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Bob Arter


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 her.

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 celebrate tomorrow."

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.

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