She brought the axe down on the bird’s neck. The body, until then a squirming, panicked, struggling handful went limp. The last few feathers floated to the ground and all was still.
She wiped the sweat from her brow. The sun continued to beat down relentlessly. They all said the weather would break soon, it had to. Jacobs, MacDonald and Guthrie at the Mill all swore they had never seen a season like it.
The other crofts, with fields on the wetter ground down near the burn still clung to hope that a downpour could salvage their yield.
It was too late for their crop this year. The fields were a dusty carpet, the gentle breeze creating small clouds of dried earth floating over the cracked soil. The few stalks that had broken the surface were dry, brown and shrivelled. They were all that remained of the toil and effort from ploughing and seeding and working the land for the year.
And now Bessie had stopped laying. Maybe she was dehydrated in the warm drought too. At least she had the means to give them a nice meal tonight, chicken pie with a few vegetables. The rest she would stew and that would sustain them for the rest of the week.
Robert would be down from the hills that evening, the lambs and sheep would be brought in to go to market by the weekend. She would have to ask him to pick up more grain and vegetables while he was in town.
She placed her hands on her back and stretched the aching joints. She felt movement in her belly and fondly responded to the life burgeoning inside her. She hoped Robert would be overjoyed when she told him. It would make life harder for them, but next year the crop may be bountiful.
She picked up the remains of Bessie and made her way inside to the kitchen to start cooking the dinner.
I have recently been filling a gap in my reading by finally getting round to ‘Sunset Song’ by Lewis Grassic Gibbons, one of Scotland’s most famous novels. I think it may have influenced this short story.