#18 – The Hill Where Goats Cry – Susan Gilbert

Father said never to take the goats onto the hill.  Goats would eat the berries and there would be none left to harvest.  Then father went to his fishing boat.  Brother said the hill was a good place for goats, they liked it up there and wouldn’t run off.  This was true.  The goats stayed on the hill.

The boy liked it up on the hill.  He could see across the fields and houses to the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other.  On the hill-top, Brother showed him a game.  They lay on their backs and looked up to the blue, where clouds rolled and rushed.  The clouds were very fast.  Brother told him the clouds were horses and dragons and warring gods.  Soon he could see the dragons and even the angry faces of the gods.

After a time the goats were unhappy, they ran about, holding their heads high.  Then they climbed on top of each other and they were crying.  Brother said they were bad goats and he hit them with his stick.

There was a big noise inside the hill, inside him and the world moved.

Brother did not comfort him when he fell over.  Brother laughed and said it was not the gods, just a tremor, nothing to be scared of and anyway the hill was a safe place.  Father said so.  Brother called him a baby.  He told Brother he was not a baby, he was four years old.  Mother said so.

Then another noise came.  First it was low and far away.  It moved inside him like the noise that came before the world moved.  But the world didn’t move again, the noise just grew louder.  It became like no noise he had ever heard.  He looked away from the mountain, towards the sea and he saw the noise.

It was brown and flat with houses and trees moving in it.  It was much closer than the sea.  It was coming towards the hill and there was nothing behind it.  Only brown.  He looked to Brother, asking what it was, but Brother said nothing.  Brother was crying.  Brother ran away down the other side of the hill.

He waited as the brown came and made the hill small, only just a bit taller than Father.  A fishing boat came and leaned on the side of the hill.  It was broken, there were no fishermen, no father.  The goats huddled together, crying sadly.

He still waits.  The goats wait.  Brother has not come back yet.  He pulls a wooden bit from the fishing boat and pokes the hill with it.  The hill does not move.

Now he is thirsty and hungry.

Inside a parcel of folded leaves, Mother has put a rice cake and some small onions.  He opens the parcel and eats.  The goats eat too, they have found the ripe berries.  He eats some berries, they are sour, but they stop his thirst.

He waits.  Dark clouds have come and covered the blue sky.  He does not look at them.  It is cold now and Brother still has not come.  The goats lie down, close together.  They have a warm, safe smell.  He pushes his feet against one, it sniffs him, then puts its head down.  He snuggles in among the warm goats.

Brother will come back soon and they can take the goats home together.  They won’t say they took the goats up the hill.  Father would be angry.

~Susan Gilbert, Huddersfield, United Kingdom

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