Ambulance outside Old Lady’s house. Its blue light whirligigs round. Paramedics in and out. Old Lady on a stretcher covered by a crocheted blanket; squares of colour her knotted fingers stitched together that’ll no longer keep her warm.
Second time in a month we’ve had the sirens down here. Before, it was the rozzers. Old Lady twitched her living room curtains as they nee-nawed past. She didn’t get out much so it must have been nice when a slice of excitement came to her. The rozzers were headed for Mr MacDonald’s farm. Gossip afterwards – a cattle rustler was on the prowl.
As the ambulance drives off, Ma shakes her head and says she hopes Old Lady had a peaceful death. Wouldn’t hurt a fly, that one. Asks if we should have done more to keep an eye on her since she was always keeping an eye on us.
I remember sitting out front catching spiders in a jar. Six of them in there when Old Lady wheezed towards me, snatched away my prize. Another time, I shot a spuggie out a tree and she took it in her hands like it was a piece of rarest china.
Didn’t speak much. Perhaps, she’d forgotten how since she was always by herself. Ma says she had a husband once, children who’d moved away, friends turned to dust. A couple of months back, we saw her outside and Ma said hello. Old Lady choked on her words. The way she doubled over reminded me of a fur-balling cat.
When the dog escaped, me and Ma went out, yelling for that little scamp with his long tail and stub ears. Returned to find Old Lady standing with the collar in her hands. I took it from her, tried to say thank you. She backed away as if she couldn’t stand my sadness bundled up with her own.
I wonder what’ll happen now, says Ma. She didn’t have any relatives left. No friends. No-one apart from that God-damned goat.
The goat is a surly slobberer, tethered in the back garden, slowly chewing the grass in that way goats do. I tell Ma someone should go check he’s all right and Ma agrees so I head across the road. I see Mr MacDonald outside who tells me the rustler is back. A horse this time. The ruddy face of him as he spits his anger on the ground.
The garden, when I get there, doesn’t look like it has seen a goat for weeks. There’s a cowpat flattening a tuft of knee-high grass; and a horseshoe; and a fox has been at the bins, scattered bones and feathers in an arc.
I peer in through Old Lady’s kitchen window like I did the day she filched my jam jar spiders. I shiver as I remember how she pinched one by its feathery, stiletto leg and lowered it into her waiting mouth.
About the author: Matt Kendrick is a writer based in the East Midlands, UK. His stories have been published in Bending Genres, Fictive Dream, Lucent Dreaming, Reflex Fiction, Spelk, Storgy, FlashBack Fiction and the BFFA Anthology.