CREATIVE João Morais

NWR Issue 105

Plunder

Eight labourer’s cottages. Knuckled and whitewashed and damp. Sunday trew for the job, and his only pair with pockets at that. The town is at Church and Chapel. Quick are Grayson’s feet up the garden path, but quiet he creeps along. Not a siw or a miw past the gate and the hedge and the kale.

He breathes in. The sweet herb scent of burning wet wood. The birth of the stillborn morning. This is what he’s thinking. Not of Grace. Not of what happens if he gets caught. Another conviction and the fine will be crippling.

The back door to the third is not barred. It opens into a bedroom. Not even a filled chamber pot under the bed. A door to the right. The long slate in the pantry. A hunk of cheese goes in his inside pocket.

Into the parlour. He looks around. Embers on the grate. A bowlen of dried flowers. Her Majesty’s dour jowls in a frame. The diamond-stencilled paper peeling off the wall. He finds the port on the dresser shelf and takes the last swig. There’s no time. Pewter cups on the mantelpiece. Ornaments either side, a pair of twisted purple roses. The kind of thing Grace loves. He puts them in his pockets. It’s a Sunday. No chance of selling to someone who doesn’t care. It’s not enough but they’ll have to do.

Outside and he swaggers back down the old Penparcau road, thinking of where to raid next. Wondering how long Grace will remain stable. He’s looking beyond at the smooth tumble of hills and that’s why he almost misses the Stranger. He’s walking towards him. The only two men not indoors praying.

Grayson feels uneasy when they get closer. The Stranger looks like he knows something. Eyes sharper than Shropshire cider. The uncircumcised lips of a fish. Flame-bright hair but not like anything from Rosslare Harbour. You could tell he was hot for the clecs. They nod heads and move on. When Grayson gets to the bridge he looks back. The Stranger is looking back too.

Ling-di-long he walks through town. Trying to forget the Stranger, roughly heading back home. Or summoning up the courage at least. The sun blasts the heat onto his face. Roasting his skin to a darker shade of white. When he gets to the High Street the breeze brings a poster. He reads it out loud to himself and folds it up to fit in his pocket. At least he has the next job.

Two minutes later and he pauses before thumbing the catch on his own front door, and breathes in. His wife is on the settle, staring at the fire. She turns her head. He stares at the muddy clasp of hair that clings to her scalp...

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