by Mutley the Dog
In the cold the cattle stirred snorting steam in gusts into the morning air, as he walked up through the fields as he had done many times before. The animals packed against the bottom field fences as expected. Hungry after the cold autumn night they were waiting for their feed – cattle nuts soft like dead grass, bovine jaws moving, dripping saliva as they waited in anticipation. Some by the troughs, water splashing on the ground. Others spread out by the great green hedge that marks the ancient boundary between Lathe Bottom and Lathe Ridge Farms.
The man strode down the boundary scanning the skies, looking for the first signs. The cattle were disturbed, still snorting and steaming, rubbing on the fences and on each other. The pungent smell of cattle, mud and sweat all around. The hedge a cathedral of life, bare branches forming a tracery –framing the ochre filling the sky. Beneath his feet soft mud – above the sky reflecting the dancing flames, and through the branches, across the curve of the field the roar of fire and the great suck of the flames. Around the Foot and Mouth Fire pyre the white-clad scientists who administered the lethal injections made way for the abattoir workers to watch the conflagration, and then looked up the hill where the man was standing. Lathe Bottom done, then onto Lathe Ridge. Staring at him and checking the clipboards, the hedges would provide no protection now. And overhead the blood filled sky.