The Little Red Wheelbarrow

3rd place Flash500 2nd quarter, 2010 comp., July 1, 2010

I am currently rewriting this into an Australian Fiction (possibly Literature) Novel.

So much depended on the little red wheelbarrow, teetering precariously across the bumpy ground. Sam's small hands slipped on its handles, glazed with rainwater from a pre-dawn storm.

As he came beside the wire fence, he eyed the chickens warily. Most of them were okay he supposed, but they still frightened him with their flapping and scratching. Some of them stood half as tall as he, and might just peck his face if they were to reach up as he was bending. Still, the eggs had to be gathered, and he was Mama's little man, so he would be brave and face them.

Slowly he backed through the rickety wire gate, then turned, brandishing his wheelbarrow as a shield to fend of the worst of the chicken assault. They would be looking for the food Mama usually brought when she collected the eggs for breakfast but today Mama couldn't come, it was just Sam and his wheelbarrow.

He edged around the fencing, watching the chickens, until he reached the shelter where they laid their eggs. Carefully lining his barrow with straw, he placed brown speckled eggs.

He felt a tug at his leg. A brazen white chicken was pecking his bright red gumboot. It was hungry, they were all hungry and Mama hadn't come to feed them. Sam pulled his leg away, fearful that a ravenous beak might ruin his treasured boots. The boots were a present this morning, for his fourth birthday.

Four eggs would have to do. Other chickens might join the pecking. His mind raced along nightmare tracks as he fell face down in the mud. The chickens leaped on him, scratching and pecking at his blue duffel coat. He struggled to his feet, fighting them off, and fled with his wheelbarrow and its precious cargo.

Tears, sweat and dirt stained his terrified face as he raced back to the farmhouse door. Carefully he removed his boots and placed them beside the door. It wouldn't do to leave muddy prints on the freshly scrubbed floor boards.

He dragged a wooden chair to the huge white sink that stood under the window. Looking out over the yard as he washed away what he could of the grime on his hands, he saw the chickens still in their pen. With a wet cloth in his hand he turned towards the large wooden table that filled the centre of the kitchen. Some milk had spilled and was dripping into a puddle on the floor. He dabbed it with the damp cloth, edging closer to where his mama sat, head resting on the table.

"Mama, wake up. I brought the eggs to make breakfast so Papa wont be angry again."

He frowned at the blood pooling around Mama's head, matting in her hair, and wondered if he should clean it up before Papa returned.