A Trembling

It was a crossword clue. We do the Saturday Telegraph one on a Sunday night. Regular as clockwork. We are both so routinous. It holds us in place. Sometimes I want to fight against it, run a mile, but other times I know what it does, how it keeps us feeling safe. So, yes, we do this particular crossword on a Sunday. The compiler writes long-winded clues that often drive him, as crossword-reader-out-er, quite mad. But they are also lyrical and so suggestive of a certain class. They’d know that one in Beswick, wouldn’t they? he says, when for instance she’s included a clue about some obscure herb to used in French cuisine. It was a lovely image, though it took me several goes to come up with the answer. The collective noun was ‘a trembling’. A trembling of greenfinches. Isn’t that beautiful?

It woke me. Only half an hour before my alarm was to go off. It was pitch black, thick night. And just below my window. I couldn’t work out what it was. It wasn’t a bird. It sounded like a screeching, a screaming, a howling. It was primeval, desperate, a sound of such fear. It was fighting for its life, this creature and letting out a final death yell. My heart went out to it. Was it a shrew? I remember our farm cats catching them when I was a child. The screaming they made defied the tininess of their bodies. Or was it a mouse being caught by an owl? It sounded mammalian. Poor love. And then there was a flurrying sound, of bushes and leaves being shaken. I hope it was swift, that its heart took it before the real pain of slaughter did. We can do nothing in those circumstances – it’s like Hartley’s story of the Shrimp and the Anemone, to interfere might do more damage. It shook me, I was unsettled as I walked, life is so fragile. All.

I keep walking past her door. I am to see her today. Can I trust? Or is it all bunkum?

By Ellen Bell

Artist and writer currently living in Aberystwyth.