Chapter 21

I woke up early next morning. It was still pitch-black and silent outside. After a few sleepy and blissfully ignorant moments had passed I quickly remembered all that had happened yesterday. I was immediately consumed by a heavy melancholy and bitter, desperate sadness again. The night just ending had been long, dark and lonely. I could still smell Siobhan's perfume on the bedclothes and that added to my wanting. Maybe I would try and phone her later. Perhaps I'd even pluck up the courage to go round and see her. But then again perhaps I wouldn't bother. It hurt not being with her but I knew it would hurt much, much more if she rejected me again.

For a while I lay in my bed and stared out at the sleeping world through a narrow gap in the curtains. The sky was dark - a deep, ruddy purple - but the darkness was very gradually being eaten away by the first distant glow of the orange light of dawn. The tops of the trees I could see were perfectly still. The only movement was that of an occasional bird darting across the morning sky in silhouette.

I dragged myself out of bed a little after half-past five. There didn't seem to be any point in lying there and festering when there was virtually no chance of being able to get back to sleep again. Dark, depressing thoughts were already beginning to run around my mind at a thousand miles a second and I stumbled into the living room in search of distractions. I collapsed on the sofa and reached for the remote control. I hadn't been up at this hour of the day for a long, long time. I sat down and watched few seconds of a ridiculously bright breakfast television programme on the TV. The pictures on the screen provided a stark contrast to the cold, grey shadows in the gloom all around me.

I didn't want to be without Siobhan.


I ended up at the farm. In the car on the way there I had been looking forward to some company and conversation. Within minutes of arriving there, however, I found that I wanted to be alone. I had a quiet word with Joe Porter and he seemed to understand. He found me a job in one of the fields furthest from the farm house. Something that would last for a while and keep my mind and body fully occupied.

And the therapy seemed to work. After venting my anger and taking out my frustration on a stretch of weather-beaten fence which Joe wanted replaced, I began to feel slightly better. Even though nothing made any more sense than it had done last night, I had at least managed to put everything into some kind of perspective. I gradually managed to convince myself that I had been right all along and that it was Siobhan who had the problem. I hadn't done anything wrong. I didn't have to take the kind of crap that she'd hurled in my direction. I loved her and I was there for her and, as far as I was concerned, that would always be the case. So what had happened in her life to change things? Why had her opinion of me suddenly changed so drastically?

The dilapidated fence that I was replacing separated a recently ploughed field from a rough pasture where Joe's sheep often grazed. As I worked the sheep became used to my presence and slowly got closer. I found that the harder I concentrated on the job, the easier it was for me to switch off from my problems, but I was distracted when the nearby sheep suddenly scattered.

There was a tractor approaching.

I thought at first that there was an emergency, such was the speed that it came towards me. The huge, heavy wheels churned up the pasture and sent the sheep running in all directions, many into the ploughed field through gaps where the fence was still down. I stared at the driver and saw that it was Joe Porter himself. I immediately knew that something was wrong. He would never normally have driven with such disregard for his land or his livestock.

He stopped the tractor alongside me.

'What the hell you doing?' he yelled over the deafening din of the engine.

'Fixing the fence,' was my obvious reply. 'Just doing what you asked me to do.'

For a second I wondered whether I was fixing the right fence. Joe looked ready to explode.

'I can see that,' he snapped as he jumped down from his seat. 'I ain't stupid. I know what I asked you to do.'

The engine was still running and I watched as thick clouds of oily exhaust fumes spewed into the air.

'So what's the problem?' I wondered.

'Problem is that you were supposed to be fixing the fence this morning. I can't wait all bloody day for you to finish a job.'

'It's taking longer than I thought. I'm on my own here and...'

'I need it finished.'

'I should be done in a couple of...'

'I want it done in the hour. If you're going to work for me, then you're going to work how I want you to. If I give you something to do, you bloody well do it quickly.'

This was not the Joe Porter I was used to seeing. His familiar wrinkled smile had disappeared and his face was flushed red with anger. I had never seen him like this. Something must have happened. Surely the fact that I was still working couldn't have been the only reason for his frustration? Christ, this was the man who hadn't even raised his voice when he'd lost virtually an entire herd of cattle in a flash-flood earlier this year. 'Listen Joe,' I protested, looking him straight in the eye, 'I work here because I want to help. You don't pay me for what I do and I don't think you're in any position to criticise. I'm working as fast as I can. If you don't want me to help then I'll just go...'

'Finish the job you started,' he said, 'then go.'

With that he turned his back on me and climbed back into the tractor. I still couldn't help thinking that this whole conversation didn't make any sense. Something else must have happened.

'Look,' I said, trying a different tack, 'what's the problem? I'm doing what you asked me to...'

Porter just scowled at me and shook his head before putting his foot down and driving away again, carving yet another set of deep, muddy furrows in his precious green field. I watched him disappear in disbelief.

Determined not to give him any more reasons to be angry with me, I decided to finish the job before leaving for home. First Siobhan and now the farmer, what the hell was going on? I began smashing down a wooden fence post with a lump hammer, beating out my frustrations.

I didn't want revenge or retributions. I wanted explanations.


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