Up Flenders Road


Photo by Melissa Reid

Breath pulls in
through my nose and hold -
            one, two, three, four steps and  
push out through circled mouth;
            one, two, three, four steps and
            in, out, in, out.
Gritty concrete thumping feet
wheezing breath polluting
air with white mist.
Stomach bounces,
legs shudder, head down,
nose running faster than feet.
            In, out, in out
            one, two, three, four steps and  
the rhythm of breath
calms the scraping in my lungs
cheap shoes brand skin
pain filled with pleasure
(or so they say).
            In: one, two, three, four steps and  
            out: one, two, three, four steps and
            Blocking the path is a herd of cows, their large, dirt encrusted bodies taking up more room than I would ever allow mine to. My breathing breaks free of control, gasping and grinding at my throat, desperate to regain some kind of normalcy. My chest heaves and my legs are wobbling. My weakness, I imagine, is a foreign notion to a cow, although the farmer and myself seem to embody weakness. He’s trying to direct them back into the field, movements slow and controlled. Next to them he looks miniature, a waxwork, not real in the way the cows are. I look down at myself and wonder if I look the same.
            Their stomachs jiggle as they stroll across the road, ushered into the field they call home. None of them seem bothered by the event, their mouths already reaching for the long stems of grass ahead. The farmer smiles at me, so I start running again. I un-pause the app on my phone, it seems to shout at me for stopping.  
            In, out, in out    
            one, two, three, four steps and –
You have burnt 200 calories.
The dismembered voice
signals some significance.
It means little to me
            stomach bouncing,
            legs shuddering, head down;
it means even less
to the cows behind me.

Catherine McKinlay is in her final year of her undergraduate degree studying English with Journalism and Creative Writing. In her spare time she enjoys the beach, reading, Instagram, bath bombs and laughter.