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.

Copyright Sue Vincent

This is a response to the Thursday Photo Prompt – Remains curated over at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo. Click on the link to read other stories inspired by the image.

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.

32 responses to “AMONG THE REMAINS”

  1. A great story to come out of a feather! Just one point I’d make though, if she could feel the baby wriggling and her old man still didn’t know she was pregnant, I’m wondering why and how she’s been hiding it all these months 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • A similar thing happens in Sunset Song, back in those days the rural men were simple crofters and not so educated, and women wore layers of clothing that covered such things more. Likewise, I often find stories where women give birth without realising they are pregnant unbelievable too, but apparently it does happen.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Was the hubster up in the mountains for awhile? Was this HIS baby? Did she just not realize (yeah, that one I doubt). If he was around all the time, wouldn’t he have noticed, or was he the Man’s Man, and didn’t put up with no women fuss.?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love this story, starting with the killing then revealing the lives and why Bessie must die. Perhaps she had waited in vain for a good moment ( such as rain arriving ) to tell her husband about the baby.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope Robert is pleased and doesn’t fly off the handle. I hope too they have the funds to buy food they can’t produce. This is a really bitter sweet tale, new life entering a stretch household, and the descriptions of the drought have me fetching a glass of water.

    Liked by 1 person

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