The Best of Times Short Story Competition

Spring 2015 Results

The Bull, The Judge and I

Copyright © Rose Ransom 2015

Once, I lived on the edge; between excitement and fear. I was five and the trajectory of my life had converged with that of a High Court Judge and his beloved, prize winning, stud bull.

I lived in a chocolate-box cottage with lattice windows. It was provided as part payment to my mother for cleaning the house of the Judge. The Judge lived at the end of a long, sweeping drive in the grandest house in the village. Occasionally his imposing figure was glimpsed gliding through the narrow main street in his chauffer driven Rolls Royce. The Bull lived in a field. He was as solid and chunky as a bull could be. He had a ring through his nose and a leather mask over his face. The Bull, like the Judge, was an awesome sight.

There the three of us were; the gulf of rank and species as wide as an ocean between us, when the Judge made a decision. He moved the Bull into the field surrounding our cottage. He warned the Bull might take a few days to settle in, and to take care not to upset him. We did take care.

The Bull hunkered down happily in the field. He laid claim to it and immediately began to patrol the hedgerow against intruders. His commitment to his duties caused a couple of problems for me and my mother. Our toilet at the end of the garden was only a few feet away from the hedge; and the lane that led to the village ran along the side of the field. The Bull took vigorous exception to us using either of these facilities. We were left in no doubt we lived in bull territory under his jurisdiction.

Our lives revolved around the moods and the location of the Bull. I learnt that both cunning and stealth were needed to survive in the Bull’s world.

The most strategic time to visit to the toilet was when the bull was busy patrolling the opposite side of the field. By no stretch of the imagination was I a lion-hearted child. I needed help.

I would enlist Mum, or any other available adult - I wasn’t fussy - to reconnoitre the enemy position. This involved the volunteer peering over the hedge to ascertain the position of the Bull. If their report was favourable I would tip toe to the toilet leaving the enlisted adult to guard the door. Unfortunately, although the Bull’s eyesight was impaired by the mask, there was nothing impeding his hearing.

The Bull instinctively understood shock and awe tactics. The pounding of his hooves stomping across the field coupled with his snorting as he charged the hedge just the other side of the toilet door, sent me in to a panic. Despite my resolution not to; a scream somehow escaped from my throat. “Stop screaming, you’re making him angry” would be the stage whispered response from outside the door.

“He’s angry already,” I would whimper back.

Walking along the lane when the cows were in season, and his testosterone levels were high, called for increased stealth. The Bull interpreted the sight of a head bobbing along over the top of the hedge, or the sound of feet in the lane, as a direct threat to his territory. He responded to the challenge by charging the hedge with increased determination.

How much could one hedge take before it gave way? To preserve the hedge, shoes were removed and, and anyone taller than the hedge crouched or crawled past the field.

Visitors began to decline invitations. It was not a social time for us.

Naturally enough, my mother found having to perform this ritual on her way to and from work, and the lack of a social life, tiresome. Eventually she plucked up courage to tell the Judge about the wicked ways of the Bull. “Nonsense,” he snorted. “He’s as gentle as a lamb. He’s only playing.”

The Judge had delivered his verdict. We were sentenced to tip toeing around the Bull. Mother started to look for another job. Deliverance, however, was not long in coming.

One day, as spring was giving way to summer, the Judge decided to take a short cut across the Bull’s field. He was half way across the field when the Bull took exception to the intrusion and ‘playfully’ chased the Judge around the field. At some point the Judge tried to clear the hedge in a single leap, breaking his leg as he landed in the ditch on the other side of the hedge.

The worst of time for the Judge was the best of time for us. The Bull was moved to another field to mend his ways.

My five year old heart could not help being happy about this. Mother reminded me that that the Judge had been very frightened and a broken leg was painful. I tried to look like I was sorry for the Judge, but I wasn’t.

Strangely, I missed the Bull. Something was missing. He had made the ordinary exciting. Visiting the toilet and walking to the village wasn’t an adventure any more.

By the next spring we had moved away. No bull this time. Only a swan called Clarence who patrolled the lane leading to our new cottage, but that’s another story.