Heafed* by Brindley Hallam Dennis

Cumbria, where the story is set. Courtesy: Creative Commons

The barman hadn’t warned me that I’d taken the old man’s regular place at the bar. Perhaps that’s why he was so edgy to begin with.

“So. Whur’s thee really frum?”

“The Midlands,” I said.

“Ah wusnae sae fur aff, then.” he observed, nodding slowly.

“I’ve been up here more than fifty years mind you,” I told him.

“Thee’s still an incomer,” he said. “Thee’s allus an incomer.”

I must have frowned or something because he smiled and spoke more softly.

“It’s nae a bad thing tae be.”


The smile turned into a grin, and he leaned closer.

“Incomers is good fer’t stock,” he said. “Freshens it up somat. Besides,” he added, there’d be nae names if’n it weren’t fer’t incomers. Fer’t fells an’t becks, tha knows. It’s allus incomers that gies places theer names.”

“I guess so.”

“Sae next lot knaws whut tae call ‘em, he explained. The thing wi’ incomers,” he said, “is ef they gie ‘emselves tae place, or just tek frum it.”

We sat looking at each other after that for maybe a minute or more without saying anything. Then he nodded to my glass.

“Wilt tek another yan?”

“Aye, I thought, why not?”

“So,” he said while the barman was drawing two more pints, “You’ll not have been all that old, when you arrived?”

I noticed the change too. Maybe he’d relaxed a little, forgiven me for taking his place at the end of the bar.

“I was twenty-one,” I said.

“Why here?”

“School trip a few years before. Thought I’d come to heaven.” He nodded at that. “I took to driving up for weekends once I got a car; camped on a local farm. The farmer let me use his standpipe for water. We got to know each other, well, recognise each other. He was older than me. He’d be dead by now, I guess.”

“Aye. It’s a hard life on the fells.”

We sipped our beers.

“And what made you leave? Home.”

That one caught me out. I took a longer pull at the beer.

“Working for my dad for three years.”

“Ah,” he said, and I think he chuckled. “I know that one, lad,” he said.

I’m over seventy, but it’s always nice to be called lad.

“My heart wasn’t in it,” I told him, “The work.”

He gave me a keen look but said nothing.

“You’ll have been tied to the land, I imagine?”


I wondered what he thought I meant.

“Has it worked, leaving?”

“Yes,” I said. “And staying? Has that?”

He took a long pull at his beer. The barman, who’d been listening intently, waited for his answer.


*Animals growing accustomed to and attached to an area of pasture that they seldom stray away from it.


Brindley Hallam Dennis lives on the edge of England where he writes occasional plays, poetry, and essays. His writing has been published and performed. He blogs at 



Click here to access the Borderless anthology, Monalisa No Longer Smiles

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