Next in Wales Arts Reviews’ Flash Fiction Week series is Waiting for Rain by Cath Barton, award-winning writer of The Plankton Collector.
Out in the paddock the hare is sitting under the trees. It’s been there all morning. The woman opens the bathroom window for a better view and the animal’s ears twitch but it doesn’t move. When they first came to the farm you hardly saw a tree on these flatlands, apart from the big monkey puzzle on the lawn in front of the house. They’d planted the woodland, a strip ten metres wide and two hundred metres long, a windbreak. At first the trees had grown well but now the leaves yellowed by August and barely stood out against the dust raised by the gravel lorries, trundling back and forth all day, every day. Except on Sundays, when the two eyes of the traffic lights stayed green all day but no cars passed.
The woman finishes cleaning the sink. It’s a habit, like everything. Something to hang on to. She goes downstairs and walks through the kitchen. The back door is open, as it always is in summer. She raises her face to the air. There is a smell of rain coming. Her man is at down at the yard, tinkering with some bit of machinery. He won’t ever retire, even though he could now that their son is the one with his name on the farm sign, even though they’ve already made more money than they can ever spend, even though there is no-one to leave it to.
From the kitchen window the woman watches a woodpecker digging for worms on the grass. She smiles at the dip and swoop of its flight, a yellow flash as it takes the food to its nest. Then her face closes as she sees the men walking out from the yard, coming home for lunch. She wishes now that they had let their boy marry that girl. A farmer needs a wife.
She turns, fetches food to the table ‒ bread, cheese, tomatoes, a bottle of the cider her man likes. They can afford whatever they want now, but they prefer simple things. For a moment there are sudden fat spots of rain on the window. The men come in and they eat. Her son says he was going to spray, but the wind’s got up. They don’t talk about rain. They all know how much the ground needs it, the wheat needs it. And they know how often it skirts to the east or the west, missing them.
The men go back to the yard. The woman walks round to the vegetable garden. She sees that the leaves of the potato plants are wilting. If the rain doesn’t come they’ll have to put the sprinkler on later. The lavender that she planted by the wall has taken though. It can stand the dry.
Walking back she sees her man and her boy, stopped on the road, looking to the north where it’s dark now and raining. And she sees too what they don’t see, the hare leaping over to the trees.
Waiting for Rain by Cath Barton is part of a Wales Arts Review series publishing original flash fiction pieces by some of Wales’ top authors in a celebration of the unique literary genre and National Flash Fiction Day.