THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE

There’s a short road on the north end of the farm, which bends from corner to corner to connect two otherwise unconnected roads on each side of the farm. It’s a one-way trip, and to get back to the other road it’s a 15 minutes drive. Both sides of the road are fenced, yet very different in terms of what they contain. The left side is nearly all foliage. There are massive bushes that look more like trees from a glance. They lean up and over the fence as if they were reaching out to the cars driving past them. There’s a five foot space between the fences and the road on either side, where the asphalt turns to a hard looking light brown dirt. If a wind picks up, the air becomes so filled with these dirt particles that a person could taste the ground if they inhaled.

On the right side of the road are the farm and the orchard. The orchard grows tangerines. Often times, the trees get so full that they drop bunches of the suckers down over the fence and onto the dirt. They are quire sweet—I don’t think I’ve ever had a tangerine quite as flavorful and juicy as these ones. If you peel back the skin, the inner membrane of the tangerine always looks as if it were about to burst. Meanwhile, the cows are on the farm space right by the road. They look out through the wires of the gates at the cars that pass by with blank, emotionless eyes. It is quite chilling. There’s one old cow, who has been there for years. She is the only cow who has bags under her eyes. Her eyes are also the only eyes that look sad. I wonder if she realizes that she’s the oldest cow on the farm, and perhaps she is sad she because she misses her friends. The other cows leave her alone for the most part—to leave her to think in her own solitude.

But the road itself is the most interesting part. Unlike the rest of its surroundings, the road is well attended. There are rarely any stains, it is regularly patched, and repainted almost painfully consistently. It’s almost magical too. I’ve driven this road in the depths of night, the early morning, and the middle of the day, and I have never seen someone painting it. But every month it has a fresh coat. Of course, it certainly needs it. We like to call this road the slaughterhouse. Every day, without fail, some critter scampers onto the road right under the tires of a car. Sometimes they just flatten and die. Those times aren’t too bad—it doesn’t make much of a mess. Other times though, something will get hit and spew all across the road. Body parts, innards, or sometimes just pools of blood. It’s really much more gross than it sounds, but when it happens everyday…well, I’m quite used to it. Sometimes we even place bets on what’s going to happen today. Nothing huge—a bottle of beer, first choice of Monopoly pieces, whatever we’ve got going on that day.

It doesn’t matter what’s going on in the world with the slaughterhouse. There could be a civil war breaking out, or a full house party, or just another boring day on the farm. There will always be another animal under tires at some point during the day.