Short story (extract)
[…] But first the hair. After last time he’d learned his lesson about the tipping. He up-ended the kitchen jar, but it seemed there was nowhere to put the coins. His usual jacket had pockets bagged and open, ready to hold the weight of his hands. This black suit was a stiff winter-weight wool affair, the flat pockets still sewn shut. They’d planned to bury Mac in it, but by the time his end came he’d shrunk too much. Wesley tucked the coins down his sock and eased the jacket off the chair. He shucked the thing on and headed out the back door.
By the time he reached the outhouse he was already running a finger under the collar. It made him feel unwelcome in his own skin. Wesley moved fast and blind through the rituals, avoiding the little mirror hung from the window catch, a cobweb doubled in its face. Mac’s badger hair shaving brush lay on the windowsill, splayed flat, bone dry.
Lower Field was muddy after the rains. Wesley tied two plastic bags round his boots to protect them as he crossed from the farm. The run-off from the road had revealed the landslip of a badger run. He should bring the shotgun down tonight. Wesley noted it, then let it go. He was weary of slaughter.
The village bus was half full, all the other passengers women. One or two offered up eye contact as he swayed to the back, but no-one broke the thread of their gossip: farmer’s wives used to taciturn men.
The hedgerows blurred silver-grey, still shedding twists of late leaves. The memorial was at four: a belated attempt at a dignified goodbye after the chaos of Mac’s midnight coughing fit, the ambulance bouncing over the kale beds, the hospital cremation.
They had asked him to say a few words about his father. This man who never touched him except to grip and grab. What was there to say? He could only see now Mac’s claw hand swooping down to steer him by his nape. Mac raging drunk in the doorway, already unbuckling his belt. Mac slumped unconscious at the kitchen table, that sausage of greyish skin folded over his collar, the piano roll of bumpy follicles.
There were words for everything. He must find some and say them, and that would be that. Tomorrow nothing would be different but his hair would be shorter. […]
© tessa sheridan