I was walking home from the high meadow, following a muddy goat track that ran below the Hawthorn hedge, or else I wasn't descending the goat track at all. Who could tell? It was late afternoon, the sun had turned the sky an unfamiliar sulfur-orange, or it was late morning and the cobalt blue sky was blazing under a quivering red sun with a towering gray-bottomed, anvil-shaped cloud or two, looking like sacked Templar castles, acting as semi-surrealistic side curtains. I was following the goat track, though there hadn't been a goat on the grassless trail for as long as I could remember, only an occasional rabbit. Regardless, I was following the goat track down from the high pasture, or else I wasn't. Who could tell?
My house was a thatch-roofed cottage built from river-rounded boulders of granite and gneiss. Not much else was known about it. Someone, myself I think, had snaked a small copper pipe from the hillside spring so that hot water was available at the turn of a wooden handle. The availablility of water was not without cost.
The sink was overflowing with greasy dishes from an unremembered meal and it seemed like a good idea at the time to wash them. Or was that a bad idea? Who could tell? I decided to wash them, having only the two options to chose between. But, as I filled the cracked enamel sink with water, almost steam, the cups and saucers, plates and bowls began to move about and break apart. They fragmented into salmon-coloured, salmon-shaped pieces, that swam around in the oily water like anxious panfish.
Gazing pensively out the six-paned window I could see that dawn was arriving, or perhaps it wasn't. Who could tell? Had I been washing dishes all afternoon? All evening? In the sink the salmon continued to disintegrate into smaller and smaller fry. I thought how happy they would have been had they been real salmon, or even simple sardines, and able to swim off down the dark drain on an adventure, or leap up the dripping water faucet and fin their way back through mist and time to the place of their birth. Only they continued to loose their identity, dissolving into a sandy mud that covered the bottom of my sink. I was upset that my cast iron skillet hadn’t been dirty so I could have put this beautiful abrasive to productive use. Imagine a school of salmon swimming back and forth, rubbing their granular, gold-scaled bellies against the bottom of my skillet. I pulled the plug and watched the salmon disappear down the drain. Or was that simply gritty clay? Who could tell?
I turned my attention instead to another school of salmon swimming up the early morning sky, struggling against the dark. It must have been morning as sky-salmon are not known to swim up the sky at night.
I studied the high wire fence enclosing the vegetable garden. Ah, I thought, that's why the goats and rabbits no longer use the goat trail. I remembered how, after I first installed the fence, the goats continued to wander down each evening, or was it morning, to sit on their haunches and sniff the ripening cabbage, carrots and lettuce for a while, but eventually they stopped coming, leaving behind only their sad, silent bleats. The rabbits too soon discovered the fence and whimpered once or twice before hopping away to their private silence. Since then all the vegetables inside the fence had grown to maturity, split, turned black and rotte, turning magically into earth. We didn't pick a thing that year, nor the years after. We ate out of cans, or fed on dried legumes, or did we. Who could remember?
The goats returned to their high, brushy hill, and the rabbits to their megalopolis of cozy tunnels beneath the Hawthorn hedge. Both seemed happy to nibble aimlessly at wild grasses and herbs as the morning star guided the moon into view. Or was that the evening star? I began to wonder, had there ever been goats? Rabbits? Who could tell?
Later in the day, after I’d scraped the shapeless salmon from the sink and poured them on the weeds in the vegetable garden I pulled on my rubber boots and followed the goat track as it wandered upward toward the top of the hill. The rabbits were asleep, silent in their dark, humid burrows, and of course, now I realized, there may never have been goats. Who could tell?
At the fence separating my fallow field of mustard from that of someone I had never met I crossed using the stile, though I could easilly have walked a few yards to the right and stepped through a gaping hole where the goats had once passed. Goats? Or I could have simply jumped over at any number of locations as the wire net was in need of repair and sagged to the ground almost everywhere. Or perhaps there was no fence. Who could tell?
The goat track eventually led me into a neglected cemetery overrun with rank weeds and impenetratable brambles, then disappeared amongst tumbled headstones marked with broken nine-pointed stars and vague hieroglyphics. Moving forward I stumbled against the walls of a church whose huge oak doors were closed by slabs of chestnut nailed to the stone walls with copper spikes. The artistically carved Saints, Madonnas and Griffins that had once proudly decorated the wooden portal seemed to have been nibbled away by creatures with rodent-like incisors. The belfry bell was silent, as it had always been, or had it always been? Had I ever heard the pealing of the bells? Who could tell?
When I pressed my left ear against the chiped oak panel I thought I could hear, hushed and far away, the bleating of goats, and with my right ear, the crying of rabbits; a great many rabbits, a great many goats.