World's End in Winter

World's End in Winter by Monica Dickens

Book: World's End in Winter by Monica Dickens Read Free Book Online
Authors: Monica Dickens
run and jump find such great glory on a horse, what must it be for a prisoner in a chair?’
    ‘Better blow out the candle,’ Tom said, ’If you’re going to get up early and shovel out the barn again.’
    ‘Thank goodness for that barn,’ Carrie said. ’Pris would die if she couldn’t ride.’
    In his parents’ room, his father was lying with his beard outside the blankets, reading bits of
Sailor of the Seven Seas
aloud to Mother:
    I knew that something was amiss. When I raised the hatch, my horrified eyes were greeted by an appalling mess of oil and broken pipes...’
    Mother was asleep.
    So was Michael. Em was awake in her shelf bed, shuffling the piles of paper she had been working on for so long.
    ’Is that
Esmeralda’s Book of Cats?

    ’What is it then?’ Tom thought she wanted him to ask.
    ’Not telling,’
    ‘Don’t then. Who cares?’
    ‘They’re all writing. Everybody in this house is writing a book,’ Tom complained.
    ’Except you.’
    ’I could if I wanted to.’
    ’Do it then.’
    ’All right, I will.’
    ‘See if I care.’ You could never get the last word with Em.
    In his room, Tom took the jacket paper off a book to write on the blank inside. Besides
Esmeralda’s Book of Cats,
there was
Carrie’s Horse Book
Michael’s Book of Dog Lores.
This would be
Tom’s Zoo Zayings.
    Anecdotes from his job:
    ’The skunk put its tail through the wire and it got bitten off by the kinkajou next door.
    When we put broomsticks in the Squirrel Monkey cage for perches, they tore them out and beat each other over the head with them.
    People say a zoo is good teaching for children. But all it teaches them is that it’s OK to put animals in cages.’
    Tom fell asleep.
    In the middle of the night, he woke with a jump of his heart. He had never brought Dusty in!
    He went downstairs and put on a coat and boots over his pyjamas. The wind was still blowing hard, rocking the old farmhouse like a boat at sea. The back door opened the wrong way, like most of the doors in this house. Tom could hardly push it out against the storm. Charlie slipped out with him and the door banged shut behind them, cutting off the light.
    Calling and whistling uselessly into the wind, Tom struggled round the side of the house and climbed the gate into the yard, because the snow was too thick to push it open. Dusty might be sheltering under the grain shed, which wasraised on big stones like toadstools. He had once gone in there when he was ill, and Liza had spent hours on her stomach trying to get him out.
    ’Seek, Charlie!’
    Tom kicked away the snow in the gap between the shed and the ground, but Charlie would not look for Dusty. He was rushing in drunken circles, barking into the wind, jumping up at Tom as if they had fought their way out here for fun. The snow did not penetrate his heavy coat, but Tom was soaked and frozen. His hands and feet were numb. His face was so stiff that he could not whistle.
    ‘Dusty!’ Perhaps his lips would drop off. ’Dusty!’ The cracked sound of his voice was thrown back at him with a faceful of snow.
    The old dog could not live in this storm. ’I killed him,’ Tom would have to tell Liza. If Liza ever came back.
    Hopelessly he searched through the smothered yard among the strange thick shapes of familiar things blotted out with snow.
    ‘Dustee-ee-ee!’ His voice howled into the night. Charlie sent up a crescendo of hysterical barks as one end of the barn roof crashed in under a load of snow, the old thatch and timbers splintering in, snow falling steadily, stealthily through the gaping hole.
    By morning, the sun was up and the sky a fierce bright blue over the sparkling white. Almost half the barn roof was gone. The edges of the lathing and beams hung inward as if they had followed the drop of a bomb.
    Mr Mismo said, ’Might as well pull that whole great old ruin down as waste money to fix it.’
    But Michael set his jaw. ’We’ll fix it.’

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