It was an unseasonably hot April afternoon on the farm. The few small clouds that sauntered lazily across a deep blue sky offered no shade; no respite from the relentless heat. On second thoughts, delete that beginning: trite, formulaic clichés.
The old bull stood in the shade of the massive oak next to the feeder. Or maybe the massive bull stood in the shade of the old oak. Either way, he stood there. The prime bull had been servicing this herd for more years than many could remember. Season after season he performed his duties. So effective was he that he had long ago lost count of the number of young he had sired.
“Okay, gather round,” he bellowed, “Kids too. Find a space and make yourselves comfortable. There is something I want, no, something I need to tell you all.”
The herd gathered around him, jostling for the best spaces in the limited shade the tree offered. Mothers kept their young calves close to them and offered them what comfort they could. You see, they all knew what this talk was about; they’d heard it every year since they were not much more than calves themselves.
“I don’t want you worrying about any of this,” Daisy said to her calf, Sebastian, “You concentrate on being a young calf and having all the fun you can.” Whilst you can was the unspoken end of that sentence.
Boris (that’s what the bull was called) cleared his throat and bellowed for the herd’s attention. “Listen up, my friends and my children. It’s important that you know certain things about the life into which you have been born. The information I give you today will prepare you for what life holds for you.”
“Where are our sisters?” Sebastian asked in as loud and clear a voice as he could muster.”
“Hush, Seb,” Daisy counselled him, “Don’t interrupt Boris. His mind wanders and he’ll start talking nonsense if he loses his flow.”
“Well, yah, that’s – erm – maybe… but… eh… now then” Boris blustered.
“See what you’ve done?” Sebastian’s mother asked, “You must never interrupt Boris and never question what he says. He doesn’t like it and doesn’t deal with it very well.”
“Sorry, Mum I was just wondering why it’s only the boys here.”
“I’ll explain it to you later.”
“Right… yah… well… where was I?” the blustering continued, “Ah, yes. Good. What life holds for you. Right. Each of us has a purpose in life, and that purpose is determined by the being we know as Farmer.” Boris bowed his head and pawed the ground as he uttered the Name. “He is the source of all that is good in this world: food, water, winter quarters and above all the thing known as veterinary care. That’s a long word for you young ones to take in. It means the system whereby we get health checks and injections that protect us against evils like tuberculosis, Foot and Mouth, or even BSE.” At this mention, all the older females dipped their heads and wept a silent tear for those that had gone before and fallen to that dreadful curse. “I know, ladies,” Boris went on [and going on was something, maybe the only thing he was really good at], “it’s not a topic I enjoy raising, but it has to be said. Without veterinary care that would be our future: tuberculosis, Foot and Mouth and the dreaded BSE – mad cow disease. That is the extent, the depth and the nature of the debt – the life-debt if you will – that we owe to Him; to the Farmer.” Boris again bowed his head and pawed the ground in respect.
The herd was silent. The mothers knew what was coming next. They knew that Boris would have to say it but that he didn’t want to give voice to it. You see, he knew that as soon as he moved to the next part of his prepared and oft-repeated speech, he would have to give information that the herd wouldn’t want to hear; information that would dent his popularity. And Boris liked to be a popular bull. Generally, he would say whatever he thought the herd would like to hear, whether he believed it or not; whether it was true or not.
Against his mother’s pleading, Sebastian raised his voice. “This debt of which you speak: how is it to be repaid. If it is as great as you have implied, there must surely be a cost to us. Benefits like vete… vetri… whatever it was called—”
“Veterinary care,” the old bull offered.
“Yes, that,” Sebastian continued, “These things must cost something and even the greatest – even he who’s name I’m not allowed to mention – must be able to recover that cost. How?”
“Well, yah, that’s – erm – maybe… but… now then” Boris blustered.
With that, the farm cat: a moggy with an over-inflated sense of his own importance and value to the organisation appeared and saw that Boris was trying to hide behind the feeder..
“For Farm’s sake,” Jacob [that’s the cat’s name] said, “All you lads will be fed and watered until you’re big enough—”
“Big enough? Big enough for what?” Sebastian asked.
“Big enough to be sent to market.”
“That sounds exciting,” Sebastian said, “Is market a nice place?”
“No – you’ll all be killed and eaten.”
“Don’t start complaining. You chose to be born male. You should have thought of that before.” Jacob lifter his tail, smirked and sloped off, once again leaving the mothers to pick up the pieces.
This was written in response to Kreative Kue 320 published on this site.