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"Wind Out Of The South-East" by Daniel Addercouth


I hand my father the toothbrush, watch as he struggles to apply the toothpaste. I tell myself not to intervene, just as I did when my daughter was trying to learn new skills. I hold the basin for him to spit into, clean his mouth with a towel. A stalactite of mucus hangs from his nose like it did when we were out on the hills. He never wiped it then either. 

When we still had the farm, my father kept a diary recording key events. Mild with light rain. Moved the lambed ewes to the Bank Park. Never anything personal.


A cold afternoon. Slate clouds hung low over the hills. My father stalked the ewe, crook held like a bayonet. He lunged, hooked a leg. Reined in the sheep, hand over hand along the metal shaft. Flipped the ewe onto her back. It kicked its legs, helpless as a new-born. 

Later, we mounted the tractor to return home for supper. “Home James, and don’t spare the horses,” he always said. 

At lambing time, he slept in the armchair. No time to shave, so a beard sprouted. Now he sits day and night in the bed my brother set up in the living room. The beard is back, because shaving is such a chore. Like shearing a sheep, the carer jokes.


He revived the orphan lambs in the bottom of the Aga. They’d go in limp as a soft toy, emerge hyper as toddlers, romping around the kitchen. We’d come down in the morning to find the linoleum puddled with pee.

I take him to the bathroom in the wheelchair the council lent us. His legs are so weak he can barely stand long enough for me to pull down his boxers. Memories of toilet training my daughter. There was a time when I’d have been embarrassed by the sight of his exposed penis, but that time is long past. I leave him in peace. Fifteen minutes later, I manhandle him back into the chair. “Home James, and don’t spare the horses,” I say. He just looks at me blankly.


One morning, I find a fat courgette of excrement, the colour of rich soil, on the kitchen’s fake wood floor. I dispose of it subtly, trying not to cry. Neither of us mentions it, but I record the incident in my journal.

The whole visit, I’ve been hoping for a shared memory, an anecdote, laughter. All he does is watch TV. But when I leave, he thanks me for coming. I’ll take that.

Daniel Addercouth grew up on a remote farm in the north of Scotland but now lives in Berlin, Germany. His stories have appeared in Free Flash Fiction, New Flash Fiction Review, and Ink Sweat & Tears, among other places. He was recently shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award. You can find him on Twitter/X and Bluesky at @RuralUnease.


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