Pigger pulled on his clothes like a zombie. These days he didn’t care what he wore; not since Ne—, not since the accident.
That day, he’d walked through the chill five o’clock darkness to the abyssal yawn of Ollerenshaw’s No.8 as Chalky wittered on about Beeching’s Axe. Pigger didn’t care; he was more occupied trying to locate that wet rumble whilst replaying that morning’s conversation with the bairn:
Nellie pointed a foot – clad in patent size elevens. “I did my own laces!” She set her other shoe on the table.
“Divvent dee that! Only shoes of dead fowk go on the table.”
“Superstitious ol’ miner!” Janet had scoffed before giving him his bait and kissing him goodbye.
That kiss had warmed his lips as he’d cut through Nellie’s school, the quickest route to Ollerenshaw’s. Ahead, spoil tip No. 8 loomed through the fog like a giant, sleeping dog. As mizzle marinated them, Pigger looked heavenwards wishing for days when the calligraphy of cirrus clouds signed their names across summer skies.
Wait a minute… He stopped, looking around. ‘Where are they?’
Three bairns, black as sin, said the same thing to them everyday:
“Careful of the black choke.”
Today there was no sign of them.
‘We’ll be safe today,’ He assured Chalky, ’Nae bairns!’
‘Bairns?’ Chalky said.
The rumbling continued when, just after noon – even deep down in No.8 – he felt the rumble instead.
‘All out!’ the foreman screamed.
He, black as the tongue of slurry that slouched down the valley below, was relieved to see the spoil tip had spared the town.
Then he saw the mudslide had taken the most direct route.
That night he put a pair of size elevens on the table whilst his wife, a shape of grief in human form, sobbed.