Ballicatter

Politics and Economics

Hard Pain

by

We dug a grave in the centre of our living room, covered it over with a rug woven from wool I’d shaved off the backs of my sheep. I had asked for the simplest design and my daughter stitched in inch-thick crimson letters her brother’s name.

I for one could not weep. A greedy April sun claimed my wife’s tears. If my daughter cried she did so in her sleep.

We were out one day, like good shepherds, driving in new stakes to hem our fence, when he fell to one knee and said he had no breath. Mootrey and his sons came up the lane to help me carry my boy to his mother.

He told the doctor of a pain in the chest. Doc said: “What kind of pain is it? Is it sharp, dull, does it ache? Is it a cramp? Does it feel like something twisting, crushing, burning, pulling, squeezing, stabbing...?” He said it was hard pain. That was that.

Six weeks later, we saw Mootrey and his sons coming up the lane to offer a hand. They knew this would be a hard year. I may never know another kind.

The dogs ran up ahead but we took our time, smoking, the sun going deep and dyeing our skin. In the cool stable, my boy trimmed and chewed fat from one of my lambs. And I will think of him standing there in my place all the days of my life.

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