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BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

BEEF'S BLOOD

My roommates' room smells like beef's blood; a salty sourness that burns the nostrils if inhaled too sharply. It took me some time to place the smell, for at first I was hovering between rank gym locker and sodden mattress, but nobeef's blood. Like most people of this type, he is unaware of the odor and forces his visitors to endure it for hours at a time. fter smelling his room, it is a wonder that they return at all. !he only way I can e"plain it is if the tang somehow inhibits their sense of smell after a few minutes, or if its uni#ue chemical composition has created some kind of airborne hallucinogen which draws its users back, despite themselves. $owever, I have not yet been able to test these theories, being unable to breathe it in for more than a breath or two at a time and even then, regretting it deeply. !his detail, this smell is ironic because my roommate is a raging vegetarian whereas I cut meat for a living. !he blood from the meatthe shrink wrapped chucks of slippery fleshhas a way of working itself into the skin, into the body of the butcher himself, so that after a long day of cutting one almost sweats blood, e"pels it from every orifice in a vulgar vivification of the long% dead creature. &ou would think, then, that my room would reek of salt%rich bloodbut it doesn't. My room reeks instead of nothingness, a scentless and unmemorable void. (o past worth revisiting, and no future to look forward to. dead end, a blank stare into an empty and desolate heart. I digress. Let me get back to the general flow of things. s I said, I cut meat for a living. I do this in a small rural town whose name is unimportant. )utside the shop where I work hangs a large sign depicting a bull standing on his hind legs with a knife in one hand and a cow's head in the other. I always thought this sign rather strangealmost sinisternot because the bull was made to look humanoid or because the bull depicted was butchering one of his own, but because on his face was painted a cheery smile. $is smile unnerved me, made me feel confused and guilty at one and the same time, and yet no matter how hard I tried to avert my eyes from it each day, I *ust had to look. I was thinking on that bull's smile while I sliced open a plastic%wrapped strip loin, splashing the stale blood onto the stainless steel butcher's block. Pleased to the last, he crops the flowery food, And licks the hand just raised to shed his blood. Ine"plicably, my mind always leapt to these lines whenever I performed this gory task; I didn't even like le"ander +ope. I had no time to ponder this strangeness, for no sooner had I sliced the strip loin free when a customer began barking orders at me on how to cut it. ,!hat (ew &ork strip there- .imme' a nice thick one. Real thick,/ ordered a fat man with a flushed face. I placed my blade an inch and a half from the edge of the loin. ,(ope, thicker./ !wo inches. ,!hicker./ !hree. ,!hicker, I'm hungry./ 0our inches, a huge steak. ,)kay, that looks about right./ I wrapped and weighed it and handed the man his twenty%eight dollar steak. $is face flushed in appreciation and he was gone. Later I would find his steak discarded in the bottom of a free1er and be forced to throw it out. I would be disgusted by his carelessness and waste and decide then and there that I needed a break, a temporary escape from this town where I could clear my head and be far away from people like him. nd I would take it soon. 2ut right now it was time for lunch. Lunchtime consisted of me going into the meat cooler for five minutes to have a salami sandwich, some milk, and an apple. !here was no time for anything else, as the ne"t customer would be along soon. !wo bites into my sandwich I noticed something strangesi" pink impressions in the top of my bleached%white bread. 2lood from my fingertips had soaked in, leaving round rosy wounds behind. I had already eaten two. I fro1elistening to the whir of cooler fansthen thought of the smiling bull, and bit down. 2ack at my apartment, I informed my roommate of my plan to go for a hike that weekend.

