For the fiftieth time that morning, Sheila turned in the doorway from the tiny kitchen to the even tinier bathroom and caught her hair in the sticky fly paper hanging from the ceiling not far above. She had reminded herself many times to move the paper which hung by a drawing pin and was half-full of flies after only two days. However, as anyone will testify, those little immediate tasks which would take a minute to do always end up at the back of an ever-lengthening queue and eventually never get done.
This was unlike Sheila, who prided herself on her efficiency as a home maker and a wife, as Jack's more conscientious half, and her children's ever-present conscience. She hadn't been quite able to collect herself together since the move, though. The cottage, which was small, cosy and neat at first had become undersized, cramped and full of dust after a couple of days. Sheila had already discovered several species of spider and far too many cockroaches for her taste. Flying pests were also numerous and varied. Somewhere near the house was a damp spot that spawned thousands of noisy and vicious little mosquitoes every day. As much as she killed them every night with DOOM and coils and swatters, so they returned the next night, their numbers swelled and feeling famished. The flies were also a pain. They were brazen in their approach to perching and no amount of high-frequency hand-waving could convince them to move along once they had decided to buzz around something, be it a face, a cup of tea, a pot of cooking dinner or toes.
Sheila stalked outside and took a few long, deep breaths of the morning air. The humidity of summer had abated and the day, shorter and cooler, were creeping toward the winter months. There was a crispness to the air that hinted of wood fires and hot chocolate and books under blankets. The chill air bit the back of her throat as she breathed, and Sheila felt some of her tension smooth away. The freshness of the air in this valley had always done something to lift Sheila’s mood.
Behind her in the field, a cow mooed and a new calf called back in miniature. Sheila was not a petty woman. She had always took pride in the fact that she had always been mature in her dealings, never sinking to meanness and retaliation. But just this once, she thought she’d allow herself to have a little fun. She thought the cows would be safe enough wandering around Belland, but it would give Larringer a headache nonetheless, the effort of rounding up and counting heads, looking for strays. What he was doing with a herd of cattle was beyond Sheila, in any case. He certainly didn’t even appear to aspire to be a farmer. Well, he would discover soon enough the niggly details of keeping cows right next door to her. Sheila smiled and opened the gate.
The cows, at first uninterested, soon discovered the last of the summer kikuyu that grew along the driveway, as yet untouched by anything but the brush cutter. It was sweet and thick, and it drew them on down the long and meandering driveway, one step at a time.
Sheila smiled again, thinking how easy it would be to do every day, turned and headed back into the tiny cottage.