Emily lay perfectly still, flat on her back, and stared up. Straight up, unblinking, arms stretched wide, palms pricked by the blades beneath her hands. Soft when she was still, sharp if she moved. At the furthest reaches of her peripheral vision she could see the fuzzy green of the grass that was cushioning her head; otherwise nothing but a widescreen panorama of blue. A plane, too distant to be heard, crossed overhead and Emily watched it: a roughly doodled arrow sketched across the sky. She twisted her head to follow its trajectory but her view was broken by the cow, the sun reflecting back off its glossy, painted surface. It shone in a way that a cow shouldn’t. Emily became aware of the thrum of cars on the dual carriageway again.
“Moo,” she whispered, rolling onto her side and propping herself up on her elbow. The cow stared blankly at her, its mournful face forever frozen in concrete. Emily watched as a fly landed by its ear; there was no twitch of the head, no reflexive swish of its tail. She closed her eyes and heard a gentle buzz that receded to silence as the fly flew away before an angry exchange of car horns from the road broke the quiet. She opened her eyes and sat up, brushing grass from her arm and inspecting the dimpled imprint it had left on her elbow. As she pushed her way up to standing she caught sight of the cow’s feet, cemented into the ground, rooted and anchored in place. “You’re not going anywhere either,” she said.
A long chain of daisies snaked away from Emily’s foot, the result of a patient entwining as she had idled away the afternoon. She picked up the chain and held it draped around the cow’s neck, a cheery white and yellow garland to brighten up her bogus bovine companion. Dead wildflowers to decorate something that had never been alive. She tried to tie the two ends of the chain together but her fingers, usually so nimble, couldn’t work the delicate strands and the chain came apart in her hands. She was left clutching two or three daisies threaded together and a smattering of stray petals, like elongated white tears in her hands.
Emily stuffed the remnants of the daisy chain into her jacket pocket and patted the cow on its head; soaked in the afternoon sun it was warm beneath her hand. “I tried,” she said. Turning away she began to walk across the field, back towards the adjacent road, quickening her step as she saw a bus in the distance. She couldn’t make out the number but they all ended up in the same place. The impassive cow watched as she broke into a run. Had it been able to lift its head it would have seen a fading vapour trail high across the sky, the only sign of the plane that had slipped from view.
This is story 28 in a series of 42 to raise money and awareness for the mental health charity Mind. My fundraising page is here and all donations, however small, are really welcome: http://www.justgiving.com/42shorts
I acknowledge this one is not quite a story but more a hint at one untold (which I know and will one day try to write) but I saw the old concrete cows in Milton Keynes again recently and dug this out. There is something distinctly odd about them. I wrote this piece a while ago as an exercise in a creative writing course I was taking. The tutor suggested I take the “like elongated white tears” simile out. I am bad at killing my darlings so it remains for now but let me know if it’s surplus to requirements !