This one I wrote as a try at writing a short story for The People’s Friend. I sort of like it, but don’t actually think it’s very suitable….
Fencing Dreams by Michael J. Parry
The sharp tap, tap, tap of hammer on staple echoed of the hill top, and down the gully.
Joseph opened his eyes, and sat up blearily. He looked around the porch, wondering where the morning had gone, and blinked at Sophie who sat on the other side of the small wooden table, a pot of tea and plate of biscuits between them.
‘What was that?’ His voice cracked, making him sound old and unsure, and irritation flashed through him.
Sophie put down the cup of tea she had been nursing, and leaned across the table to pat his arm gently.
‘Don’t worry dear, it’s just Ellie up at the top paddock. The western fence needed redoing remember? She told you earlier she was going to do that this morning.’
Joseph grunted, and then patted Sophie’s hand.
‘That’s right, I remember.’
Sophie’s withdrew her hand and picked up the cup of tea, gently stirring it. The soft tinkle of metal on china, filling the air. Joseph sighed, as the soft breeze played with his hair, and the elderly dog sleeping at his feet snorted and snored in contentment.
‘Does it always echo down here?’ The tap, tap, tap had resumed. “It’s quite a distance to the top paddock.’
‘O yes, dear,’ Sophie smiled at Joseph, ‘I have often sat out here listening to you, as you worked up at the top paddock.’
‘I never realised.’
‘Well of course silly, when would you have.’
Joseph laughed to himself, and picked up a biscuit and took a small bite.
‘You have a point there’
They lapsed into a silence then, watching the wind play with the leaves in the scrub bush that encompassed the bottom of the gulley. Listening to the birds sing and the trees, and every few moments, the tap, tap, tap of hammer on staple.
‘What are you think love?’ Joseph asked at last, his biscuit gone, and Sophie’s tea cup sitting empty now on the table.
‘Just remembering dear.’
‘Do you remember the first time you mended that fence?’
‘Of course, how could I forget,’ Joseph smiled at Sophie.
The sharp tap, tap, tap of hammer on staple echoed of the hill top, and down the gully. Joseph straightened, dropping the hammer to the ground, and putting both hands in the small of his back, stretched. He wiped his forearm across his brow, and blinked sweat from his eyes.
Leaning on the post, Joseph glanced at his watch, and then looked up at the sky. The noon sun shone brightly in the clear spring sky, not yet hot enough to burn but warm enough that with work he had needed to take his jersey off. Below him he could see the Manawatu River winding it’s way passed Dannevirke, and looking up the line of the Ruahine’s that sat edging the horizon. A bank of dark clouds hung draped over them, but he thought it would be nightfall before they advanced across the plains from the foothills.
Glancing down the line of fencing he had already completed, Joseph felt a glow of satisfaction. The line was good, and light clean unweathered batons marked a regular march up the hill. He looked at the line he had yet to finish, and nodded to himself in a satisfied way.
‘More than enough time, eh Cannock’ Joseph glanced down at the dog lying at his feet, tongue hanging out as he panted gently.
Cannock woofed as if in agreement, and Joseph smiled as he knew the dog was just happy to be talked to. He turned and walked carefully across the grass to the quad-bike parked on what could be called a trail. The ground was still soft from the rain, and his boots squelched in a satisfying way.
Joseph opened the bag that was resting on the back, and taking out a bottle of water, took a deep drink. Cannock had padded up beside him and looked up adoringly, panting all the while. Joseph smiled and tipping the bottle slightly poured an arch of water into the dogs mouth.
‘Not that you’ve been working at all, lazy.’
Cannock looked at him, and then down the hill and woofed. Joseph reached down and scratched the dog behind the ears.
‘What is it boy?’
He shadowed his eyes against the sun and peered down the valley. In the distance he heard the faint thrum of a motor, and around the bottom came a quad-bike. Joseph grin broadened and he waved at the figure perched precariously on the quad-bike as she edged carefully up the hill. Sophie wasn’t a country girl, and had been nervous about riding the bikes around the farm. It had been difficult enough to convince her to come up here on the back of his bike, let alone for her to ride one up herself.
A flash of worry cross his mind, as he had thought she was meant to be in town at her job in the florist, but as her made out her face, he could see she was only concentrating on riding the bike, and didn’t look upset.
Joseph waited by his bike, scratching Cannock behind his ear, and watching the bike carefully as it mad it’s way up the slope.
‘What are you doing here?’ he asked as Sophie drew up beside him and brought the bike to a halt.
‘I thought I might come up and have lunch with you’ Sophie slid of the bike.
‘What a good plan. But I thought you had work today.’
‘I did,’ Sophie shrugged, as she unzipped a bag she had strapped to the back of her bike. ‘But it is such a lovely day, and we weren’t busy. Mary didn’t mind me taking the rest of the day off.’
‘Well, that’s a lovely surprise. What have you got in the bag?’
‘Your lunch was a bit boring so I picked up some fish and chips.’ Sophie’s eyes twinkled, as she pulled a blanket from the bag, and a packet of newspaper rapped chips. ‘we can have a picnic.’
‘You think of everything,’ Joseph held out his hands, ‘here let me take that. There’s a dryer spot just over her.’ He nodded to just beside the fence line.
Taking the blanket, and a couple of cans Sophie passed him, he found the spot where the grass and mud were not quite so damp, and spread the blanket on the ground. They sat down on the blanket and Sophie opened the packet of fish and chips, spreading them out on the paper.
Sophie took a chip form the paper and nibbled on it, before flicking it through the air to Cannock who had flopped onto the grass beside them.
