Wednesday, February 02, 2005

The Smallholding

I‘ve got to. Because of their paddock. I’ve got everything I need. And today’s all right.

He meant that although it was dry there was a waft of air, not too much. Inside the shed it smelt shadowy; along his legs the tube coiled, stiff metal. Because of the slope you’d have to walk it with a pack on your back.

I’m supposed to have a certificate.

They went on talking about it. The plants were rising tall out of the crumbling bank, green spreading yellow.

- But Mum might.

He burst out laughing. Likely!

I mean she could do it. Born before 1964, see? She’s exempt.

I’ll do it.

Ask her!

No. I’d best get on with it.

Hold the nizzle downwind.

He made an unhappy chuckle. I know how to piss in the wind.

She was like a truck. Her voice was so centred he curled up and slept in front of it, his brain did.


She panted up to a shoulder; there on the far-off clouds it was still gold over Winscombe. It had been fine before tea; now it was sombre and puffs of wind rose. That was his lookout. Aileen was her daughter, but — ! If anyone should happen to ask, perhaps you might say... He just thought... Her face twisted. Though she was alone on the bank, it twisted with his whining and her distaste. Well, you know what thought did, she said to him now. She stabbed at the trigger, and blitzed.

How had it got to this? Were they not supposed to be greenies, for Christ’s own sake —. Even he said so, but if Aileen weren’t there he’d no doubt change his ways.

So now, the ragworts were taking a double dose...

She saw their silhouettes, most of them still the right shape. Where many a bee may sip, she thought sadly. And why after all was she bothering, having him stare out anxiously from the kitchen into the dark? (Oh, he could keep watch on her, he had X-ray vision these days.) It was so easy to brew in a guilty man. What a mess their lives were, nothing really clean or in its place. However, that was Tompsett foxed; she really had done it like she said.

But the task dragged on and she was getting careless. The pack was a monster, the bank was cow-poached and riddled with warrens too. Blah – the spray wafted up to her eyes. She started to sit down and was not stopping, blacking out and coming back up for grey. That was a close one. It wouldn’t do to snap a bone... Almost a grandmother after all. How he held her arm so gingerly after the check-up. Aileen at least didn’t know; that was a mercy. When she went inside, she would say something kind to him. In fact this: you missed a few, it’s as well I did go over it.



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