Loss

Featured

‘Ah, times are changing, that’s for sure. A farmer can’t make a living anymore. If it wasn’t for the grants, we’d be down in the town below, living like animals in a block of flats. She went down there, y’know. She set herself up down in the town. She said couldn’t stick the mountain n’more. Didn’t want another hard Winter, she said. By God, she didn’t have to worry. It wasn’t even three months after when she got sick. Me? I’ll die up here, and I’ll die happy’
He was picking dandelion leaves that were growing in tufts along the cement path. One hand was picking, the other holding his stick and the bag. Three ragged farm dogs were around his knees, annoying him. He waved his stick and yelled at them. They backed away a little, enough so they could still watch his every move. He was their God.
‘I’m picking these, now, for the hens. They don’t have a bad life at all. But they’re not free range, are they? Not politically correct’
He chuckled to himself as he continued. I coughed awkwardly.
‘Are they not? Well, I suppose they’re up there in that dark loft, so technically, they’re not free’
He stood upright and looked at me. He had a hard face with small eyes and deep dry lines. He had the type of face that had felt the cold and wind all it’s life.
‘But sher, it’s a big loft and they’re not shut in. They can sit there, in the fresh air looking down on the yard, with their handpicked dandelions, can’t they? It’s not a bad life at all’
He shook his head.
‘It’s the likes of these big foreign supermarkets coming over here and breeding their deformed chickens in big warehouses with no light; they’re the ones that are causing all the problems’
We both turned outwards towards the mountain gorge, looking at the majesty in front of us in silence. I’m sure we were both contemplating how the world was changing, and how we never wanted to leave this place.
A loud howl came from behind. We both turned to see. A bony cow was making her way down the narrow village lane. She investigated every doorway and window along the way, bellowing and grunting as she went. When she reached the opening where we were, she stopped. She roared again; she was upset. Moving her head up and down, bucking at the air, I watched her massive udders shake from side to side.
‘Aaaah, haha, there she is!’
‘Yah yah’, he roared, as he waved his stick in the air.
She responded with a long agonising cry.
‘What’s wrong with her?’
I asked with the hardest tone I could find in me. After seeing him skin a wild boar with his son the night before, surely I could handle a sad cow.
‘She’s looking for her calf. It’s up there, in the top barn – hand-fed twice a day by my very self. It has a gammy leg, that one, but it’s not a bad life for it. The old cow there is protesting, but she’ll be fine after a day or two of milking. Back to normal’
I continued looking out onto the panorama in front of me.
‘She’s wandering around the village looking for it. You can’t get more free range than that now, can you?’
He was chuckling again, his shoulders bobbing up and down. He steadied himself with the stick and put it against the fence.
‘Right, a few more of these for the hens before I drive cows down to the bottom field’
As I walked away, I watched the distraught cow walk slowly, still crying, still bucking in anguish, up towards her field. As she entered, I watched some other cows come to greet her. They understood her loss.

LOSS

Advertisements

The angry ditch

Featured

hedge

Thickety, prickly thorny ditch
You’ve been pruned for Spring.
You’re angry now,
Leafless branches pointing upright,
violated by a metal monster
with no regard for
your joints nor early buds.

The moss on your strong base tries to
passify you. Soft like velvet
sotto voce ‘You will have your day’
The ivy, dark and dry, winds
around you like a snake
‘I’ll give you life’

But no! ‘I’m a hedgerow! I will grow!’
There’s lots of rain and sun, you know.
You will grow and bud and thicken green
Hawthorn, Bramble and ramblers seen
in full life, gushing and lushing.
You will reign supreme in your beauty.

Supply & Demand

The car rolled up the gravel path. Wiping his hands in his leather apron, Dak sauntered over to the stove and put a pan of water on. He poured white spirits over his stained hands at the basin, and rubbed and old rag into the deep crevices.

‘Mornin Dak, a fine one it is too’

Dak nodded at him as he walked in to his usual spot at the back of the cave, out of the sun. He put a parcel and a letter on the desk and sat down.

‘There’s a few more orders for ya today. These things are gettin quite popular with folk, ya know’

Dak brought the tea to the table and sat down opposite to Jo. He didn’t look up as he poured the tea.

‘I’m running out of stock’

Jo tilted his head upward and took a deep breath in.

‘Well, ya know, supply and demand, and all that. There’s three more orders today, and that makes seven orders outstanding, isn’t it?’

Dak nodded.

‘I want you to know that I never kill any living creature to make these pieces. I respect the life that lived in every skull and every bone I find on this land’

Jo cleared his throat.

‘Oh sure, but- supply and demand Dak. There’s money to be made here and –

He snorted and omitted a jarring laugh that made Dak grimace. It faded once he realised he was the only one amused. He slurped his tea and put it down, looking sideways in thought before starting to talk again.

‘See, these rich folk don’t know what to be doing with their money Dak. It’s the new in- thing, if ya hear me. They want them on their mantles, they want to gift them to their friends on their birthdays, you know? They want them’

Dak stared passed Jo’s head at the wall behind him. He continued.

‘The mayor’s wife was looking for a nice big one. She’ll pay big bucks’

‘Big bucks: Big skull?’

‘Exactly’, Jo guffawed

’How big? As big as her husbands fat belly?’

‘Aw come on now Dak. I’m givin you an opportunity to make some money here! And you know, I earn a pittance with the National Post. Jenny’s wedding is coming up. It’s not easy to reach the level of affair she’s aspirin to’

Dak got up from the table and walked to his bench.

‘I’ll see what I can do. I’ll finish these two by tomorrow, and I’ll have a scout around today. It’s not the right season for roadkill or hawk prey, but I’ll look.

Jo stood up and wriggled his National Postal cap back on his fat head.

‘What about catching a few rabbits in a snare, Dak? Or even a deer for the mayor’s wife?’

Dak turned and walked towards Jo quickly. He stopped abruptly when their noses almost touched.

‘What did I just say?’

He walked back to his bench and stared at the wall until Jo walked out of the cave, past him and down the path to the van. That night Dak dreamed of the Stag. He had met him several times when running in the forest as a child. Each time, the stag had stopped in his tracks and stared into his eyes, penetrating him with an intense love that he’d never experienced again.

The following morning, he lay in bed and watched the sun slide further into the front of his cave before he jumped up and set to work. It didn’t take long as he’d seen his father do it time after time. As he raised the net and tested the ropes, he recalled the morning he had stood with the village looking up into the trees, watching the stag struggling hysterically in the net. A dart pierced his neck. Even once he had given up the stag kept his gaze until the life drained out of him.

Later, Dak stood at his bench and prepared his paints. A tiny skull of a bird sat in a delicate clamp in front of him. He heard the crackling stones under the tyres of the postal van. The van door shut loudly and Dak jumped. A few steps crunched on the gravel before he heard a howl.

‘Dak, what the fuck is this? Get me down right now you fucking weirdo’

Dak’s smile slowly widened.

‘Dak? Dak are you there? Oh come on!!!

A nice big skull.

He turned. There stood the Stag, staring into Dak’s eyes.

46868