Friday, 14 September 2012


The hay bale topples from the stack. Gets wedged between the smoking exhaust and the tractor window. Wilf curses and opens the door. Leans out of the cab and starts to push: lays his gnarly old hands on the curve of straw. His foot slips and he starts to fall, the ragged jagged edge of the rusting door slicing his throat as he goes.

We thought we were going to lose him his stick-thin wife said. It was just like cutting a pig.

Wilf. His gnarly hands and white hair.

From Sunday to Friday, he was sober. Never touched a drop. Never used tobacco.

The stories and legends that grew up around him. Like Christmas time. They'd get up early on the eve of that good day, rising in the dark, to get as much done so that the next day would be easier.

Saturday night's he'd go into the barn. Pull back the dust sheet from his burgundy Ford. Drive his wife down into the village. Go to the inn. His stick-thin wife would take nothing stronger than bitter lemon. But Wilf would drink pint after pint until he could drink no more. Smoke a cigarette. Then another, until the pack was gone.

That was the only time the car would get used. Same as the front parlour only got used at Christmas. For the rest of the week he drove a pick up. The cab was caked with mud. The seat covers were held in place with baler twine. They were made of fertilizer sacks.

One Saturday night, when they finally managed to get him home, he fell asleep in the kitchen chair. For a laugh, his stick-thin wife put a dog bowl on his head.

Christmas Eve. He'd walk across his fields, down to the village with a torch held under a piece of red silk. Many a village child believed that they'd seen Rudolph that magic night.

Wilf. The clearest of eyes. Like hard-boiled eggs but with blue yolks. The century passed him by and stories and legends grew up around him.

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