‘Can’t let you miss out can we?’ she said fondly, as the dog wolfed it down and looked at her with begging eyes pleading for more.
‘Careful,’ Joseph chuckled, ‘or he will eat it before we have our fill.’
‘He is looking a bit chubby’
‘Don’t say that you’ll give him a complex.’ Joseph had a chip himself, before flicking one Cannock’s way himself.
‘Poor dog,’ Sophie flicked him another chip, before eating one herself. ‘So how long will you be this afternoon?’
‘Not too long, I am about half way done.’
‘I’m impressed.’ Sophie eyed the fence line appreciatively, and then shot Joseph a naughty grin. ‘I do like a man who is good with his hands.’
Joseph swallowed his mouthful choking.
‘Look love, not while I am eating.’
Sophie just grinned at him, mischief dancing in her eyes.
A butterfly danced from flower to flower, as they sat quietly eating their lunch. After the last of the chips had gone, and they had finished their drinks, Joseph stood and held his hand out to Sophie helping her to her feet.
‘Thank you my love, that was a wonderful surprise,’ he kissed her softly on the lips. To his surprise he found himself engulfed in a fierce embrace.
‘Is there something the matter?’ Joseph asked.
Sophie squeezed him again, and then letting go, wondered over to the fence post and lent against it. Joseph came over and putting his arms around her, gently rested his chin on the top of her head.
‘I love this spot’ Sophie said with a soft sigh.
‘This view is what sold me on this farm.’
‘It’s a beauty.’ Joseph paused, ‘we could move the house up here you know’
‘What and spoil this spot. Hush yourself Joseph Cooper.’ Sophie growled him, and then turned to snuggle her head into his chest.
‘Has it only been five months?’ she said after a bit.
‘Yes. Any regrets?’
‘No, not a one.’
They stood that way for a long moment. Joseph closed his eyes, the warmth of Sophie’s head against his chest a comforting presence. He could here the sheep in the lower paddocks, and the birds in the gully. A lone Magpie sand from the stand of macrocarpa that stood against the wind not that much further down the hill.
‘I’m pregnant,’ Sophie said into his chest.
‘What?’ Joseph said. He stepped back to look down into Sophie’s face where tears of happiness and nervousness ran down her cheeks.
‘I’m pregnant.’ Sophie said again. ‘I took the day of and went to the doctor’s because I am eight days late. The test came back positive.’
Sophie looked up it him, her eyes filled with hope and dread.
‘Your pregnant?’ was all Joseph could say, blinking down at her with uncomprehending bemusement.
Sophie playfully smacked his chest with her hand.
’Yes pregnant, you great oaf. Are you happy?’
‘Happy? I’m ecstatic.’ Joseph cried as his brain finally processed what she had told him. He caught Sophie up and hugged her tight to him. ‘That’s fabulous news.’ And then kissed her soundly.
Sophie clung to Joseph tightly, as he puller her off her feet.
‘Careful’ she said.
‘Ops sorry,’ Joseph said, and gently put her on her feet.
‘I wasn’t sure you would be happy.’ Sophie said as they sat back down on the blanket. ‘we had sort of talked about children after the wedding, and while we hadn’t tried we hadn’t exactly been taking precautions.’
‘O my love, I am over the moon.’ He patted her knee. ‘We will have to tell my parents and yours, and our friends.’
‘Hold on, hold on’ Sophie laughed. ‘Lets wait for a bit. I am only a few weeks in and we don’t want to get a head of ourselves.’
‘I can paint the small room, and build a cot. Dad will help.’ Joseph continued as if he hadn’t heard Sophie.
‘I am sure.’ Sophie leant over and kissed Joseph.
‘What’s that for?’
‘Because you are going to be the best dad in the world.’
‘You think.’ Doubt crept into Joseph’s voice.
‘I have no doubt,’ Sophie said with determination.
They kissed again, and smiled into each others eyes.
‘We should at least go out an celebrate.’ Joseph said and stood pulling Sophie to her feet., ‘Although no drinking for you.’
‘What about the fencing?’ Sophie asked.
‘It can wait till tomorrow.’ He grinned with boyish enthusiasm. ‘the sheep can’t go anywhere.’
He picked up the blanket and then turning frowned at the two bikes.
‘You can come down with me. I will drop you off at the house, and then come back for the other bike, while you make yourself pretty.’
‘Are you saying I’m not pretty now?’ Sophie arched an eyebrow at Joseph.
‘You’re gorgeous.’ Joseph grinned at her. ‘But I think we shall go somewhere special.’
‘That will be my surprise.’ Joseph said as he packed up the rubbish into the bag and slung it onto the back of the bike. He mounted it and held out his hand to help Sophie straddle it behind him. His back warmed as she wrapped her arms around and rested her head on his back.
‘Ready?’ he asked.
‘Always’ She said.
He turned the key and the engine purred into life, turning down the hill, the rumble of the quad bike running before them.
‘Joseph’ he heard Sophie say.
Joseph blinked. Leaning over him Sophie gently shook his shoulder. ‘Joseph you fell asleep.’
The sound of a quad bike grew louder, and Cannock the Fifth raised his head to watch the bike round the bend from the top paddock and approach the house. The day was waning, and it looked like Ellie had finished at the top paddock.
‘What were you dreaming of my love?’ Sophie asked as they watched their granddaughter expertly park the bike in the big shed.
‘The first time I replaced the fence in the top paddock.’
‘A good dream then.’ Sophie took his hand in hers.
Copyright Michael J. Parry 2010