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The Waller

Steven John

I pass the waller from time to time, on the high, remote faces of the fells. I hear him before I see him, the ‘plink plink’ of his tools on the lichened stones, like the call of a bird. He’s mute to most folk but over the years he’s spoken solitary weather words to me, ‘damp’ or ‘fair’, nothing more.

No-one knows who’s paid him for the long threads of wall he’s re-stitched, embroidering the bitter landscape with his hard, grey lines. I’ve never seen him eat or rest or wear anything to keep out the cold other than an encrusted tweed jacket, even when the wind has cut my face like a blade.

Today the fells are fleeced with a crinkling of snow. I bid him a good day and observe his cragged hands knead a rock as a baker would mould his dough. The waller nods to the thin blue sky and says it’s ‘crisp’. He taps the sculpted rock into its place, as if remaking the granite rind. As I walk the ‘plink plink’ fades to silence. When I turn he’s disappeared, absorbed into the stone and bones of the country.

Steven John’s short stories, flash fiction and poetry have been published in many online literary magazines and print anthologies. His microfiction appeared in Best Microfiction 2019 and 2020, he’s won the weekly Ad Hoc Fiction a record seven times and he’s proud to have read at the prestigious Stroud Short Stories on four occasions. He served as Senior Flash Fiction and Special Features Editor at New Flash Fiction Review from 2018-20. Steven can be found at and on Twitter @stevenjohnwrite

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