Big Leather Apron stepped out on the stoop; he needed
sunlight to consult his Old Farmer’s Almanac. Turning the
parchment pages, dried leaves in October, he turned to the
livestock section, occasionally licking a big calloused thumb.
He found the page he wanted and studied it so long he had to
shift his body twice to accommodate the sun. At last he grinned
as big as a panting wolf.
He went inside to tell his wife the news, what the day would
bring. She resembled him, big-boned and a lantern jaw, her hide
red and chafed from the Dakota climate. She was canning the
peaches that had finally ripened sweet in September, but she
paused and kissed his cheek when she heard his news.
That afternoon began darkening by three-thirty, and he
clumped out to the barn in his heavy boots. Two sheep ate
alfalfa from the bale in a corner, and he looked them over
carefully as he fingered rough, weighty tools. There was an
aging ram; the other had been a spring lamb the previous May.
He made his decision. Snatching up a nine-pound sledge, he
heaved it high above his head and ran straight at the sheep,
bellowing no words at all, just the roar of a warrior roar
racing toward his enemy. Ignoring the smaller animal, he brought
the hammer down squarely in the middle of the startled ram’s
head, splitting its skull precisely between the horns.
He dropped to his knees and, humming tunelessly, drew a
hunting knife from an apron pocket, pried apart the sheep’s
cranium and cut out its brain. He stood and, with the organ
dripping blood everywhere, he headed for the house.
His wife waited on the stoop, holding a large steel pan. Into
it he dropped the brain, then wiped his hands on his apron. He
and his wife locked eyes and rejoiced.
"Brain and eggs tomorrow morning!" she exclaimed. "And
bourbon heated with fresh lemon juice. Oh, I hope the children
get here on time."
"They will," he assured her. "For the tradition of our
ancestors, they’ll be here." He leaned across the pan to kiss
They stared at one another with love and savagery and the
deep knell of time long past. Then he turned. "Reckon I’d better
get that carcass butchered," he said.
"And I’ll get these membranes soaking, and the root
vegetables from the cellar," she replied. "Such a day we’ll
Bob Arter studies the craft of writing in Southern
California. His work has appeared in Zoetrope: All-Story
Extra, Gator Springs Gazette, Pindeldyboz, the
Absinthe Literary Review, Ink Pot, Night Train,
and other quality venues.