‘We’ll try up Bracks first,’ he says as they pull out of the yard, dawn breaking across the frosted earth, the sky wide streaks of pink and violet, like a child gone crazy with the crayons. He leans over slightly to see past his daughter and across the mere.
‘Magga saw a whole family down there a few mornings ago, down near Hundred Foot,’ he says, sweeping his arm out in front of her. He looks over at her, her long hair obscuring her face, and wonders if she’s bored. It was easier when she was a child, running around the farm in her red wellies, sitting on his lap in the tractor, pointing out the cows, the trees, the birds, pointing at everything. The glee of it she felt. He felt.
He let his eyes return to the fields, the familiar. A map of crops and hedgerows he could draw with his eyes shut. Black fen peat that will soon turn emerald and gold as winter recedes. He lives this land, he’s made of it, every bone, every ache. He scans the horizon, searching, every so often slowing down where he’d seen some recently.
‘Look, rabbits!’ she shouts.
He smiles as they watch two rabbits bounce along the grass verge, before disappearing into the ditch in a flurry of white. He takes a left off the main road and down a dirt drove.
‘There!’ he says, breaking hard and pointing to his right. ‘Do you see them?’
‘Three of them! Do you see, look, you see the gate in the far corner of that field, look a bit to the left, the other side of the ditch.’
‘Oh yeah! I see them! I see two, bit I don’t…’
‘The other one’s just gone behind those brambles, look you can see his head, hang on I’ll get us closer.’
They bump across the field, and he stops as near as he dares.
‘Look Dad, they are looking right at us,’ she whispers, eyes fixed ahead.
They sit and watch in silence. The doe bends her head, pulling at the long grass, then raises it and starts to lick the fawn’s back. The younger deer nuzzles against its mother. The stag emerges and takes a few steps towards their vehicle, the stops, statuesque, looming large against the endless flat of the land.
After a while, the stag turns and leads his family away. Long thin legs slow and graceful, the follow the ditch in single file before disappearing into a thicket.
‘I can’t believe how close we got!’ she says, grinning, turning towards him.
‘We’ll have a look at Hundred Foot before home, we might see some more,’ he says, switching the engine back to life.
Much later, long after she has returned to
he thinks about that morning they shared with the deer, and he feels like
something has shifted. That
something lost had been, for a moment restored. Though he could never have explained
this to his wife or daughter, or even to himself. London
"A wonderfully evocative picture, drawn by Linda, of the yearning of a parent to keep their child from disappearing into adulthood. Lovely phrases like 'a map of crows' and 'the frosted earth'."