My first Sunday short story.
The bulls head hung heavy on his thick neck. Breath bombs exploded out of his damp nose, across the dewy grass. the bull patrolled the field that separated our house from the farm, a place of men, mystery and machinery that i was keen to explore.
My mother had recently married a jockey turned racehorse trainer, a skinny, vicious man who had gained fame for training a Grand National winner. We moved from the seaside town of Milisle to this ocean of green racetrack.
One day Sally, the publican’s daughter, came to visit. She was different, a bit slow, but I was glad of any company in this isolated nook of England.
“let’s visit the farm, then” I said with 6 year olds, everything’s possible nonchalance.
“But what about the bull?”
“We’ll go along the long way, by the road.” I said shaking my head at Sally’s stupidity, her lack of will and paucity of daring.
At the farm, I saw it immediately: a large metal cylinder, like a ladder bent into a cylindrical shape. Perfect for speed, motion and rolling downhill. It was a sure source of fun.
“Get in Sally” I commanded. “I’ll push and once it’s going I’ll get in too.”
Sally, with her doughy personality, complied and climbed inside the metal cage.
I set about heaving and pulling the intransigent wheel with all my skinny might.
Feeling a wobble, I redoubled my efforts.
Suddenly, in a rush of chaos, Sally was screaming. The wheel had toppled over and trapped Sally’s leg against the wall.
I thought of her knock-kneed leg under all that weight. Surely, it couldn’t survive.
I ran around the farm, trying to yell, “help but no sound came out of my mouth and anyway,
inside the barn, the men engrossed in their machinery paid no attention to me.
My only option was to sprint across the field and get help from home.
Somehow, I’d always known I’d have to reckon with that bull.
The bull was busy in the far corner of the field. No time to think. I squeezed my eyes shut – if I don’t see him maybe he won’t see me – and headed to the house, running with all my might, spurred on by the image of me impaled on the end of the bull’s horn.
I reached the sitting room. Unable to speak and breathing in raucous gasps I pointed to the farm.
“I knew something was wrong,” My mother said.
Even in my traumatised state, this puzzled me. With the vigilant brain of an anxious child, I sifted this announcement. If my mother thought something was wrong what was she doing sitting in her chair? What is Intuition without action? Useless, right? My mother had no idea what she was doing. She was careening wildly through life, falling off bar stools and marrying dangerously mean men. I could not rely on her.
But who, then, could I trust? I’d roved myself to be a coward, someone who would shamefully encourage another to take a risk I was too scared to take.
It seemed like forever before Sally was brought to the house, carried in a blanket. Her leg was horribly bruised, but no bones protruded from the skin.
My mother ran a bubble bath for Sally while I made her tea and biscuits by way of an apology.
By the time Sally’s parents arrived, Sally was a smiling, talcum-perfumed girl with a black and blue leg. I offered up prayers of thanks and basked in the warm afterglow of things not working out too badly.
But a sliver of shame entered my soul that day, a sense of my own weakness, that i have never been able to remove.