I forget who suggested it. It must have been Kevin.
Kevin decided. He said it like he meant
We trod the muddy banks of the river, the
three of us, finding our way by the light of a pocket torch; our
trousers sodden with the thick, brown sludge that filled the bog.
We walked in silence; none complaining, despite the bitter wind
that tore through our hoods. Kevin was in front, hands stuffed
into a dusty, felt overcoat and scarecrow hair curling out in the
wind. We walked like soldiers at war, marching under orders. We
were deadly serious.
We should have a gun, said Rhodri, breaking the silence.
Where we gonna get a gun? sneered Kevin.
He took a hammer from inside his coat and used it to beat a path
through the hedges. He wielded the tool like a weapon; a
wild-eyed warrior, or hunter, stalking his prey under cover of
Listen. You hear them?
Kevin had paused without warning and I
stopped up short behind him. I could hear them. As I squinted
into the darkness I could see them, just about, under the light
of a full moon. Farmer Lewis' sheep; soft and white and stupid;
chewing the cud.
Well? Which one you wanna get?
I figure it don't make much difference which one. All sheep is
pretty much the same.
You ain't having second thoughts now are you?
I ain't having any thoughts.
It's just a stupid sheep, is all.
I know it.
Go do it if that's what you're gonna do.
We climbed over the steeple one by one, with Kevin in front.
Strolled right on up to the flock; they didn't budge none. The
three of us stood all together over a tiny, bleating lamb.
Couldn't have been more than a few weeks old.
Here, take this. Have a drink.
Rhodri passed a whiskey flask on to Kevin who took a swig and
passed it on to me. I tilted the bottle and drank too much and
might've brought it back up but for Kevin standing looking at me.
I spat and wiped my mouth and stared back.
Yeah, we're ready.
He told us to grab the lamb. There weren't all that much lamb to
grab onto so we just kinda took a hold of its back, one on each
side. She didn't need but a single hand to fix her but neither of
us wanted to be seen to be less of a part of it so we held on
together. She didn't move none, just bleated and baaed and looked
at a bigger sheep I guess was her mama. Mama baaed and looked
over for a moment, then turned her head down and went back to
chewing the grass.
Kevin had the hammer raised high above his
head. I caught his eyes in the moonlight. He looked wild and
happy. I wondered if he might be crazy.
When he brought the hammer down the lamb
didn't cry out at all but her skull cracked like it was broken
into twenty pieces. She sagged were we held her and I saw her
front legs were buckled under.
You son of a bitch. You god damn son of a bitch.
Kevin whooped and howled at the moon and smashed the hammer back
down. When we let go the lamb collapsed, broken and dead. Her
mama baaed at us. She sniffed and stood and then turned and
walked away across the hill, as though this were some tragedy
foretold and now that it'd come wasn't nothing could be done for
You see that? She went down like a sack full of onions.
Yeah, I saw it.
We saw it, said Rhodri.
I lit a smoke and took a drag and passed it on to Rhodri. He took
two and passed it onto Kevin. Kevin stood smoking it until it
went out. Then he took a lighter from his pocket and relit it. In
the flame I could see his face was speckled with blood but I
didn't say anything. Wasn't nothing to be said. I waited until he
passed the joint back to me. It was almost done.
Well, that sure was something, he said.
Yeah, it was something.
We trudged back down through the mud. When we reached the stream
Kevin stopped to rinse off the hammer.
You think farmer Lewis is gonna be checking for fingerprints?
Ah what the hell do you know anyway?
He flung the hammer into the fields. It spun like a discus and
sailed on into the hedges. Kevin spat into the mud.
Let's go, he said.
We hadn't spoken barely a word on the way down. We walked into
the town - still caked in mud - and on into The Plume of
Feathers. I noticed John seated by the bar and I took up a
stool beside him. He ordered two whiskeys and we drank them off.
Where'd the blood come from? he said. You been fighting?
I followed his eyes to a dark stain on the
crotch of my jeans. Some fight.
Can you keep a secret?
What kinda question is that?
It's lamb's blood. Kevin killed a lamb
tonight, up at Lewis' place.
What'd he do that for?
He got some grudge against Lewis?
No, he ain't got no grudge.
You were there?
Yeah, I was there.
John turned to look at Kevin. He was playing pool, singing along
to some song on the jukebox. Rhodri sat watching him.
Well now that just don't make any sense. There's must be some
reason for it.
Well there ain't. What reason could there be?
Just figured there'd be something, is all.
No, there ain't nothing.
John looked at me.
You should get that blood off, he said.
I reckon I will before I get home.
How about another?