Thursday, 6 January 2011

Two Heads Are Better Than ...

Last night, I read a wonderful collection of short stories by Canadian author, Barbara Gowdie.  We So Seldom Look on Love encompasses necrophilia, nymphomania, exhibitionism and voyeurism, auto-site parasites and a two-headed man - but not in a voyeuristic way. Yes, it is unusual to use two forms of voyeur twice in once sentence, but it had to be done. (For other paraphilias, click here.)

The Two-Headed Man (a story I shan't spoil for you by telling it - just read it) reminded me of the night The Banshee came crashing downstairs two hours after she'd gone to bed.
'I can't sleep,' she grumbled.
'Why?' asked her ever-solicitous ma, quickly stashing the Tanqueray under the sofa with an expert flick of the heel.
'I'm worrying about something.' She frowned.
'What is it, sweet child?' I adopted my un-frowning listening face.
'It's like this, like, if Siamese Twins - '
'Conjoined twins.'
'Yes, them, say, like, one of them murdered someone and was caught and was put in jail, does that infringe the human rights of the twin who hasn't, like, murdered anyone and shouldn't be in jail?'
'Ooh, it's a tricky one -' (Surreptitiously tries to nudge the Tanqueray back from under the sofa.)
'Because, like, the innocent twin hasn't committed a crime, has he? So why should he be in prison? But the murdering twin has committed a crime so it's not fair, like, if he is free, is it?'
'Erm -'
'Because the murderer should be in jail. And if there was capital punishment, he could be electrocuted which would proper kill the other twin which wouldn't be, like, fair, right?'
'Well -'
'I don't agree with capital punishment anyway, but say I did, right, and I was a Siam - sorry - conjoined twin then it would infringe my human rights to execute me when I hadn't done anything wrong, wouldn't it?'
'Yes, I mean, no. Er -'
'But it's not fair for a murderer to get away with a crime, like, just because he's attached to another person, is it?'
'Hmm -'
'And even if you made the murderer only serve half his sentence - that's if he wasn't executed - that still wouldn't be fair to the innocent twin, would it?
'Could I stop you for a moment, darling? You are infringing my basic human right to drink gin in peace when my children are in bed.'*

Disatisfied with her ma's poor show, The Banshee began a letter writing campaign to the great legal minds of the country. Mainly Marcel Berlins, it has to be said. Mr Berlins did not reply. I suspect he took out an injunction.

In the absence of any other great legal minds and because two heads are better than one, have you an answer to this conundrum?

* I would have said this. If I'd dared.


  1. I'm sure heads have been scratched over this one, before.

  2. The legal establishment has no qualms about executing the innocent. So what's the problem?

  3. I'm intrigued as to what the 'innocent' half of the conjoined twin was doing whilst the murder was taking place? Accessory at the very least, I'd say! No-one is 'innocent' here!

  4. @ Martin - that or knocked together!

    @ Lane - Indeed.

    Bébé - The other twin was trying to wrestle the knife from his evil twin's grasp. Allegedly.