In Too Deep
sated.
    She’d earned the right to hate him.
    Now he was dying, and he wanted rabbit. The girl had known of his condition for weeks, ever since the racking cough had turned from a constant, tinny scraping sound into a pitiful bark that dripped wetly down into the white bristles of his chin. He’d felt something shifting far down inside, he said, and no drawn breath came easily after that. He was forced to spend much of his time in bed, his increasingly emaciated frame swaddled in four or five heavy grey blankets, so desperate was he to catch and hold on to even a modicum of elusive heat, but even in his brittle state he insisted on rising for an hour or two every day so that he might sit at his fireside and feel halfway like a man again. It was all that he had left to make him happy, he said, and while the fire blazed away at some kindling and a dried clod of turf, he’d sit in the half-light of the dying October days, smoking cheap cigars, consequences be damned, and reading and rereading his own grandfather’s tattered copy of the Bible. Whenever he called out the girl’s name, she put aside what she was doing to come and stand in the doorway and to listen while he unfurled whichever passage had set his imagination to flaming and now just had to be shared in a declaration as loud and glorious as any hosanna. His voice, though, was a worn nub, ravaged by time and lack of free use, and it tainted the words, even the beautiful words of Jesus, and words that might have been written with men like him very much in mind, those most in need of saving. The messages of the Gospels fell from his stub-toothed mouth with all their clemency chewed and gummed away, ruined of any good, to sound instead like condemnations and promises of hell. And after he was finished reading he held his granddaughter in a bloodshot gaze so that their recently reversed roles meant nothing and he was again the dominant force of the household. His body may have been withering steadily down to dust, but in his eyes the ferocity remained intact, and he stared, daring her to react, yearning for some small blanch that would require yet another lesson. The switch was gone, and the hands now were incapable of delivering even the least blow, but still the girl could not deny her terror. The smile warping her face, a gag that showed off a lower row of crooked yellow teeth, she held knuckles of breath high in her throat and waited for another coughing fit to bring him down, some stab of pain that would haul his stare away. Yes, he was dying, but some scars ran deep beneath the skin.
    Set a snare, he said. Set a few, just to make certain. Will you, love?
    He had to ask now, but he still wasn’t asking. Not really.
    She nodded that she would, of course she would, glad of this excuse to get outside. She knew of at least a couple of busy runs, the best of them down towards the bottom of the mountain, down where the ground held more soil and where great swathes of furze were able to thrive. And who knew, maybe she’d find him dead when she returned. Sometimes, thinking about that eventuality, she felt that she’d like to be there, to see the whole business through and to see the shadow of fear brushing across his face. But at other moments she found herself hoping that she’d be down in the village when it finally happened, or out gathering berries, or on the other side of the world. Because what if death really wasn’t the end? What if it only took you out of one state and dropped you into another? She hurried through the house, gathering what she needed: the old man’s pocket knife, a small pair of pliers, a coil of steel wire and a ball of strong twine.
    There was still an hour of light left in the day. The stiff westerly breeze carried the cold, clean hint of approaching rain but, apart from some discomfort, it would make no real difference to the task at hand.
    When she reached the low part of the mountain she paused to

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