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by Gareth Spark

A jackdaw landed in the ash tree on the far side of the muddy field. I watched it scrape its claws along the bare branch, the sky a pale pink and gold behind it as the sun broke the hills and another January day began. I smoked a cigarette, held the rifle across my knee, and wondered if I would see that same sun sink. Most likely not, but whatever happened today was always going to happen. It was as unchanging as the stone circle in the field behind my woods and nothing I could do would change it. My daughter thought differently. She’d been out the day before to see if I’d packed up the caravan and the sheds I’d built over the last twenty years. The Mrs. and I settled here in the ’90s, when we grew tired of the road, the festivals, the smoke stink over the baby’s crib. When we wanted to settle at least halfway into civilization, but not completely, not ever; the world they’d built, all them suits and money men, was a rotten thing that takes and expects you to be grateful for the crucifixion.

“You have to see sense, Dad,” she said. “They won’t let you live here no more; and these you built here, look you, you haven’t no permission for them.” She wore the purple uniform of the supermarket that gave her a pittance for 24 hours a week.

“Who said I can’t?”

“The council.”

“Fuck the council.”


“What’ll they do to me, my girl, put me in gaol? They move me from here and from living how I want to live, they’ll be putting me in gaol anyway, the one they all live in.” I pointed at her uniform. “And what’s that but a prison uniform? They should put black and white stripes on it.”

She shook her head and looked over into the woods behind. They were bare, wet, and graphite-grey, filling slowly with the night. It was an old wood, had been old when the Normans came this way and was probably old when the stone circle went up. It spooked some folk, which is why I liked it, it kept them away from the hut I built deep in the woods, where I grew a few things I could sell for cash.

Eve said, “You’re a foolish old man.”

“I always was.”

“You can’t fight lawyers and police and council all.”

“I will,” I said, “you watch me.”

I don’t doubt if she’d known about the rifle, she’d have kicked up a fuss, as her Mother did when I had a gun years ago. Now I’m at the end of that long road, and I suppose I’ll see her again before too much longer. Ha, will I hell, but it’s nice to dream. I watched the jackdaw for a little longer. The blue cold worked at my cheekbones, above the beard, and I planned how I was going to do it.

Gareth Spark is from Whitby, Yorkshire. His short fiction and poetry has appeared in Shotgun Honey, Line Zero, Out of the Gutter, NAP, Poetry Bus and Deepwater Literary Review, among others. He reviews poetry online for Fjords Review, among others.