In the Twinkling of an Eye

- Sarah Ellis, column editor

"Life in the Wild"

Siobhán Parkinson

Cows are Vegetarians will be published this spring by O'Brien Press, who have kindly granted permission to reprint this excerpt.
Meet a streetwise Dublin kid who goes on a visit to the country and is very bemused and not too impressed at what she sees...


The journey was dead boring. Everything was green, all grass and trees and stuff, and there were no shopping centres or car parks or playgrounds or anything nice and friendly and human-looking like that. And there were all these wild animals in the fields, cows and sheep and horses and every sort of thing. I bet they'd eat you if they got half a chance.

The further we got away from Dublin, the worse it got, and the greener, and the fields started to have little stony walls around them. I suppose it's to keep the wild animals from jumping out and eating the people going past in their cars.

After about ten hours we got to Sinéad and Dara's house. It was stuck all by itself out in the middle of a field. They call it a garden, because it has a gate and a flowerbed by the front door, but it's a field all right. I'd hate that, living in a field. No neighbours, nothing, no clubs or shops or streetlights. Just lots of green stuff.

Anyway, Sinéad and Dara were waiting for us. Dara ran away when he saw the car coming, because he's a pipsqueak, but Sinéad came and said hello and gave my ma a kiss and a hug like a proper little girl. I never kiss people, I think it's soppy, but you could see my ma thought Sinéad was wonderful, giving her a kiss and all.

Then we went into the house and Sinéad said I was going to sleep in her room, and I thought that'd be OK. At home, me and my ma share a room, and it's cool, because Ma comes to bed real late and I usually wake up and then we have chats. But I thought it'd be nice to share a room with Sinéad. We could have midnight feasts and pillow-fights and all those things kids in books do that my ma is not interested in.

But we went down this narrow sort of hallway and there was no stairs.

'Where's the stairs?' I asked.

'We haven't got a stairs,' Sinéad said, proudly, as if not having a stairs was something special.

'So where are the bedrooms, then?' I asked.

'Here,' said Sinéad, and she flung open the door into a downstairs bedroom.

It looked very peculiar, I thought. You looked out the window, and there everything was, that field and everything, real close. Anyone could stick their head in the window. I didn't like it one little bit.

'Is this a cottage?' I asked. I've read about cottages. They are little houses in the country with no upstairs and there's usually a witch living in them.

'It's a bungalow,' said Sinéad.

Ooh, I thought a bungalow. Well, yah-boo-sucks to you, Miss Knowall Sinéad.

But I had a good bounce on the bed anyway. I gave it eight out of ten for bounce. My bed at home is a bit old and only gets about six out of ten, so eight's an improvement.

Just as I was testing out the bed, what did I see, only a wild animal coming up to the window. I told you that garden was really a field.

'Sinéad,' I yelped. 'Sinéad, there's a wild animal out there!'

That got old Sinéad going all right. She ran right over to the window.

'That's not a wild animal,' she said, laughing. The cheek of her, laughing! 'That's Henry.'

Henry. Well, what sort of a name for a wild animal is that?

Henry was this huge cow. Next thing, Sinéad opened the window to talk to him, and he stuck his big head in the window. He was chewing all the time.

'Hey, Sinéad!' I yelled. 'Don't let him stick his head in like that. He's slobbering all down the wallpaper. It's disgusting!'

'Henry's not a he,' said Sinéad. I mean, what a time to be correcting my grammar! 'She's a cow, and she's very friendly.'

Well, I could see that he was a cow, and he didn't look a bit friendly to me. I didn't like the way he was chewing. I could see he was planning to eat the curtains.

'Henry is a boy's name,' I said.

'Not in this case,' said Sinéad, and I swear, she was stroking the cow's face. 'It's short for Henrietta.'

'Don't touch him, Sinéad,' I shouted. 'He'll bite you. He'll eat you!'

'She won't eat me. Cows are vegetarians.'

Vegetarians, right, as if that made any difference.

'Who cares what star-sign he is, he can still eat you,' I said.

'Vegetarian isn't a star-sign,' said Sinéad. 'It means not eating meat.'

'I know what it means,' I said, 'but he can still eat you. It doesn't matter about his religion.'

I was thinking about those people in India, I suppose. The ones that only eat vegetables because meat is against their religion.

Sinéad said cows didn't have any religion. I said they could if they wanted to. She said they wouldn't want to. I said, how would she know. It was one of those arguments that started out being quite enjoyable but was starting to get stupid.

In the end, Sinéad said she had to go and take Henry out of the garden and put him back in his field. I didn't point out that the garden was a field anyway, as far as I could see, because I was glad to think that he wouldn't be able to stick his head in the window. I wouldn't be able to sleep if I thought there was a wild animal outside, waiting for us to go to sleep so he could get a good bite at us.

'Don't mind her,' I heard Sinéad saying to the cow when she was leading him away. 'She's only down from Dublin.'



Siobhán Parkinson lives in Dublin. Watch for her new book, Call of the Whales,
a thrilling adventure story set in the Arctic Circle.

Volume 4, Issue 3, The Looking Glass, 2000

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"Life in the Wild (excerpt)" © Siobhán Parkinson, 2000.
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