It was late on a cold afternoon when I borrowed a mate’s car and headed way up into the Canterbury High Country. The sky was the perfect shade of blue, dotted here and there with patches of white cumulus that drifted by on the icy winter wind. Overhead, high above the gravel road, a pair of hawks wheeled lazily, eagle-eyed, perhaps hoping to dine on a slow rabbit or rat. Stones thumped noisily against the Nissan’s undercarriage, adding a backbeat to the constant rattle and crunch as the car ploughed its way through the river stones that covered the track. I turned on the CD player and choked. Christian Rock! An oxy-fucking-moron. I couldn’t imagine a Christian Band wrecking a hotel room after snorting coke from a groupie’s cleavage. The music went off.
The shadows slowly lengthened as the rim of the sun dipped below the far off snow-capped mountain range. It grew suddenly cooler, so I hit the heater switch and thought of a comfortable armchair in front of an open fire, logs crackling, a steaming hot cuppa held in one hand, a knee rug over my legs. I imagined quietly sitting, staring into the glowing hearth, listening to the crackle and hiss of the rain pattering on the roof and a cold wind tugging impatiently at the gables. The patter of tiny feet… Probably rats…
I shuddered in horror and floored it. The car drifted sideways in a slew of gravel as I turned the bend and found myself on a bloody causeway. Giving in to a moment’s stupidity I tapped the brake and nearly went tits up over the side of a berm into the bloody lake. Damn I thought. I’d rather die in a freezing lake after a four wheel drift gone bad than be found drooling under a knee rug. ‘He croaked surrounded by loved ones’ just isn’t that appealing to me. I don’t know about you lot, but I’d feel like a sick goldfish, stared at by the mob as you went belly up, wiggling your tail as you tried not to sink to the bottom of the tank, knowing damn well you’ll be netted and dumped soon enough. But that’s just me. There’s no accounting for taste.
I finally arrived at the end of the road to discover two bovines named Bill and Bob, who patiently wait in this frozen field, quietly chewing a last meal while a bunch of dudes arrange to have them herded, trapped, trucked, electrocuted, gutted, slashed, skinned, diced and minced, before finally being bagged and tagged at the end of an industrialized disassembly line of Death.
Later, the hungry mob will ogle Bob’s body parts as they sit on display, laid out in blood-stained trays at place called a ‘super market’. Well there’s nothing very super about it for our bovine pals. Bob for one is rather pissed.
I tried consoling him. ‘Bob’ said I, ‘life is loss. Suck it up mate. Every relationship must end sooner or later, a father before a son, a husband before a wife, a friend before a friend, Bill before Bob… We can’t all go at the same time now, can we?’
Bob took this philosophical statement in his stride. He looked dumbly back at me, and farted.
At least we were getting somewhere I thought. Apparently Bill had hoped to retire to a stud farm, but he’d been rudely informed the placement was in one of those new-fangled artificial insemination joints. Bill wasn’t keen. ‘The staff are all wankers’ he reckoned.
We three stood there in the chill, glumly thinking about life and loss.
‘Is it true you lot sit at a table covered with a crisp cotton coverlet, gnashing your teeth and gobbling down parts of diced animal?’ asked Bob. ‘Do you roll your eyes and smack your lips, then belch and laugh? You fucking sick fucks!’
Bill joined in. ‘Yeah you dirty bastards. Fancy chowing down on bobby calves barely off a mother’s teat. Scoffing fluffy chickens boiled in oil, tearing and chomping at chunks of hide from a baby lamb who only days before was frolicking innocently in this bloody field.
I felt awful, so I turned and left them there, all alone, freezing cold, waiting for the meat truck.
I snapped this pic as I scarpered. Then I slowly wound my way back down the lonely valley. I drove carefully, contemplating Bill and Bob’s sad and sorry situation. I hit the macadam surface as the first hint of darkness descended like a cloak, wrapping the valley in a crisp, dark-blue haze that seemed to seep down from the whitened peaks high up on either side. The hawks had now gone, perhaps to some far off eyrie to enjoy a feast of freshly road-killed kitten.
I arrived back in town the next day feeling rather crook. Sort of light headed. Bloody Iron deficient I thought, so down I went to the local Pack & Save. I reeled about like a drunk looking for a lamppost to piss on. I actually think I felt Bob at the meat counter. He was such a tender soul.
Anyway, I bought a Scotch fillet and headed home for a fry up.