Martha’s Martyr Complex

A new episode of The Retribution Serial appears below after Martha’s Martyr Complex


Martha’s Martyr Complex

by Jennifer Moore

As complexes go, Martha’s is surprisingly simple: no one has it as hard as she does. Period.

As cruises go, two weeks in the Caribbean, with on-board entertainment, unlimited drinks and exotic daily dishes made to order, sounds pretty idyllic. Which it is, for everyone else on board. But then they don’t have Martha’s sensitive skin or sensitive stomach. They can eat to excess without worrying about the effects on their digestion, and enjoy the top-notch entertainment without fear of headaches. They’re not the ones spending entire mornings re-ironing neatly pressed outfits because, quite frankly, no one else is going to. And of course everyone else is there because they want to be, whereas Martha only agreed to the trip for the sake of her family.

She’s still suffering, if not in silence, then in muted tones of aggressive resentment and self-pity, when the trip comes to an explosively abrupt end. No one was expecting a terror attack all the way out there, not even Martha. Of course her husband insists she takes a place on one of the few surviving lifeboats, which she does, grudgingly. What choice does she have? Someone’s got to look after the children and it looks like it’s her. Again.

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Jennifer Moore
Jennifer Moore is a freelance writer and children’s author. She was the first UK winner of the Commonwealth Short Story competition and was shortlisted for the 2013 Greenhouse Funny Prize. Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of publications on both sides of the Atlantic, includingThe Guardian,Mslexia,The First LineandShort Fiction.




Catalinas backside


A Serial in Eight Parts

retribution: deserved punishment for evil done.

Previous Retribution Episodes 1 2 3 4 5

Retribution Episode 6

We drove along in silence for five minutes and I wondered why Levi’s thoughts about Johnny Got His Gun.

“When Mom died,” he continued, “she left me her place on the south side. The place looks just the same. It’s nice to be backed up to the hills where there aren’t be any neighbors close. It’s still as quiet as ever. Why don’t you come over, I’d like to show you something.”

“Sure, but let’s stop and get some Mexican food first. I’m hungry.”


“Sounds good to me,” and we turned onto the wide avenue that would take us to the small restaurant which had always been our favorite.

During our meal, the conversation turned again to the courts and the basic failure of justice in our country. It began to feel like the old days, when we would spend late night hours in a cafe, drinking coffee and discussing life, the universe, and everything.

“The trouble is,” I was pointing out, “there is not really any punishment that can do justice for many crimes. Sending Bundy to the chair is small punishment when you consider the hours of horror and pain inflicted on each of the many women he killed. There’s no possible way to extract your eye for an eye.” I had always been the believer in the Old Testament style of justice. “Turning the golden rule around, it goes: You should have done to you, that which you have done to others. How can we approach that?”

“Society can’t. But maybe an individual could.”

“Yes, but what can give an individual the right to judge like that?”

“Maybe when all the other systems have failed, and there is no other recourse, it is the individual who must finally step forward and assume that responsibility,” he said. That led us into a long divergence about Sartre, responsibility, and freedom and into a familiar discussion of the general tenets of existentialism. It was an hour later when we drove toward his mother’s place—now his—on the edge of the town.

“When my mother died and I had cleaned up my life and moved out here, I found that Allens getting released by the courts still wouldn’t let me be. I don’t know if you knew, but Jan did not die an easy death. Ryan he killed outright, but not Jan. It was anything but quick and painless. She was alive and abused for a long time. I kept thinking of the pain and terror she must have gone through and wished there was such a thing as hell, so he would receive his just rewards in the afterlife.

“But the trouble is, I don’t believe there is a god…or an afterlife. If there were a god, one who sees every sparrow fall, he would not allow the things that happen in this world to occur. Or, if there is a god, and he lets them happen, then he is the kind of god who is immune to such things and wouldn’t punish Allens anyway. I finally decided that if I wanted justice, I would have to get it on my own.”

To be continued

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