500 Word Challenge – The Old Man.

A month or so back, I began the 500 Word Challenge.

This was a writing challenge to myself to write for approximately 15-20 minutes, about whatever was in my head at the time.

Sometimes the result was fiction. Sometimes it wasn’t.

Sometimes it took longer. Sometimes it wasn’t just 500 words.

It turns out there is a rebel in me after all.

Here is the result of one of those challenges:

The farmer O’Hare met the Old Man at the gate to North Field. This was normal on early spring mornings. The Old Man’s frame, tall and broad, had aged and weathered like the gate post which he was leaning upon.

Nine, O’Hare’s sheep dog was doing a lackadasical job of keeping a group of fifteen goats moving down the narrow lane. His master was inclined to ignore his dog’s poor workmanship on the understanding that he was a sheep dog and not a goat dog after all. 

The goats didn’t stray very far anyhow.

The Old Man had turned his gaze towards the farmer, his clear blue eyes were unblinking. His shaggy eyebrows hooded down, like a hawks. He liked O’Hare. He was a straight forward man and there weren’t too many of those in the world from his experience of it.

O’Hare greeted him with a nod of his head once he was a few feet away.

The Old Man responded with a gravelly voice which started from deep in his chest.

‘When are you going to get a proper goat dog?’

‘Far too expensive, you know that? Nine is good enough, they’re only goats after all.’

The Old Man gave a single nod of his head, then waited for the other man to give him the news.

O’Hare tried to sound level and even in his delivery.

‘I see some young fella from the city has taken your cousin’s cottage?’

‘So I am told.’

‘For a month no less?’

The Old Man turned his gaze towards Nine, who was now lying in the middle of the lane whilst the goats attacked part of the hedgerow.

‘Apparently, he is an illustrator. Plants and flowers and stuff like that.’

‘Is that so?’

‘Surely, your cousin has told you so?’

‘She knew you would do it for her.’

O’Hare laughed quickly.

‘You bastard.’

The Old Man lifted himself up from post. He was a tall man.

‘So my Mam always told me.’

O’Hare knew that was a lie. The Old Man had never known his mother, dying in child birth as she had. It was a tragedy in the village and make no mistake.

O’Hare’s attention was drawn back.

‘Have you seen the fella?’

He shook his head.

‘He arrived late last night by all accounts.’

The Old Man broke a smile which increased the lines in his face.

‘You mean by Lettie’s account, which is why you are late in getting getting the goats this far.’

‘By Jesus, I’m not that late, Old Man. You must have been out here earlier than usual, that’s all.’

‘Have it your way, Michael, but I will say you should make an honest woman of the poor girl.’

‘Girl? She’s older than the both of us!’

‘In that case what you’re doing must surely be illegal, and not just what the youngsters say about you and those goats.’

O’Hare grinned back at him, shaking his head.

‘I’m just waiting for that little fucker, Billy G to get himself closer enough to Nine – his precious Mam will have him away to the Medical Centre getting rabies shots and all sorts.’

The Old Man reached out an enormous hand and gripped the other man’s shoulder reassuringly.

‘I’ve thought about biting the little bastard myself.’

‘Once I know anything else, I will let you know, of course.’

‘Thank you, Michael, I’d appreciate that.’

He removed his hand and O’Hare turned, calling to Nine, who leapt up and went and barked at the nearest goat to at least show some form of willing.

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