Dr Derek Neale - a Reading of His Short Story

Land of Their Fathers Added£1.99
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(A short story of 7334 words)

Land of Their Fathers


by Derek Neale

This is the story of two characters in a small town in Wales who only meet once, with shocking consequences.

The town sits under grey granite scree: its roofs glimmer like the teeth of a saw, cutting deep into the outcrop of the mountain. The quarries lie dormant: no millstones grinding, no wailing sirens or belly blasts. Only a dirty green grass silently reclaiming the pits of dust and sweat...

Before he reached school age his father sat with him at the bench nearly every day. They modelled little animals and people from spare lumps of muddy clay – lions, boys and goats, and a girl they named Rhiannon in honour of their new home. Like all the others she found a space in the kiln for the biscuit firing but went without colour or glaze. The joy lay in the mud, and in the wheel: spinning, splashing, bowls rising from nothing, strange shapes giddily pirouetting. The water, warm to young hands, chiselled the arthritic joints of his father, so even then it pained him to play with his son. Even then, in the slime of his daily work, his father's hands ached for the wheel to slow and for the water to stop running.

When she was a child, her dad read from his most precious book: of moonless night in a small town, starless and bible black. And he told her it was off to the south – this sloe-black, crow-black land – as if grey, the slate grey of their town, was a shade closer to heaven. He sang to her in his halting asthmatic rasp of princesses and princes, and of Y Ddraig Goch, the dragon on the mountain who guarded the valley. He told her of a time before the quarries, of the farm on the mountain, with his father, and his father before him. But when she asked why he kept the shotgun in the wardrobe, he gave no farmer's talk – of pests and crows and rabbits – but said it served to keep the Devil and his witches at bay...

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