Title: Winter Light
Char Oldroyd, Daffodil
Word Count 660
He woke earlier than the others. He had
this to do, before the other daily things.
It had been his morning task since
childhood, long before the Navy. So he had not minded when it fell to
He had been the youngest son, this was
a job for last and least. But he had always liked it. Of course, he
wanted to linger in his hammock. There was never sleep enough. And
his skin shivered, as he dressed, crouching, as you must below decks.
But as he came topside he could see the day coming, the winter light
was pale as spilled milk on the horizon. It was a winter light.
He walked aft. He could hear the hens,
eager for him and his bucket of scraps. They crowded over his feet,
He was able to lean down and stroke their feathered backs, as they
ate. They made a happy sound, a crooning purring sound. He smiled. It
had taken months for them to let him so close.
And animals were easy to speak with.
You made the inside of yourself quiet first, and then you could hear
them better. Men seldom granted that to each other. No more did
women, Oldroyd thought. They were no better at stilling their clamor.
They just seemed special, when you looked to land from sea. They
seemed better because everyone missed them so.
He shut the little gate behind him,
tying it shut, as he had found it. The goats were on their feet, as
always, ready for him.
“Come here, Daffodil.”
They had found a he-goat on a tiny
nameless island, (nameless to Oldroyd, anyhow, though the old man
must have it on the chart.)They had gone ashore with Daffodil in the
bow of the jolly, drooling, with unseemly eagerness. The he-goat had
been black. Daffy was pure white. The resulting kid was, reasonably,
black and white spotted. He held it back with a hand. “Not you,”
Oldroyd said. “You wait.” It did, it settled, after a moment, on
folded legs, to do just that.
He opened his hand. He had a bit of
turnip, saved from his plate. Daffodil took it with delicate care,
her lips were as agile as fingers. She chewed with a side to side
motion, slanting a gaze at him. “No more,” he said. “Sorry
girl, that's it.” He opened his hand to show her.
He scratched along her jawline, and
her strange yellow eyes closed in bliss. He took a moment, also, to
to scratch between her stubby horns . She could not reach there, he
reasoned. The horns, were, as always warm, and hard and strange.
He tied her to the ring-bolt, with a
bit of rope. She stood, contented, unmoving. Her ears were flicked
forward though, alert to the ship and the start of day.
He had the pot ready he sat on the deck
next to her. He took a moment to blow on his hands to warm them. He
rested his cheek against her side, and sent the milk hissing, foaming
into the pail. His hands worked quickly, the pail filled with fresh
milk. He could feel her sigh, as the pressure was relieved.
She would still have enough to feed the
kid. It would encourage this, he knew, with knocks of it's hard
little head, and it's little tail would wag as it fed.
Oldroyd pictured, for a moment Mr
Hornblower, wagging his tail, and shaking his own curly head. The
thought made him smile. “He does like his coffee milk,” Oldroyd
said to Daffodil. She looked at him wisely, chewing her turnip.