for Geoff Slater
It’s his story to tell, not mine, but I’ll tell it anyway, since he told it to me.
We were talking after lunch, de sobremesa, as they say in Spain, sat around the table. Chewing the fat, or the cud. The subject turned to farming in Wales and how Welsh farmers were sometimes trapped in the stall with the bull and crushed against the wall when the bull leaned its great weight upon them.
“It nearly happened to me,” he said. “But it was with a cow, not a bull. I was nine years old. One of our cows got into the manger and couldn’t get out. My father sent me in, hoping that I could shoo it out, but instead of leaving, the cow turned and trapped me against the wall. I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe,” he paused.
“I carried a pocket knife at the time. I had just enough room to pull out the knife, open it and … ”
I watched him shrink, grow younger. He returned to nine years of age. In his hand, he held an imaginary knife. The room shrank around us until it became the size of a manger. The cow loomed large, filled the room.
” … I stabbed, stabbed, stabbed … ”
His eyes tightened. His face grew grey. A sea-change came over him: white-caps whipped over his flesh. Storm clouds threatened. I watched his clenched hand stab … stab … stab … at empty air.
” … I stabbed it again and again and it turned and moved away … and finally I could breathe. I was lucky.”
He relaxed, started to breathe again. The room returned to its normal size. The cow vanished. The sun shone through the kitchen window, high-lighting us as we sat there, breathless, in silence.