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.

The Machine

Enya returns from the rural warehouse disappointed, and joins me in the car.

“They’ve discontinued my model, and the new one looks terrible! And the women are so offhand and rude in there!”

I’ll go in and see for myself.

A young couple from New Zealand, crossing the mown grass fronting the building, break into a run. Laughing, I join them, awkward on my wounded leg. We throw ourselves prone on the gentle brow of the hill, soldiers or scouts alert to dangers all around. Neither seems to question the sudden presence of this disarming stranger.

I can feel grassy stubble tickling my chin. Rash-inducing. Such sensitive skin, stinging in response to a tiny bead of essential oil in an ocean of bathwater. I’m like the Princess and the Pea.

Inside, the brusque attendants admire a much-contoured, Segway-like machine. Over-contoured, like some doomed car model forever to be reviewed as “Good value second-hand due to its weird looks”. Or “Cons: Looks weird”.

Sticky-backed plastic still coats the shiny machine’s skin, slightly dog-eared at awkward corners, yet ready to be peeled off like great sheets of sunburn on arrival in its new mistress’s home. For now, it stands dumbly there against the wall.