1 hour = 500 words (1st draft + line edit)
This is what I wrote.
The Last Cows (An Apostrophien vignette)
The last time Jenna saw her parents they were towering over her, concerned and angry as she clung to her stomach and threw up in the garden. Her father’s hand on her shoulder gripped more than it needed to.
“Stuffed with honey again?” It wasn't really a question.
Jenna tried to reply so Pa wouldn’t be so fierce, but her gut wasn’t finished. With a huge, painful burp she threw another load of tepid sick among the stalks of long dead giant daisies.
“I… I didn’t."
Her mother’s sleeve was already damp with tears and small splashes of vomit. She used it to wipe across Jenna’s eyes and flour cheeks. “Somethin' got in there that wanted out.
“And you were with Abigale.”
“No honey! Just felt sick!”
Ma's voice was a little softer. "You'll be alright today won't you." It wasn't a question.
"Yeh. Felt sick."
They left her crying in the garden.
The sick feeling hung around like a grudge for the rest of the day as the girl amused herself looking at pressed flowers and trying to remember the plant poem Abigale sang on the beach yesterday. She put the corn dollies out, tatty now after two seasons of love, and sang to them in voice thick with the second cold of winter.
The play was a distraction. She was waiting. Waiting to explain and fix the injustice of her parents' anger. She didn't touch the honey. Didn't gorge herself. She was eight now, not five. If she told them, they would believe now. Because she was eight.
Eventually she held down cool water from the stream, then ate stale bread as the light beyond the open windows faded, taking the last wamth of the day with it. The stars came out.
It wasn't Paul and Katie Vizard who returned though, it was Jon Mair. The town doctor being guided by a visibly wilting Father.
"Hello," Jenna said.
"Morning missy," Mair replied. "Can we go in." Not a question.
One of the cows had keeled today, Mair told her, and her parents would have to spend 40 days in Crofter's Cottage to be sure they were good and safe. The keeled cow had already been burned, he said, and the other two would be skinned by Hans Rish and then their meat burned.
"Can I go with them?" Jenna asked.
"No," he said. "But don't worry. You'll stay with me until they're safe. You'll all be back 'ere in no time, I shouldn't wonder."
It didn't happen.
40 days passed and Paul and Katie Vizard died, Jon Mair told the girl, in Crofter's Cottage from the same sickness that keeled the cow over.
Five days later the girl stood on the beach with the rest of the town and watched as the burning raft floated out past the surf, orange flames grabbing at the sky and sea like a thousand desperate wishes pressed into a dirty page. She felt Jon Mair's hand land on her shoulder.
"You'll be fine."