Prompt: pregnant falconer
October 26, 2011
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Mabel Braithwaite had been told at school that she was “educationally sub-normal”, in the days before it became more fashionable to say “borderline learning-difficulties”. Her teachers had taken every opportunity to tell her that she would never amount to anything, and that she would “get into trouble” if she was not careful. Mabel had never had the foggiest idea what “get into trouble” meant, unless it was something to do with leaving gates open, or being cheeky. She grew up mostly in the company of herself, her pets, and the livestock on her parents’ farm. She always did her best to avoid getting “into trouble”.
Mabel was twenty years old by the time she began to venture away from the farm on her own. When she visited the Horbury Annual Show for the first time, it was the most exciting thing she had ever seen. She bought some candy-floss. She watched Punch and Judy (and thought what a good job it was that her mother and father were not there). She watched a man with three beautiful birds of prey give a display in the main enclosure. It was captivating: the sheen of their feathers, their cruel beaks and talons, their disdainful eyes, and the speed of their attack when they went for the lure as it whizzed round above the man’s head. The man had said that a falcon can dive at three hundred miles per hour – faster than a racing car and much more graceful.
After the show, Mabel asked the man if she could learn about birds of prey. The man’s name was Stuart. He was nice. Stuart invited Mabel to come and visit him, so that he could teach her about falconry. Stuart said he would pick her up in his Land Rover. Mabel was worried the first time that her mother and father met Stuart, but they seemed to like him. Mabel started going to Stuart’s house often. She learnt a lot.
After a few weeks, Mabel began to wonder why she felt sick so often.