A Five-Leaf Clover. By Bobby Morris.
This story was inspired by a passage from the second chapter of Samuel Becketts novel More Pricks than Kicks.
Hey, Sarah, look at this! Its a five-leaf clover! Jake Gunn thrust the tiny flower(s) into his fiancée's dainty face, his hand twitching with excitement.
Sarah Smith recoiled slightly, then frowned and focused her eyes. Its got two stalks, she said. Maybe there are actually two, and theyre and theyre stuck She swooned again.
The poor girl had been feeling tired and faint for a few days now, and it was on this account that Jake had dragged her out into the countryside today, in hopes that the fresh air and exercise would restore her to health. Thus far there had been no signs of improvement; if anything, the exertion was making her worse. Shed fainted three times since they set out, and her bland dress had acquired numerous dry mud marks. Smelling salts had brought her round every time, and the colour would return to her face, but that didnt represent any kind of improvement.
Jake lay Sarah carefully on the grass, then rested her head on his knees. He pulled the salt bottle out of his trouser pocket and administered it, getting a reaction almost instantly. Come on, old girl, he mumbled. A few minutes later they were sitting on a low rock formation, he looking lost and she rocking from side to side like an inadequately sunk washing-line post in the wind.
Jake took the clovers out of his pocket, for hed kept them, and turned back to Sarah with them. I think its a five-leaf clover, he declared. A five-leaf clover with two stalks. Ill probably get into the county newspaper with it. He smiled, both out of genuine pleasure and to try to cheer her up, but she could barely manage an artificial half smile in reply. He turned back and stared straight ahead, where his attention was suddenly drawn to the end of a tall hedgerow. A workman, hitherto behind it, had now come into view. He was walking slowly and carefully forwards, occasionally digging into the ground with a spade. He happened to swivel round and lock onto Jake and Sarah. He stood and stared, studying them.
Jake became edgy. Get back to your digging, mister, he urged in his mind, as Sarah tilted against him and then backwards onto the rock.
Jesus! The man had started walking towards them, occasionally breaking into a jog. He couldnt have been more than fifty metres away, and would be upon them well within a minute.
Jakes pulse quickened as fear began to take hold. Oh Jesus, he thought. Look at him, look at the size of him. Hes got forearms like Popeye. Hes gonna put me in a headlock and squeeze my neck like a vice. He looked over Sarah, who rolled onto her side. Hell beat me down and then grope Sarah before my eyes, and Ill be powerless to stop him. Then hell chuck her over the rock and come back for me. Hell pummel me with his big round fists.
He leant over Sarah, who was verging on unconsciousness, but then he sat upright again. He was struggling to breathe now as the man drew ever nearer. Hell bash my head against the rock and then hell tear Sarahs dress off and rape her. Then hell whack me all over from head to toe with that spade. Hell strike me with the faces of the blade at first, and then hell rotate it and strike me with the edges and the corners. God, itll be butchery.
The man was looming large, and Jake was panicking. Okay, hes gonna rape Sarah, then hes gonna rape me. Or maybe itll be the other way round. Then hell beat us both about the bodies with his fists and that spade. Hes gonna beat us to death. Rape and murder. Death by spade. Then hell bury us in a hole dug using the same spade that killed us.
The man reached them. Jake froze and gasped. The man thrust the arm of his spade into Jakes hand before turning his attention to Sarah. Hi guys, he said briskly in a deep voice. Are you alright, love? You look ill. Ive done some first aid training, and I thought
That was as far as he got. Jake, whod been deaf to his gentle words, had swung the spade in a great circle and connected the face of the blade with the back of the mans head. He fell forward in a heap. Jake, entranced, stepped closer and gave him some more whacks. The man was soon dead.
Sarah sat up, having been stirred by the strangers kindness. She toppled forward onto her knees and was promptly confronted by the sight of the mans bloody head. She twisted her neck to face Jake. Oh no! she cried as loudly as her weak voice permitted. What have you done? Oh no!
Jake whacked her with the spade in a vertical arc. She fell silently over the strangers body, where Jake gave her further whacks. Dead body number two. He exhaled, his mind strangely blank. Then, mechanically, he feverishly started digging them a grave.
Less than half an hour later, the broad cavity was ready. Jake, sweat pouring off his face after the hard labour, dragged first the woman and then the man into the hole, the latter requiring all the strength he could muster. He made to start tossing the displaced soil back over the bodies, but then an idea struck him. He stuffed his grimy red hand into his pocket and withdrew the clovers. He chucked them, still stuck together, onto the bodies. Have this, he said, before burying them.
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