Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Storm Warning, an excerpt



Jean Therrasan dug his knife into the muscles on the back of the cow’s neck and jerked the blade across, putting enough weight behind the blade to sever the animal's spinal cord.  The cow dropped to its knees and slowly fell over on its side.  Its eyes rolled.  It kicked weakly.  Jean untied it from the tree and dragged the head around.  He stabbed the knife into the animal’s throat, sawing the knife toward him.  Hot blood gushed out over his hand and onto the ground.
This was the last of Madam Amabelle’s cows and it was an old one, its ribs showing.  She had offered him a portion of the meat in exchange for his butchering it but now he was thinking he would just let her keep it.  He wondered what she would do after the meat was sold.  Two of her children dead in the earthquake and one, the eldest, never heard from again after he slipped away one night.  Gossips said he was in the Bahamas, in Dominica, dead. 
“Jean, you not listening to me,” his brother, Guy, accused, dragging him out of his thoughts.  “Claude, Yonel, Jaques, Marie, they will all be there.  They have agreed.” 
Jean straddled the dying cow.  Its hind legs vainly kicked the air.  Jean pushed the cow’s chin up with one hand and made another slash with the other, slicing through ligaments and skin to open a cut that went almost from ear to ear.  The cow glugged, trying to suck air but drowning in its own blood.  Jean pulled apart the folds of skin.  The blood pooled on the stony ground.  His dog crept forward and lapped at it.  Jean pulled the head away, cut out small chunks of flesh and threw them at the skinny dog.
“You talk and talk about wanting to leave but now I show you how you can do it, you have nothing to say.”
Jean sighed.  He wiped his bloody hand on the cow’s flanks and turned to face his brother.  Blood dripped from the knife.
“What time?”
“Henri said the plane comes in at two.  The officers should be back at the station in half an hour.”
Jean thought about it.  “How many will there be?”
His brother hissed impatiently.  “How I would know that, Jean?  I don’t know how big the plane is.  It will be enough for all of us to get some, you, me, Henri, all of us will get some.  It’s the best chance we’ve had all year.”
Jean waited him out.  “I meant, how many officers will there be?”
“Oh.” Guy flicked his hand dismissively.  “Three.  Yes, three.  I think three.”
Jean’s gaze sharpened. 
Guy hunched his shoulders defensively.  “Henri wasn’t sure but he didn’t think it would be more than five.  Around three, that’s what he said.  It’s possible there might be five.  It depends on who’s on duty.”
Jean turned his attention back to the cow which still kicked weakly.  It was taking long to die.  He stepped on top of it and bounced up and down, one foot on the ribs, the other on the softer tissue of its stomach.  More blood spurted from the animal’s neck. 
Bon, I will come,” he said.
His brother beamed, pleased.
That was the start, Jean thought, watching the captain help the woman and child into the boat.  That night brought him here.  One thing leads to the next in a person’s life just like how one bead on a chain follows on from another.  The boat rocked on the waves as the woman lurched.  The boy fell forward and began to cry.  Jean leaned back slightly and dipped his hands in the water.  It was surprisingly warm.
Doudoux, doudoux, do not cry.”  The woman sank down onto one of the hard wooden seats and pulled the boy to her.

Available 25th April, 2013

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