Up Near the Top of the Hill (*an extract)

Chapter 2

First blood

It was the first snowfall of the year and dad was chopping wood in the backyard outside the cottage. The snow had settled deep overnight and was starting up again, big round soft flakes that melted on the skin.

I can hear the sounds of the wooden horse, the axe, the double saw, inhale the resinous smell. Even at seven years old I know I am lucky to be alive in this wild and energetic landscape, and to feel so safe, so at home. I am playing with the sawdust mixed in with the snow, throwing it in the air, laughing and then all of a sudden there is blood, everywhere, big, bright, red blood, spurting a fountain and dad is shouting ‘my thumb, my thumb’ and ‘help, help’ and then, really loud, ‘do something’.

I am running as fast as I can and thinking what to do and it’s the first time I remember being scared of the real world. It’s also the first time I remember needing to do something really, really quickly and urgently. Running seems the best thing to do even if it is just to get nearer to dad and the sawdust and the blood. I am also kicking things out the way that I later work out were logs and don’t care that my wellies are leaking.

I am still running when I see my wee brother picking it off the ground. He has just learned to walk a few weeks ago, and is determined to get places and do things, he is full of everything. He is putting it in his mouth. He is teething we say after. It is the best excuse we have. He is sucking and chewing at the severed thumb. Dad sees him and although he is concentrating really hard on holding his arm up in the air and on not panicking, he goes even quieter and his mouth drops open and he doesn’t say anything, but stares at Morris like he would at a snake or a mad dog.

When I get up close to him, Morris is oblivious and grinning at me with his one and a half teeth. There is blood and dribble running down his chin. I leave him be and look up at dad, away from the blood. There is no phone in our cottage. ‘Run up to the farm and tell Nicky to phone the doctor, and tell him it needs to be quick’ says dad, still staring at Morris with both eyes. I run off up toward the farm.

©Fiona Campbell 2018