Though he was baptized James Device, my grandson was always Our Jim to me. You could tell the moment he came out that summat was wrong with him. He didn’t screech and bawl like other bairns – he just lay there looking up through muddy eyes, a daft grin twisting his face. Lizzie took one glance at the lad and said he was moon-struck. But his dad was like a dog with two tails at the thought of siring a son. John couldn’t stop jumping a jig round the room, so thrilled that he didn’t seem to notice the drool seeping from the youngster’s gob.
Things didn’t improve much as Jim grew older. He sprouted up fast as a weed, and by the time he turned twelve he seemed almost full-grown and able to help with the harvest. Shame is though, all of that growing was done in his legs while his mind stayed dim-witted and weak. He was dead jealous when Ali came along, but as soon as she grew teats she learned how to put him in his place. Little Harry and Jim got on splendid, being interested in most of the same things, until our lot got cursed one bad winter and we ended up burying little Harry in a grave alongside our John.
Jim’s got a brown dog called Dandy. It’s almost as stupid as him and far more vicious. I can’t stand the sight of the mangy creature but the lad won’t let it out of his sight. That’s one of the reasons he can’t get a proper job – no one wants that snarly cur around. Even our Chris – Jim’s uncle over at Hay Booth – won’t let him tend the sheep with that mutt in tow. But try getting him to part with the damned dog is the devil’s-own-job. And I don’t want him leaving it here.
I think Jim must be a bit over twenty years by now, but there’s no chance of him getting hitched. Who’d put up with that lump of pudding? Not even Belle Robey, the slattern he’s walking out with from Fell Woods. I don’t know what’s going to happen to the poor lad. He’s accused of hexing Mistress Towneley from Carr Hall over a silly row about borrowing some of her turf. I don’t know why she made such a fuss when she’s got more-than-enough of the stuff. Then they said he bewitched John Duckworth when he wouldn’t give him an old shirt that was promised. It was a tatty worn thing young Duckworth was done with. And it certainly wasn’t worth losing his life for.