goddamn pants up, you’ve got a visitor.”
“But it’s not visiting hours,” panted the inmate.
“Yeah, well, today ain’t no ordinary day, is it?”

The inmate sat and stared through the Plexiglas before slowly picking up the phone and putting it to his ear: “Mother.”
“Hello, son.”
“I wasn’t expecting you, today of all days.”
“One last time. I made a promise to your father.”
Neither of them spoke for several minutes, then she said: “It seems like just yesterday you were my little blue-eyed boy. How did it ever come to this?”
He said nothing.
“You needed me for everything back then.”
He cast his mind back.
“I washed your clothes, bathed you, cooked for you.”
A nostalgic air hung rigid between them.
“Do you remember how I used to feed you when you refused to eat your supper? Alphabetti spaghetti on toast, egg, and dippers? You were such a fussy eater.”
He could picture it all, clear as day.
“I used to pretend it was an aeroplane: neeeeaaaaoooow! Or a train: chugga chugga, whoo whoo!” She slipped a hand into her purse: “Look what I’ve got!”
“A turkey dinosaur!”
“That’s right! Now open wide, because here comes the super-happy-big-boy-boat: hoooooooooorrrr hooooooooooooorrrr!” she moaned, smushing the Jurassic treat into the glass with her greasy palm as the inmate chewed imaginatively.
Nommy nom nommy, thank you Mommy!”
At this point, the guards intervened.

Back in his cell, his meal arrived: cheese burger and fries. Frisbeeing the cheesy meat across to the cell opposite, the inmate set about humping the still-warm bun with renewed vigor. By the time he had finished and set the seeded roll to one side, the fries were limp and cold. He was disappointed. He’d well and truly fucked his last meal.

The hangman pulled the lever. The floor vanished from beneath the inmate and his neck snapped in an instant. They let him hang there for an hour before a bizarre form of rigor mortis set in and stiffened his appendages. His right leg now protruded stubbornly at a right angle from the rest of his body, his toes pointing up at the gallows. The guards laughed and swung him round and round by his foot like a broken compass, its dial whirring every which way at once, pointing the way to hell.





Matthew lives in Oxford (UK) where he works as an editor for an academic publisher. In his spare time he enjoys reading, football, countryside, food, and reading again. He works mostly on short fiction, but is also in the process of writing his first novel.

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