Joe Banfield

Extract from: Adalwin and the Wolf

They had a wolf committing doings over in Swithland Woods so Adalwin and I bucked up the nags and went riding up the Fosse to the town of Ledecestere. The road was full with roisterers and mompots, all bragging about how they was good for the four pound reward, and Adalwin got dizzy-eyed listening to all of it until he swung from his horse, holding on to the reins with one hand, and biffed them about the head, one by one.

   ‘Let me tell you something, fellas,’ he said. ‘I do believe the Greek Aesop had it right when he said it’s easy to be brave from a safe distance, don’t you? And you bootless louts is talking crazy if you think you’re getting your hands on that reward in front of me and my pal here.’

   He jerked a thumb my way and I held up a hand to the lot of them and said, ‘How do, chaps.’

   When we got further along, Adalwin steered over to my side. ‘Young’uns these days,’ he said.’

   ‘Tell me about it.’

   Adalwin come to us after he dusted Pa in a brawl, offering the remains of his bong as weregild. Where he was from they did that kind of thing, and a man, once he’d milled a fella, was expected to pay restitution to the victim’s family. Ma weren’t yammering none. After we cleaned him out she let him stay and within a few months he’d got a baby in her and had done the place up real nice. In the mornings he went chasing chickens up Mattock’s stead with a scythe, running barefoot and howling at them like something let out of hell. Adalwin was a crazy motherfucker. He’d sit by the workbench and strip the skin from his toes. He said it was ‘cos of the Indian he had in him but I reckon if he was all pure stock he’d still be the same moon-eyed. He set up a lean-to against the house and then a lathe and then a whetstone and he’d fix all the house’s broken things, hammering away through the day. In the evenings he come in and hammered away at Ma too, making her coo like a dovebird.

   Long nights he eyed me wary, picking meat from between his teeth. I was fifteen and he thought I had designs on snipping him for Pa. He had some wicked looking tools. One day I went where he done the smithing and held his puukko in my hands.

   ‘You want revenge for your daddy?’ he said. ‘Well, if you do then I don’t mind. I can get tired these days and truth is I ain’t into the rutting like I once was.’

   ‘Not me,’ I said. ‘My daddy was a wastrel what used to knock me about the place and have to do with other women weren’t Ma and I’m glad he’s dead.’

   ‘Fair enough,’ Adalwin said.

   Then one day, without no warning, Ma popped out Adalwin’s little’un and croaked it. We buried her out back and Adalwin did a song about a crow lifting pearls from a woman’s eyes. We swaddled the baby up good in some of Ma’s vampers and put it on a straw bed where it fobbed and wewled for a feeding until Adalwin could have it no more and took it off to the woods for abandoning. It was a pink little runt with a mouthful of tiny teeth and a pair of peach-flesh eyes. We was just one place of wattle walls in a open dell and the nearest teat was three day’s walking to Wantage, so we put it down all bloated and hammy in a nice leafy spinney and left that place without looking back.

The complete Adalwin and the Wolf can be found in our UEA Special Edition Volume Three.

Joe Banfield is from Brighton. He graduated from UEA's Creative Writing MA programme in 2014 and will be returning to Norwich this September to study on the PhD. He is currently writing his first novel, set during the English Civil War.