Zest Lit Issue 2, October 2013 - Page 117

The older man stopped but remained on his knees and hands, staring downwards. His jaw was set hard and his eyes narrowed for a moment. Then he let his head hang, like a dog dejected.

Earlier in the afternoon, Robbie had been further away. He’d been trying to clear a bit of land for Cath to use. The bracken had been allowed to grow strong there and it had been hard work in the damp heat of the day. His father had been mending Cath’s hencoop again. She hadn’t asked but he had taken himself off to fix it. The hammering thuds hung heavy in the muggy air. There had been little birdsong and only an occasional pheasant was startled by Robbie cutting and tearing at the undergrowth. He had found a rhythm to the work, clearing a small area, then digging over, clearing, digging.

He was uncertain if he had heard a noise, a scream or shout, or if the silence had crept up on him, seeping fast through his noise until he was aware of birds not calling, of his father not hammering, and knew suddenly that it had been like that for a few moments and that something had made the day stand still. He had started to fight his way out of the bracken. It had caught around his legs and made him lurch for the first few steps until he broke free of it. Robbie had reached Cath’s cottage in seconds. Her wail had spun out into the heavy air as he ran towards the open door.

He fought down the urge to be sick, successfully this time. They needed to finish cleaning up and then they could wash and see Cath. They had cleared away the tools from the earlier task. They would let the bracken grow back there and soon there would be