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Plot Description

This is a rather gruesome story from the “Claud’s Dog” collection in Someone Like You.

Spoiler warning! Claud Cubbage is walking his greyhound Jackie (see “Mr. Feasey”) when he meets Rummins, an unpleasant farmer who lives nearby. Claud mentions to Rummins that the Health Officer recently sent out a ratcatcher (see “The Ratcatcher”) to poison the rats that are living in Rummins’ hayrick. Rummins says that he and his son Bert will be over later in the day to fetch in that rick. When they arrive, Claud and the narrator come to watch them work. As Bert is hacking into the hay with a knife, he suddenly begins to hear a grating noise as if the knife were rasping along something solid. Bert is frightened but Rummins shouts at him to keep cutting. The narrator starts to remember the day that he helped build the rick back in June. Ole Jimmy had quarrelled with Rummins over the coming storm, and the men decided to stop working for lunch despite Rummins’ worries for the weather. Ole Jimmy was a local drunk who also worked as a maintenance man for the children’s playground. The kids and the town loved him. Claud and the narrator headed back to the filling station to have some sandwiches, while Ole Jimmy said he wanted to take a nap. When they returned the rick was finished and Ole Jimmy had disappeared, leaving his satchel behind. The narrator asks Rummins where he went, and Rummins hesitates before guessing that he went home. All this comes flooding back to the narrator as he watches Bert struggle to cut through the hard object buried in the hay. The boy finally manages to break through and lifts out the chunk of hay, only to freeze when he sees what is before him. “Rummins, who knew very well what it was, had turned away and was climbing quickly down the other side of the rick. He moved so fast he was through the gate and halfway across the road before Bert started to scream.”

(If you don’t get it, Ole Jimmy was dead inside the hayrick. That’s what the rats were eating and what Bert cut through with the knife.)