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JAMES RIDLEY

Dad

 

Dad was in the pen, a ewe pinned between his knees. He held its jaw tight with one hand while he drew a knife across its neck with the other. As he cut he pulled the head to the side and back until he heard a pop. A boot on the ewe’s neck stopped it from kicking about too much on the ground and bruising the meat.

Drips came from underneath the slatted floor of the pen, a pool growing under the shed.

He rolled a smoke and he looked at me with a cocked brow and half smile, while the ewe still gave a few kicks under his boot. He lit up his roll and saw me eyeing up his smoke. He held it out, filter first, and I took a light puff. ‘Don’t tell your mother, boy,’ he said after a deep draw.

‘Is that how you kill a man?’ I asked Dad, pointing at the ewe.

‘Depends on the man,’ he said. The ewe stopped its spasms and Dad dragged it out of the pen. He cut the head the rest of the way off and prepared it for the hooks.

‘A weak man,’ he continued, ‘will struggle a bit, but you just hold your arm across his face tight and drag a sharp knife across his neck. And don’t just slice it; you gotta saw till you hit bone.’

‘What about a strong man?’ I asked.

‘Well,’ Dad said in a grunt as he lifted the ewe up to the runners, ‘when I say weak, I don’t necessarily mean weak in the arm. Being weak in the head’s worse. And being strong, in arm and head, makes a man much harder to kill. You gotta think about killing a strong man.’

‘How would you kill a strong man?’

Dad started to skin the ewe, punching the skin off and making cuts where needed.

‘Well, I suppose it’d depend on the man, but for the most part I’d use a knife. Something cheap and throwaway that comes with a decent edge. I’d get close enough and slip the knife through his armpit, and jiggle it about till he stopped moving. If the blade’s a bit short then just pretend you’re stirring a pot, and pull the knife out to let his lungs fill up. You wanna grab that offal bucket?’

I grabbed the bucket, a forty-gallon drum cut in half, with rope handles, and dragged it under the ewe’s carcass. Dad had the skin off and was teasing his knife on a steel.

‘Of course,’ Dad said as he began to cut the ewe’s belly open, ‘if you want the man to die good and slow, you can always cut into his belly. Make sure you cut deep, and make a mess of his guts. Ain’t no doctor can fix that. And he’ll be alive for some time, in a fair amount of pain, to think about why this has happened to him.’ He grinned at me and rubbed my hair with his bloody hand.

 

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