|The Winning Entry For
The Millennium Scribblers
Short Story Competition 2000
|The Millennium Scribblers
Short Story Competition
|The Millennium Scribblers
Creative Writing Work-Shop
|You can e-mail Victor with any comments you have about his work.|
|All the Authors work is copywrited and may not be used without express permission from said author|
|("Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened to receive your brotherís blood from your hand." Genesis 4 v 11 )
The golden yellow of the gorse hung lazily in the spring sunshine, their sweet pungent scent falling like an invisible low lying mist along the lower hedgerow.
Peter Kane slowly stretched his wiry frame to ease the stiffness settling into his shoulders and legs. His camouflage jacket and trousers were absorbing the
rising sunís rays making it at least comfortably warm.
He took a deep breath, and savoured the freshness of the thin spring air enveloped with the scent of the gorse. Closing his eyes, he sniffed the air again, this time picking out the scent of the grass and the damp earth.
"Heaven," he thought to himself. "Just to be alone out here with no-one to spoil it all. Pure heaven."
His uncle Rab had taught him to know the countryside. Uneducated and considered by family and friends to be Ďa penny short of the full shillingí, Rab rarely spoke and avoided company whenever possible. But in the young Peter he had found a kindred spirit, and he had taken the young boy under his wing and opened up a whole new world to him.
Not that anyone else, except his grandmother, ever saw anything useful in the tall, thin frame, dressed in baggy dungarees and flat cap, who swept the roads and did odd jobs around the village. Everyone else was too busy living their own lives not knowing, or even caring what was being enacted all around them.
But Peter cared. With a passion. He also felt hurt and embarrassed when Rab was regularly teased by the boys in the village, and really angry at the little snide remarks the adults would drop in now and then, pretending not to notice that they were within hearing.
"Donít be angry, lad," said Rab, "you have to learn to let it wash over you. If you appear to be different, or believe in something they donít understand theyíll lash out against you. A duckling in the farmyard will be pecked to death by one of itís own brood if it is a different colour. We humans are no betterÖworse even."
Peter tried to heed his uncleís words, but could never seem to find Rabís inner peace. So he buried his passions deep inside, and while Rab was quiet with a gentle air about him, Peter became quiet and withdrawn, with an aloofness and hardness that separated him from his peers. They didnít dare to tease him, at least not to his face, for there was something about the growing Peter that demanded respect, even fear, despite his small frame.
As the years passed, they grew more apart. Rab, growing older and frailer, found there was little new to teach the younger man.
Peter also discovered he had a natural aptitude for shooting. Rab pointed out to him that he also had a bitter streak deep inside. Whilst old Rab let nothing annoy him, Peter found himself getting angry about little things. He delighted in hunting the rats and weasels, the crows and magpies that he felt preyed on
the weak and defenceless.
"Youíd make a good gamekeeper, if there were any estates around here!" Rab would tell him. "But donít hate, laddie, donít hate them. Hate is like that cancer thing they talk about. Donít carry it around. It will only eat you up."
But no matter what he did to try to change or think otherwise, Peter found he never could change. The anger, like a taut inner spring, remained. Not for him the impersonal laying of traps or poison, but the stalking, the sighting and the satisfaction of the killing shot.
Soon his reputation grew, and farmers and landowners, even from the next county, would send for him to rid them of a troublesome animal when conventional methods failed or they were worried about their stock being harmed by poisoned bait. He was never more happy and content than when he was on a hunt.
Then one day, Rab was gone. As usual in the autumn time he had been brushing up the leaves that lay in mounds at the road side. A car had come speeding around the corner, barely controlled by the young joyrider at the wheel. It almost hit him and he had been sent spinning, falling to his knees. The pursuing police car, despite the skill of the driver, was not so fortunate, and skidded on the leafy mulch. The frail figure was tossed into the ditch.
Few came to the funeral, although many sent their respects. People who had never a good word to say to Rab were now eloquent in their eulogies.
"False, empty words ÖÖ.too little, too late!" Peter had inwardly seethed with each pat on the shoulder, each
handshake he had received.
"Theyíll pay! Someday they will all pay! Iíll not let them forget you, Rab." he told himself.
Now, two years later, the memory of Rab was as clear as ever.
Through the hedgerow that ran across the brow of the hill he had a clear view down the glen and across to the
neighbouring fields. In the distance a tractor was slowly ploughing a field, the turned furrows a dark, neat
pattern on the green.
"Francie McMillan is working today at least," he thought to himself and smiled as he pictured Francieís purple face and obese stomach hunched over the steering wheel. The only work that Francie was reputed to love was that of the two lifts - lifting his brew money and lifting his beer glass.
"Come on, Pete me boy, you have a job to do, so no distractions." he said to himself.
"Set your spot, Peter," he whispered as he tried to think where the mark would be most likely to appear as
it took up the bait. The trap had been set the previous night, under cover of darkness. The end of the overgrown lane that led to the long-deserted farm buildings was marked by a tall hawthorn, heavy with white blossom.
"Thatís the place," he murmured.
The hours passed. He found himself thinking of his next job. When he was finished here he would head over to the next county to ACís farm. He hadnít seen young Cunningham since they had been at the tech together six years before. He had left early to take over his fatherís sheep farm when the old boy had died from a heart attack, brought on they said by too much hard work and hard drinking. Out of the blue he had phoned Peter a couple of days before asking if he could help him get rid of a dog that was worrying his sheep. Something would have to be done, for he had lost too many ewes. The dog however, was too canny and neither he nor his neighbours was ever able to sight it,
let alone get a clear shot at it. Peter was pleased at being asked, his pride stirred.
It wasnít until late afternoon that the quarry finally appeared. At first it was only a flicker of movement out
of the corner of his eye. When he looked straight down, nothing was to be seen. Putting it off at first as a bird moving in the hedge, he saw the movement again. He tensed. Picking up the rifle he pushed it through the grass, each movement slow and measured, not giving any cause to alert the eagle eyes of the nervous quarry down below.
Holding the stock tightly against his cheek, he squinted through the telescopic sights. Now the scope
was tight against his right eye, and all other senses were blocked out except the images attacking his eye. He breathed slowly and deeply. His forefinger lightly touched the trigger, taking up the pressure. No clear view, not yet.
Then slowly a head came into the centre of the sights. Cautiously, eyes darting about looking for any sign of danger, the mark moved forward, itís brown facial markings blending in with the surrounding hedgerow. But not blending in enough. Peter squeezed the trigger slowly and deliberately. He knew it was a killing shot,
even before it struck.
The crack of the high velocity shot was still echoing around the hills as he got to his knees, slung the rifle over his shoulder and walked away back down the glen.
A wood pigeon, startled out of its roost, flew across the distant lane way.
The fluttering wings were unseen by the sightless eyes staring out of the camouflaged face. Corporal Abel
Cunningham, part-time member of the U.D.R., lay sprawled on his back, legs twisted under him. The only movement was the trickle of blood running from the gaping exit wound at the side of his head down his neck into the soft ground.
The curse of mother Ireland had brought another sacrifice, and as with the first so long ago, the earth opened to receive the blood offering.