We’ll Keep a Welcome to the Hillside

Caddoc struggled to all fours, groaned every inch of the way to the rough two-by-four table in the middle of the room. Calloused shaking hands were placed on the nearest plank bench. It took every bit of strength the man could muster to pull the tall frame upright. Legs lifted up one at a time and went over the bench top. He eased his big frame onto the hard wood, sighed when the pain from the crick in the back eased a little. “I’m too old for sleeping on the floor,” he grumbled.
“Did the mother send you to the floor again to sleep?”
The effort of turning his head towards the voice and nodding set the jack-hammers chipping away on the inside of his skull again.  More groans filled the meagre dwelling.
“Come to here, come to here rag-tag girl, so I can set my eyes onto you.”
The sound of feet shuffling, scuffling across the floor added to his misery. He hollered, “Pick up your feet when you walk.”
“Yes Dah,” but the feet kept to their nagging shuffle. She stopped at his side, reached out with a small hand and gently rubbed the back of his neck. The girl seemed to have a knowing of just where the ache always was. “Did you have too much to drink at the Stag and Crown?”
Caddoc’s head moved around towards this female child of his loins. She’s not much to look at in the early morning light, or any light for that matter, William admitted to himself, and it was true. She was a scrawny thing. Dull brown eyes, aching with sadness, set deep in a pallid pinched face turned away from his angry gaze. Dull brown hair full of twigs and bits of dead leaves were pushed away from the face. This futile effort did no good. No good at all, because once the hand was removed, the stringy strands dropped back into place.
A grey grimy sackcloth dress hung two inches above raw knobby knees. Thin legs led down to small bare feet that looked like they hadn’t seen soap and water for a month of Sundays.
“Where’s the mother at?” he inquired gruffly, trying to keep the disgust he felt for this too late in life child out of his voice and failing miserably. A hand, steadier than it had been a moment ago, yanked the caressing hand away from his neck.
She jerked away from him, started shivering.

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Filed under fiction, Short Story

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