Across the Field by Cath Barton

Fiction

Across the field, it’s wheat or barley, I never know which, but there are hares that run gallopy gallopy alongside it in the early morning when my eyes are still gummed half-closed with sleep, and there’s one of them stops all of a sudden right by me, ears a-quiver, pulling my eyes properly open wide now, and at my feet I see the little tracks of the deer, neat feet in the sandy soil.

Across the field to the entrance to the wood where the air is instantly cooler, the birds calling, calling, young ones chirping and the mothers swooping in with fresh-pulled worms, flashes of bright wriggling against the mute of the trees which sleep all night till they feel the sun warm their uppermost leaves and shake themselves awake.

Across the field, back where I’ve come from, they’re waking up at what they call hame, my brothers yelling to mam that I’m gone and her saying to them nay mind you get dressed and your sister can look after hersell and it’s true, it’s always been true, more than she knows though I’d tell her if she asked, I would say, but she never does, nay mind.

Across the field is my way to the bridge to the island, out of the house, across the field, into and out of the wood to the island, across the wooden slats that hold together just about above the stream and across there I take a path just the smallest of paths to my place, my real hame, the place where I would sleep but that’s a bridge too far for mam, for goodness sake girl you canna be out with the fairy folk at night.

Across the field and the wood and the bridge across the water there are butterflies all the way, weaving with me though you wouldn’t see them, nor my brothers they’re way too clumsy and mam is just too busy with keeping us clean and fed though I could catch a fish in my own wee hands, I know I could I’ve put my hands in the water by them time and time, I see them through the clear of it though of course I wouldna take their lives I couldna do that not when I’ve felt the heartbeat of another creature.

Across the field, the wood, the bridge and along the small path to a dragonfly pool, the place where I dreamed away all the days of all the summers of my childhood. And now my childhood is a place in my old mind and I walk slowly across the field. I know but who else would, for there is no wheat or barley. I still don’t know one from the other and the ground is concrete. For here is the future, people pushing supermarket trolleys heavy with packets and bottles and cans to their cars parked in shining rows. Not a blade of green or even the beginning of a bird’s song and they tore down the wood too. Where oh where did all the poor creatures go?

Across the field that was and the wood that was to the water which even they cannot take away, though the wooden slats are long gone so there is no bridge to the island. I can see from here that it too is has been concreted over as part of the future, the vainglorious future where our grandchildren can only find fairies in books.

 

Biography
Cath Barton is an English writer and photographer who lives in Wales. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella for The Plankton Collector, which will be published in 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. Read more about her writing at cathbarton.com.

Image: Jordan McQueen