The shepe and me and Duncan and LittelBaby blinked at the policeman. We knew are time had come.
‘Only a lame shepe…and a cuple of hitchers,’ said the farmer.
‘No dogs then?’ arsked the policeman.
‘Och, no, my collies are owt with my son on the Fiurack side of the river.’
‘You seen eny travellers going by, with lerchers?’
‘Not today I havent,’ said the farmer. ‘But quite a few caravans and a bus went up here beginning of the week.’
Duncan and I were realising that it wasent abowt us. Oh, the rilefe. I felt like I might throw up from the wurry.
‘There’s a big meet, up towards Dubcraig. Hare corsers. They think we dont know where thay are, but were on it….’ The policeman clicked his fingers and got back in his car. The others all pulled past our Lan Drover and drove off up the track.
We were so freked owt that we jus sat in the back shaking for the next few miols. Duncan got NarstyLady’s papers back owt of the chickin fede. We arsked if we could get owt in a disertid villige. I said bye to the sheep. Taking terns to carry LittelBaby, we walked abowt a mile up the vally, and came across an abanderned cottige with brokern shutters and a hole in the roof. Duncan put his arm thrugh a brokern windo, opernd it and climed in. He un bolted the back dor and let us in. It was mowldy and the flor was erth, but there was an old bed and some musty blankits. There was a streme owt side trickerling parst. I dipped in old cloths and washed the windos at the back so light coud come in. We had to stay some where for a fiew days at least jus to get some rest.
The responserbility of looking arfter LittelBaby felt wunder full and scary at the same time. I felt sorry for all those littel babies whose mummies are not kind. I wantid to be prertecting my baby from pane, from greef, from cold, from hunger all the time. It startid with cradeling her littel hed and supawting it. I felt use full and wantid. After only a few days thogh, she was holding her hed up her self.
If youv never met LittelBaby, its hard to discribe what she was like then. She was, abuv all, ditermined, even when only a fiew days old. She thort evry thing was very inportent. She was intense and loved to look at me. I stared in to her eyes often. Her pupils were huj and dark. Thay pulled me in so I got lost in them. It was eksquisit. Its like what youv been craving your hole life, this merging with anuther so you are no longer alown. Its like merging with the univers, with the hole werld, with evry one.
I liked looking arfter Duncan too, heteing the water on the fiyer and taking him cups of tea and doing sex for him. You know, I never ever thort I woud get a boy friend. I thort I woud be alown all my life. I dident know what fun it was being with some one else all most all the time. Some one who loves you. I can fiyul Duncans love for me. It kind of lekes owt of him, in warm waves.
Arfter a cuple of days resting, when are bred and sardines and twiglits ran owt, we moved on. We got a lift as far as Oban where we bort some chips and gobbeled them down sitting on a bensh. We startid walking north owt of the town. A van picked us up. The man said we coud sit in the back with the packidgis, if we dident mind the dark and the chickins. I sat on sacking with LittelBaby and Duncan sat on a tire. The three chickins squotted in the corner and looked at us owt of black shiney eyes. Thay looked like thay wantid to go to bed. It was cold and drafty as the roof of the van was a tarp. ‘Where are we going, Duncan?’ I said. ‘When can we stop?’
‘Not yet,’ he said. ‘This guy said he was taking the smaller road round the coast. The ferther we get, the better.’
We stopped for the driver to have a piss. I got owt to wee bihind a rock. The air felt piure and thin. The sun was shining wekely. It was cold, but beautifle. We were in werld of rocks, hether, shepe, with mountins reering up on ether side of us. I showed LittelBaby the mountins.
We drove for anuther awer and the driver dilivered the chickins. I was glad cos I felt sorry for them. After Fort Willyum we went towards Inver ness on quite a good rode, then took a little road left to wards the sea, which wownd rownd and abowt it self. The van driver was stopping of with packidgis here and there along the wey in rimote plasis.
Wiol we were bumping along, I hugged my baby to me and had a realisashun. I suddernly saw the lenth of histery stretching back thrugh time. I saw medeval ladies in those tall pointy hats, with there babies. I saw even cave wimin with there babies. I coud see that me and my baby we were jus like those pepol from long ago. Its like, having a baby had taken me back hundreds of years, had stripped me clene of all the littel bits of crap that moden life puts on us, teacups and sawcers and ciggies and Big Macs and all that. Lacy underware, washing up liqid, phones, nale varnish… its as if none of that has ever ixistid. Only mud and leves and clay pots and fiyer. Smoke and peat and waves and erth. Rane and moss and shit. Are skin and rabbit fer.
