There was, even now, a strong smell of chicken shit in the shed. It caught me in the throat. But the creatures in the shed now were not chickens. And I could not see them. All the wooden pegs had been scattered on the dusty floor. Looking now, with my eyes of all the years, I finally understood why my sisters had called them dolly pegs: faces blanked, bodies naked and defiled. Now the half-made dress on the old iron dressmaker’s dummy was torn, the stuffing was bursting out and something was moving in there. I held the chains on the door tight and the cold metal froze my fingers. I heard shards of laughter beyond the chains, between the slats, and I knew I would fall, just like the little disemboweled pottery owl lying there by the pegs. I would be on the floor, naked and squirming like the rest of them. Until I fell still. Unless. Unless you arrived, and you wouldn’t. You had gone with the chickens and the harvest, which had been late that year. I had the flavour of you in my mind, just that. A frill of something underwater, receding.
Cath Barton lives in Abergavenny, South Wales, where she sings, writes, takes photographs and grows unusual and delicious vegetables.
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