Sprouting potato

Green-tinged, somewhat shrivelled. Fragile, finger-like, waxy shoots emanating. This spud has spent too long waiting to be boiled, and is making a bid for freedom.

Resurrection.

Mum fishes it out of the fridge and sets it aside for planting. It’s the one that got away.

I dig great ridges of metallic-smelling, crumbly brown earth – pulling out couch grass and bishop-weed, shaking soil off the roots and flinging them in the cracked yellow pail. It’s a big task, and yet I’m happy. Inquisitive neighbours look down from the pavement passing above, and cars snore by. The potatoes are gently laid to rest at 18 inch intervals, and earthed up. No watering – it would simply make them rot.

As weeks pass, dark green leaves peek through, brushing the earth from their faces and smiling at the fickle sun. They stretch themselves higher. And yet, some gardening wisdom – handed down, but poorly understood – says I must once more “earth them up”. I bury them again up to their necks.

Kestrel

“Look! You can see how it just flickers its wings for a brief moment, and then hovers. It’s a kestrel!”

As the car continues, I twist and crane my neck to keep it in view.

“They’re slightly reddish in colour, though against the light perhaps you can’t see. There it goes!”

Closing its wings, it plummets to the ground. Moments later, it flaps heavily off to a location more distant from the road.

“I think it’s got something! Look how much slower it is now.”

The car rounds the bend, and the kestrel and its prey vanish behind a heather-clad cutting.

Sparrowhawk is something else. Sitting in the living room, face steaming with the healing vapours of thick cocoa, I gaze out at the snow. On the multi-headed bird feeder – more like a tree – they’re busy. Great tits, blue tits, chaffinches. Blackbirds and dunnets on the ground, gathering up the crumbs from under thy table.

Suddenly, a great scatter. They explode in all directions, like a silent, feathery firework.

Bang! Something hits the window glass.

Looking out, I see a pitiful small corpse. A chaffinch, so dusty-grey pink in its fine breast feathers, lies in the snow.

We pull on wellies and go round to the now deserted terrace. Picking up her frail warm form, cradling it in my hands.

“She may be OK still. Bring her inside in the warm.”

Inside, in a shoebox, sentinels warding off the cat, the fragile bird gradually comes round.

The Rabbit

It’s a few feet from the verge, looking slow and disoriented in our approaching headlights. Ben slows down to a crawl, fearful of hitting it.

“It makes me so angry!” says Karen. “No, we can’t leave it like that. Myxy is such a terrible death – they’re suffering so much!”

“D’you want me to run it over, love?”

I can feel Enya tense up beside me, gripping my hand, as Ben reverses the car a hundred yards, halts, then engages first and floors the accelerator.

“Get a clean shot!”

The rabbit wavers, and Ben swerves slightly.

Thud.

My body whole body spasms, spine tensing and tingling.

The car stops, and they look back in the darkness.

“Not sure. Did I get it properly?”

“Yes, yes.”

Ben seems ready to get out and take a look.

“Honestly. That was a clean hit. It’s dead.”

The good deed’s done.

Letter

I can’t believe she feels that way.

The roughly torn envelope lies on the duvet, glaring, and the crumpled sheets, close-written, lie on the crumpled sheets.

It’s the end.

My chest hurts, and I feel pain in the belly that’s not hunger.

Sitting out in the car at work’s car park, I can’t go in. Just sitting there. I call Sonia, lifeline, and words, kind words, reel my fleeing soul back in. I’m alive, aren’t I?

I start the ignition. Companionable diesel engine wakes up, and together we drive down to the sea.

“It was a good time, wasn’t it? We really did have good times.”

Counting blessings is worth the painful effort.

Sitting on the cold black rocks of the breakwater, I breathe in the smell of salt, seagulls and sewage, wondering whether there’s some way back.