Foal's Bread

Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears

Book: Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears Read Free Book Online
Authors: Gillian Mears
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retarded wasn’t it, on that island before the river reached the sea at Port Lake? Roley felt more than his left foot faltering. Since childhood there’d been stories about Lassiter. He knew that whenever the lighthouse beam hit the windows the lunatics began to howl. The sound of the sharks moving through the mullet in the river in the summer made them that much worse. They’d escape then, charging off into the water, only to always be washed up drowned, their heads as big as whales by the time they were found because they’d started out anyway with water or worse on their brain.
    â€˜Before the mother bonds,’ Matron Hinley was saying. ‘And it can all just become like a dream that never happened.’
    â€˜No son of ours is going to any such place,’ burst out Roley.
    â€˜Better wait till you set eyes on him,’ said Ralda.
    â€˜Is Noey alright? Can I go in?’
    â€˜It wasn’t such a long labour and she’s had some breakfast. Haven’t yer, Noh?’ said Ralda, following the matron into the room. ‘She’s had a bit of toast and butter.’
    When Roley first looked at his wife he saw her lower her eyes in shame. He felt the thinness of panic in the noon air. Noah looked aged and blown, as if she was a sprinter pushed to gallop too many furlongs. He wouldn’t have been surprised to see blood gushing out of her nostrils all over those sheets as white as wedding-cake icing.
    â€˜I’ll leave you now to talk,’ said Matron. ‘But as it’s a mongoloid boy that’s been birthed, only one choice.’
    In the throes of his disbelief Roley thought, what would that old battleaxe know? Mincing so painfully out of the room like a fat bull on a set of feet too small for its weight.
    â€˜Thing is,’ Noah began, ‘the feeling is we should give him up right now. Today. ’Fore any ’tachment can develop. Haven’t even let me give him a feed or see him again. But listen, I can pick out his voice amongst the others wailing. He’s the one screamin.’
    â€˜Screaming for his mum, isn’t it?’ he said, but for a moment he just couldn’t think because his mind was so full of fear at this inexplicable turn of events.
    In Noah’s exhausted mind, hazy still from pain and fatigue, was rising an old and urgent chant— The butter box boat, the butter box baby— for in the brief look she’d got of the newborn before they’d bundled him up and away she could see him alright. Uncle Nip. Even though his face was an idiot’s. Like God had steered him all the way back up the Flaggy from the sea where he was long ago meant to have tipped over.
    That Little Mister. Going against the current like that, all his limbs, his little fingers, feet and face. All filled up with water. And the colour of river water in his eyes too. Greeny-blue and sooty just at the edges. The exact opposite of Lainey’s little blue sapphires.
    It was too late to think about not bonding. Because of that Uncle Nipper one, she already had.
    â€˜I told that Matron no baby of ours is going into no such place.’ In his panic Roley also looked down.
    â€˜But you haven’t seen it, Rol.’ He would see its eyes and know, she thought. He’d see its baby Uncle Nipper-after-a-spree eyes.
    â€˜Wait here, Noh. I’ll be right back.’
    With Ralda leading the way, anxious not to bring that matron back out, he crept along the corridor to the nursery, which he could smell even before Ralda opened the door. Tears and fear, that was the smell.
    They had put his and Noah’s baby right away from the others, as if he alone were contaminated.
    â€˜Don’t say we didn’t warn you,’ Ralda was saying, her forehead as creased as that which was screaming there in the hospital cradle.
    Now God, he prayed silently, what kind of a birthday present is that meant to be? It looked like it was about to explode, as a

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