It was a very Biblical Easter in our little corner of England. Forty days and nights of rain sluiced the last of the snow through soil and silage, delivering it down from the hills in a great wave that set the motorhomes sailing in the caravan park like giant ducks in a tub of mud.
We were walking off the excesses of Easter Sunday, hot cross buns and turkey, enough chocolate to feed the five thousand and Simnel cake, God help us. A fruit affair lagged in marzipan, eleven balls of the stuff on top to represent the apostles. Judas excluded, as you might expect.
‘Coming for a walk?’ I said.
‘Don’t you mean a swim?’
We headed for the hills. It was dry enough above the flood. A man was walking two dogs, one a big white and brown crossbreed, part husky by the look of it. The other was terrier with an apologetic grin who kept close to the ground, its breath panting blackly. Last night’s thick frost showed no sign of thawing. The ground was iron-clad, crimping underfoot. A low-lying mist gave the impression that the sky had caved in.
To our left the last of the flood was boiling its way downhill, swelling what had been a stream, churning with twigs and branches. I watched a dozen or more rafts take form in the water as the jumble of wood came together before being rushed apart again.
A sandstone village sat over the next hill, typical of the English countryside, sedentary and formidable as a maiden aunt in her decline. Wood smoke shriveled from the chimneys, lost in the fog and frost. I thought I could smell it, a sweet note under a bitter.
At the foot of the hill the flood had separated either side of an oak tree. The tree’s branches parodied a water diviner, pointing to sodden abundance all around. On the left bank the flood waters had slowed enough to form a small lake. It moved at a gentle pace, meeting the swollen stream again on the other side of the tree.
There, in the edging current of the lake, we saw a lamb. Newborn, its ear clipped, drowned.
The water carried the lamb close to where we walked. Its little body was very pale. It made the frozen ground look grey. I wondered out loud where its mother was, but it was hard to imagine this lamb coming from anything as ordinary as a sheep. He or she was a phantom in the pool, not floating so much as holding the water around it, a collar of pearly white.
The current took it towards the arc of the oak tree.
It looked as if the lamb was carrying the flood towards the plain, its woolly head nodding the way downhill and down again, to where waves broke against the floating motorhomes that knocked at one another in vacant accord.
Sarah won the Fish Historical-Crime Contest with Fall River, August 1892, and has two stories in the Fish anthology 2008. She was a highly commended runner-up in the Biscuit Short Story Contest 2008. MO: Crimes of Practice, the Crime Writers' Association anthology, features Sarah's story, "One Last Pick-Up." Her work appears in Smokelong Quarterly, Literary Fever, Every Day Fiction, DOGZPLOT and Zygote in my Coffee. Sarah blogs at http://sarah-crawl-space.blogspot.com/
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