She can smell his house as she enters the boreen. Sea of hedgerows. Her car presses forward, releases the fragrance of plants which reach in through the open window. Traces of dew on hand and face. Elder and woodbine, dog-rose and nettle, bindweed and sceach. Headlights glare from a cottage window perched on the edge of a ditch. 3am. She swings the steering wheel, follows the bend in the road.
An open metal gate marks the entrance to his farm. Guarded by two houses. On one side a labourer’s cottage with lime washed pebble dash walls and white UPVC windows, garden set with flowers and shrubs. In darkness. To the other side a rectangular building. The Sister, he told her in passing, gesturing with his head towards the house. Seeded lawns. Gravel paths, the boundary of the site demarcated by post and rail fencing. Light shines from an upstairs window, below the slate roof.
Her car lurches as it hits the first of several humps of soil which have been tamped down across the bare dirt driveway.
The Father made them after he crashed into the Mother as she was driving out. He was looking at the fields.
His father is now dead. He is the last of three generations who have farmed this land.
The driveway is lined with ash trees. Their branches sway in the wind, leaves rustle against one other, whispering of her arrival. To the left is a field enclosed by electric wire fencing in which cows stand. They watch her pass, motionless except for the grinding of their jaws.
In a concreted yard next to the farmhouse she parks behind his 4×4. Farm machinery shelters under a corrugated awning. There is a dim glow visible through the net curtains of his bedroom. His windows are open. After turning off the ignition she looks in the rear-view mirror, runs her fingers through her hair. Walks through the garage to reach the back door, passes his BMW. On the front passenger seat is a scarf bearing his County colours. The side-view mirror hangs, smashed, suspended by threads of exposed electrical wiring.
Midges swarm around the exterior electric light. Milking parlour leggings have been stepped out of and are concertinaed over a pair of wellington boots. Empty glass bottles are lined up against a garage wall. She tries the handle of the back door. It opens.
From ‘Foxes, Mating’ by SJ Ryan