Francis Hayes
Ormesby, Middleborough, UK

“Man of Straw”

It is Sunday morning. As usual he is walking the dog.
As he approaches the barbed wire fence his attention is caught by something that flutters as the breeze gusts.
He stops. He calls the dog to heel. As it runs back to him he stares at the fence, focused on the thing.
It is a piece of string, teased out to no more than a bundle of sisal, the shape of a man, caught on a barb.

“Sweet suffering Christ.” The blasphemy, once so common because it was so exact, springs unbidden to his lips after twenty-four years.
Unbidden too, summoned by this man of straw, come the images he tried forget. Fabrics caught and hanging on barbed wire. In the rain and the wind, the fibres rot, fray, separate.

At the edges the warp and woof part company. Clinging to the whole cloth they flutter in the slightest breeze, like Tibetan prayer flags. One day, all unravelled, the strands are blown away, souls wafted from limbo. But there is always more material, draped, decaying, caught on the wire.
The dog whines for his attention. He pulls his watch from his pocket; time to go. At noon the Prime Minister is to broadcast to the nation. It is September 3rd.

Go to top