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

BEEF'S BLOOD

$e said 3good' he was having people over anyway and I would miss the party. +olitical ranting and cheap vegetarian sushiI wasn't going to miss anything. I retired to my room to pack. It is midnight and I am alone somewhere in 4outhwestern )ntario, hiking blindly through farmers' fields. I have been moving all day, sunrise to sunset and beyond. In the blackness of the beyond I have found the real me, the very essence of the butcher. literary rewind is in order here. My fear of cattle began last night after 55 when the slow, heavy movement of cows' hooves outside my tent caught my attention and held it rather firmly until sunrise. &ou see, as innocent as cows arescared even by the slightest of noisesthey still pose a very real threat to a tired mind lying on the edge of an isolated cow pasture. 6olling hills, rocky embankments, patties, and potentially deadly hooves hitting the earth with twelve hundred pounds of bulk behind them. )ne misstephowever unintentionalcould leave my skull s#uished like so many helpless crab apples. !his is the thought that gripped my fatigued being the moment I first heard curious cows circling my tent; it could not, would not be shaken no matter how many hours dragged by in e"hausted consciousness. !ime becomes a real bitch at five in the morning on no sleep. fter awhile you give up on rest, accept e"haustion and *ust wait for sunlight to come so you can be on your way. 4unlight camefinallyshortly after si", and it was good. It warmed me, re%energi1ed me, and made me thankful that night had gone. !here were no cows outside my tent when I woke up. $ad I imagined them- 7ere they merely fabrications of a fearful mind, turning in on itself- I had probably slept all of one hour in lying nine on the ground. !he line between the imaginary and the real was now blurred even more than usual. I set out into the sun and the trees and the unknown. 8ome noontime I was ready for a break, but got a shock instead. 7alking over woodchips through a sparse forest, I came upon a stile leading to a fenced%in field. 9pon entering, I took about ten steps before looking upmy tired eyes made wide by the sight of a two%thousand pound black bull standing directly in my path. I took a few cautious steps back before turning sideways and raising my arms in order to appear larger and more threateninga techni#ue I had read about in a black bear safety manualunfortunately this wasn't a black bear, but a bull, and he was not fooled. !he bull moved steadily towards me, straight down the path, and I#uite sensiblygave him space to do so. 4lowly, and with eyes locked on the rippling behemoth, I made my way back over the stile, cutting my leg on a rusty bit of fencing as I did so. I gritted my teeth at the pain, and cursed my carelessness. fter a minute, the bull appeared to lose interest and moved well off to the left and behind some shrubs to gra1e. (ow was my chance. gain, I went up over the stile and began *ogging across the field. few furtive glances over my shoulder confirmed that the bull was still munching mindlessly on grassI was going to slip by unnoticed. :ust then, a loud, aggressive snort followed by a certain rumbling of the earth beneath my feet told me that I had mis*udged this particular bull, that a ton of muscle and bone was now charging, full%tilt, towards my matchstick spine; I ran. I ran in the way that only people who are sure that they are about to die can run. I was up and over the far stile in a single great leap, rolling into a ditch on the opposite side *ust in time to hear the horrendous metallic fle"ing of the barbed% wire fence behind me, followed by a gross thud and barrage of wooden splinters. I rose cautiously from the ditchhearing nothingseeing only the shower of white crab apple blossoms drift delicately down to earth. 4everal of these blossoms came to rest upon the bull's back, which now lay motionless at the base of a gnarly tree, *ust beyond the fence. $is face was mangled, a concave mass of broken bone, with two *ets of blood about the nose. )ne eye was obscured, blocked by a sharp bony plate that had shifted violently out of place. :agged wounds bled la1ily down its sides. $is enormous black cock lay limply in the grass; a single ant scurried over it. $e had killed himself; run head%on into a tree and broken his thick neck. 4o there I was, unable to think, unable to move, rooted in a pure emotion that I couldn't tell

BRENDEN BAILEY GLAUDE

BEEF'S BLOOD

was good or bad. )n the one hand, I felt responsible for the violent death of this virile beast, on the other, I was happy to be alive. !he chemical slurry of this great guilt combined with the ecstatic rush of narrowly escaping death went to work on my body almost immediately. My hands trembled while my brain bu11ed. muscle on the dead bull twitched twicetwitch twitch. My pupils grew large, then small again. Twitch. !ears flowed over my smile. Twitch. My stomach growled. 4tanding over the bull, I pulled out my pocket knife and began hacking away at the warm meat. !he blade was much too small for the *ob, and made for bloody work. 4oon my hand and wrist were buried deep inside, slashing blindly at the fibrous muscle. )nce I had carved out a rough shape I clasped it firmly in my right hand, digging my fingernails in for added grip, and tore it from the body. !hen, wrapping the ragged steak in a bandanna and putting it in my pocket, I took off down the trail. Later that nightaround the lunar%e#uivalent of 5;%noonI sat before a campfire, cooking my steak on a stick. !he steak had bled through the bandanna as I walked, seeping through my shorts and into my open wound. I had tried to wash my hands clean of the animal's blood in a stream, but they were still tainted pink, and crusty brown under the nails. I stared into the fire. !he calls of nocturnal insects enveloped me, wrapped me in their translucent wings, connecting me to my animal self. 4ensing movement somewhere out in front of me, I looked up into the night. )ut there, *ust beyond the edge of the fire's light were several figures, standing still. 8ows. 0umbling around in my backpack, I produced a flashlight, and shone it in the direction of the curious beasts. !he beam showed that they were about twelve in number, and standing in a semi%circle around the outer reaches of my camp. !heir eyes shone green with an otherworldly glow. I wanted to shout at them, but I had no voice. I wanted to pick up a flaming log and swing it at them, but I knew they wouldn't run. !hey *ust stared, dumbly, immovably, into my very soul, into the core of my being. !hey knew. !hey knew my guilt. !hey knew I was bathed in their blood. I dropped the steak into the fire, packed up my stuff, and left for home. I caught a ride before sunrise, and passed the spot where the dead bull lay *ust as dawn broke. !he body was crawling with maggots already. waterfall of worms spewed forth from the wound, and writhed greedily on the ground in search of more rotting flesh to consume. I threw up in my mouth, but swallowed it back down, out of politeness to the driver. $e dropped me off shortly after this, saying he was heading in another direction. I got back to town in time for my 4unday evening shift at the butcher's shop, but when I came to that sign hanging out front and looked up, I could not go in. Instead, I went back to my place feeling both very tired and very unusual, as if my musclesthe very fibers themselveswere nauseous. I was greeted by my roommate lying, face down, on the couch. ,2ack already- I thought you had to work tonight./ I sat down, slowly, on a chair ne"t to him. ,I did, but I didn't feel like going. I #uit./ ,&ou what- 7hy-/ ,7hat do you care- I thought you'd be happy, not believing in eating meat and all./ My legs were unbelievably sore, tired. ,&eah, about that. I went to the doctor today, he said I have a severe iron deficiency, and if I don't start eating some red meat, I could be in serious trouble./ ,<on't they have pills for that-/ ,&eah, but in my case pills aren't going to be good enough. It's got to be a natural source, like beef, something about the absorption rate. !hat's why I was hoping you could get me some./ muscle in my thigh twitched twicetwitch twitch. My pupils grew large, then small again. Twitch. ,I may have something for you. I'll cut you a steak./

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