Now we’ve finished lambing, we chase Catherine ’round the yard, saying to deliver her baby, too. Catherine looks at us with eyes as dumb as fried eggs. Bigger calls her the village idiot, which is hilarious because that’s what the rest of the village call him. Mother hangs out the upstairs window shouting, “Leave her alone, boys! You’re scaring her half-witless!”

Catherine, not running any more, plonks her bum down on the cold ground by the duck pond, which is how she got pregnant in the first place. There’s a photo of the clouds and the sky in the pond, just the same as the real thing. I go sit next to Catherine and look with her while Bigger stomps in the puddles. When he keeps calling my name, I look over my shoulder and he’s got brown water all up his trouser legs to his willy. The sun shines off his face and back again.

“Do you want to hold one of the new lambs, Catherine?” I ask Catherine, who nods, so I get up and come back with one for her. It kicks its little legs against her belly so she looks at me and says “Smaller”, which is my name, and I take it off her. It’s got lovely shiny black eyes. I could kiss its face all day. It blaaaahs a tongue at me, but I wouldn’t kiss that! I throw it off my lap so it can run back to its mummy.

Mother’s in the doorway now, saying come in. It takes Catherine a bit to get up ‘cause of her pregnant, so I say, “Mum’s waiting, Mum’s waiting” until she’s on her feet.

The kitchen’s nice and warm. Bigger’s already got shortbread, one in his wet fingers, one in his mouth. There’s tea for everyone. Mother looks tired. She’s got the chalkboard she shows us sums on, and is holding it against her boobs. “I need to explain a few things,” she says. Bigger says he can’t see so Mother steps into the sunbeam through the window. Catherine says, “Can’t see,” so Mother steps back again, not as far.

“This is a family tree,” Mother says. There’s words on the board and lines going up and down and across and slanty. Mother tries to explain us what ‘child’ and ‘brother’ and ‘father’ and ‘uncle’ are and keeps looking at the Christmas pud belly on Catherine. She says it again, and draws more lines ‘til she’s scribbling on the board, like a baby. I look over at Bigger who grins at me. Mother’s got crying on her face, which makes me feel sad, so I have another block of shortbread off the plate.

Nick Black

Nick Black

Nick Black’s stories have been published by literary magazines including The Lonely Crowd, Spelk Fiction, Open Pen, Severine, Funhouse, Firefly, and Litro, with another coming soon to Jellyfish Review. They've also won various flash contests and been listed for the 2015 and '16 Bath Flash Fiction Awards, Land Rover/GQ/Salon House Short Story Competition and the Spread the Word Prize.
Nick Black

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