Runt of the Litter by Chris Hayes

It was unusually cold outside for this early in the season. On Ragnarok that meant people had to stay indoors to keep their noses and ears from freezing. Johan was in from the shuttleport, newly arrived with a shipment of sorely needed fuel cells and doing his best to warm up at his cousin Brigit’s with some hot fiskesuppe, when he caught sight of Brigit’s four-year-old son Anton sneaking out the back door.

Johan reluctantly pushed his chair back from the table, walked to the back room where the parkas and boots were set out in rows, and suited up for the weather, steeling himself. Being only half-Ragnaran put him at a disadvantage in high winds. Brigit still teased him about the time he’d nearly blown away as a child. They’d been almost the same size back then, though she was eight years younger and a girl. She outweighed him now by twenty kilos, most of it muscle.

He pulled his goggles down and his hood up, then stepped outside. Anton was young, but he was smart. He’d gone into the covered walkway connecting the house to the barn. Snow hadn’t quite filled all the gaps between the boards, but it was fast mounting up to form the deep winter tunnels the family used to get from one building to another for the duration of the cold season. Johan caught sight of Anton’s small figure slip into the barn and chuckled. Brigit had told him about Anton’s fascination with the newest addition, born out of season. He followed Anton into the huge single-story structure.

The familiar pungent odor of manure competed with the scent of the hay bales stacked against the walls and the fishy smell of the aquaponics tanks at the far end of the barn. Low pitched mooing came from the cattle in their winter beds. In the goat pen, a half-dozen thick-legged Ragnaran goats surrounded Anton where he sat on the hay-covered floor. The little boy had a broad smile on his face. In his lap was a newborn kid, unusually small for a Ragnaran breed. The baby was lucky to have been born while the herd was indoors. He wouldn’t have survived even a day outdoors as cold as it was.

“Do you like him, Johan? Mama says his name is Tann…um.” The little boy paused, thinking. Then his face brightened. “Tanngrisnir!” he managed.

Johan bit his lip and nodded. Brigit was a big fan of the old mythology. Naming the little runt after one of the goats that pulled Thor’s mythological chariot was certainly optimistic.

“An excellent name, Anton,” replied Johan with a smile. “He’s a wonderful goat. The best goat I’ve ever seen.”

Johan dropped to his knees in the hay. He laid a hand on the tiny goat’s head. “If I can make it, you can make it,” he said. The undersized animal let out a frail sounding bleat, as if in agreement. Anton giggled.

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2 thoughts on “Runt of the Litter by Chris Hayes”

  1. This is a nice piece, Chris. Wouldn’t expect something so sweet or hopeful from a place called Ragnarok, but I guess a cute goat is a cute goat.

    Thanks for sharing Karen. You’ve been ambushed.


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