Thrugh cracks in the tarp of the van we got glimpsis of the sea to are left. Bemes of the setting sun were braking thrugh the clowds and glarnsing red in the water.
We went thrugh a tiny villige. There were no cars. Evry where seemed disertid. There were jus sheep who stood in the rode. There were no fencis, jus hills and rocks. Cows with long hare stared at us going by. It was so beautifle my hart sored with exitement. We parsed a littel row of tiny stowne cottidges wich went down to the sea. The driver stopped with a parcel. We nocked and he let us owt. ‘Thanks so much, mate, weyer stopping here,’ said Duncan.
We stood on the stowny beach. The sea was silvery. The sun had gone. It was cold but there was no wind. The clowds were riflecting them selvs in the all most still water. A sele popped its hed up and looked at us, just like the seles at home. It made LittelBaby giggerl. Evern thogh she was new born she had a grate sense of humer. More seles were lying on rocks. Sea berds weeled over hed and cried. ‘Duncan,’ I said, ‘Shall we live here?’
He terned from looking owt to sea, to looking in to my eyes. ‘Why not, Sally-Anne?’ he agreed. ‘We can live here.’
We fownd a tiny shop and arsked arownd and got a basic cottidge in ixchange for Duncan agreeing to chop wood and dip sheep and bild walls. We stayed there for a fiew weeks which ran in to munths.
We were getting to know are baby. At a month old, she all redy had the power to focus, she coud really consentrate on things. Her hed was a bit of a weerd shape with a big fore hed and ears coming owt at a sligtly odd angel. Her hare glemed like yello strands of straw. Her nose was a bit flat, but not too big. She had large hands and sligtly hunched showlders. When you called her name, she woud look rownd with her hed and boddy, not jus her hed. Uther wise, on the surfis, she looked quite normel.
I had all weys known from my conversashuns with LittelBaby when she was in my tummy, that she was very clever. She loved werds and made new ones up all the time. We lernt her langwidge gradjully, with her teching us, so we under stood her but not meny other pepol coud. By the time she was six munths we realised more and more that she was speking in a kind of strange rithmic powim. Like those hi ku things what Japernese pepol do, coming in short bersts. It gave you goos bumps. It sowndid aynshunt and odd. Pepol jus thort she was speking jibberish. In the baker for ixampel we went in to get some rolls, and the baker said ‘Good morning, LB.’
‘Ah noo noo, bigga notta go go faradah!’ LittelBaby exclamed, holding one index finger up high, as thogh that woud explane all.
‘You want some rolls today? How meny?’ arsked Basil.
‘Offa nolla woo woo sagana poh poh!’ she said, shaking her hed at him.
‘Tell you what, you can have six,’ he ansered, good nacherdly, and put them in a bag. ‘Shes a right one, isent she?’ he woud say to me.
Thank god the pepol in the villige were so mello. Thay dident give a monkys that we were a bit wiyerd. Thay jus exepted us. So we stayed thrugh the rest of the winter and in to the spring.
LittelBaby grew farst. She coud crawl at four munths and walk at seven munths. Arfter that, there was no kepeing her in side. At five in the morning she woud pull on her wellies and yank her junper over her hed and set of, tramping abowt the beach and the villige with me in toe. She woud clime rocks and banks and cliffs. By the time she was eight munths it was hard to kepe up. She coud cling by her hands to brarnches and lift herself up easily. She was effert lessly athletic. We did not stop her. We coud not stop her. She was a curius tramping fors, with her own set rithum, tramp tramp tramp, doggid and frowning. Pepol in the villige liked her. Thay woud save things for her: pritty pebbels, fer cones, shells.
In abowt June, LittelBaby startid having night mares. One warm night I woke up with a jump as she bashed me in the eye. She was thrashing abowt, sobbing. ‘Me brudda, me brudda cryig!’ she said.
‘You brudda?’ I said. ‘What do you mene, LittelBaby?’
She stared right thrugh me. She scremed a blud-kerdling, terrifying screme. ‘Dey hurtig me brudda!’ she wailed. ‘Dey hurtig him…’