Tuffin is going out for a walk. He will take his usual walk for Tuesday, the one to the goat. He brings a rucksack with some treats. He knows she will eat anything but hotpot is good goat food. He also brings a new book. It is by J. Galsworthy and has been in Tuffin’s parlour bookcase since he can remember. It is from The Reprint Society. He has lots of books from Reprint Society all with the same leatherette covers. They are famous books but he hasn’t read any of them preferring to give them to the goat.
Tuffin wears his camel coloured Macintosh and carries his collapsible umbrella. He wears his rucksack on both shoulders with the waist strap fixed around his waist, so he doesn’t need a belt for his mac, he takes the belt off, roles it up and leaves it on the hall table. ‘Wait there’ he says. He wears his second-best black lace-ups. They are very shiny.
His route takes him down the hill, past the station at the bottom and then left. At the station a dustbin has tipped over, ‘Must be the wind’ thinks Tuffin. A large crab lies flat as an ashtray, pink against the metal grey sky. ‘Join us’ says Tuffin.
The road is wet with new tarmac. Tuffins shoes stick on the tarmac. ‘Good call’ thinks Tuffin looking at his shoes. The smell of tar is his favourite smell and he stops to sniff. The sniffing makes him sneeze so he takes a pressed white handkerchief from the pocket of his mac and blows. The sticking, sniffing and blowing disturbs the cheeping crickets who perch on the long grass either side of the road. They raise their legs and holler. ‘Come along’ says Tuffin.
Tuffin walks past the burnt-out barn where the wind rattles the rusting, corrugated bits of roof. Past the crumbling brick buildings where an old tractor, empty of its engine, nudges its pink nose out like a rat. ‘Don’t miss out’ says Tuffin.
A little further on, a row of abandoned workers cottages overgrown with ivy, announces the field with the goat.
At the goat Tuffin stops.
The goat stands in a field behind fences arranged in a rough square. Either side are two identical fields. Both are empty. The ground is muddy and pitted by the goats hooves. The goat is very muddy. The mud cakes her sides, her back, her tail and her tummy. The mud and the sky are sticky, her feet and Tuffins shoes are sticky and black. ‘Toffee’ says Tuffin.
Tuffin removes the goat’s treat from his rucksack. The hotpot is wrapped in silver foil in a tin. Tuffin lays the foil on the grass and unwraps it. It is in a jumble but it’s still warm. Tuffin arranges the meat and potato on the foil and adds gravy from a thermos. He pushes the dish closer toward the goat. The goat breathes steam and waits. Tuffin slides away the foil and the gravy soaks away into the mud. ‘Gravy’ says Tuffin.
The goat remains still and silent as the wind winds up. Tuffin removes the J. Galsworthy from his rucksack and cracks the spine. The pages fan in the wind as he lays the book, page down, onto the treat making a crust. ‘A pie.’ Tuffin whispers to the goat. The layers of mud, grass, gravy, meat, potatoes and Galsworthy smoke before the goat. ‘A J. Galsworthy Pie’ says Tuffin.
Now the wind whips up and it starts to rain very, very hard. ‘It’s a flood’ thinks Tuffin ‘l knew it’. Tuffin opens his umbrella shielding the pie from the downpour. He raises the collar on his mac as the rains drenches the goat’s sides, back, tail and tummy. Her horns are washed into short spears and her beard turns as white as Tuffins hanky. She lowers her head and looks at Tuffin’s tin and rucksack. She looks at his second-best shoes now thick with mud. She looks at the Reprint Society edition of the Forsyth’s Saga. She looks at the pages soaked in gravy and the meat and potato piled underneath. The rain flattens the wool around her neck like eagle feathers, her eyes fill with rain and her mouth gapes. Tuffin, the crickets, the rat and the crab watch the goat eat the pie in two bites.
The rain stops.
Tuffin puts the tin back into his rucksack and brushes the mud off his knees. ‘Good job’ he says to the goat. The goat gleams and smokes as the sun shines.
The sticky road is wetter now. Puddles of oily water illuminate Tuffin’s route home like stepping stones. Tuffin paddles in the nearest puddle until his shoes shine again. ‘Till next Tuesday’ Tuffin says to everyone, ‘It’s Hemmingway.’