The Way of Meat

I began to panic. I had lived my whole life on this farm and didn’t know anywhere or anything else. Where would I flee? How would I eat? Who would I be if I wasn’t a breeder?

I started to turn around, to surrender myself to the fate of having someone else answer these existential questions. I was not my own. I was chattel. Property. I have always known my place, and that has been my peace of mind.

Before I could stop myself, just give up and give in, the fence stopped me. My snout slipped through the links as if it had been measured for it. Instantly, my jaw went slack, and I panicked as a shaking numbness raced from my head to my hooves. Profoundly dazed, I buckled to the ground, all 240 pounds of me heaped on my side and trembling.

The farmhands approached me with slow but purposeful strides commending the effectiveness of the new fencing. In my electric stupor, I watched myself get tagged, lifted, and carried between them onto the back of the truck of no return.

There were three other goats in the truck: A nearly expired nanny expanding and contracting with sleep, a three-legged buckling leaning against the wall of the truck to peer out the window, an angora that was foaming at the mouth, and me. I didn’t ask them where we might be going, and they didn’t volunteer any guesses. Respectively making peace with our impending doom, we ignored each other.

For more than an hour we rode. Stopping, Starting. More animals coming on. Some animals being taken off.  And then it was my turn.

The door opened.  A cacophony of noises assaulted my ears. Wheezing buses. Squeaking sneakers. Human laughter. Raised voices. And an accent I recognized:

“Eighty-tree! Eighty-tree! Eighty-tree! Q4!”

Jamaica.

A hand, disembodied by the sunlight, reached into the truck, looped a rope around my neck, and yanked me down. Because I didn’t resist as he expected, we both tumbled to the ground from the force.

I averted my eyes from my fellow captives, as I waited for the hand to regain his footing and take me away. I could see the judgment in their narrowed gazes. Goats resist; that is our supposed nature. But what could I be, but me?

The hand was grabbing hold of my rope as I watched a woman shout, “Eighty-three?” The driver of the passenger van across the street was nodding confirmation and starting his engine when the ancient doe that had slept the whole ride leapt to life.

I had lived my whole life on this farm and didn’t know anywhere or anything else. Where would I flee? How would I eat? Who would I be if I wasn’t a breeder?

Fast as any horse, she galloped into the incoming traffic.  The van shrieked to a stop, as she disappeared into the black void of a pedestrian tunnel. I heard Jamaica, Trinidad, Haiti, and America in the expletives that flew. “Rattid!” “Mudda!” “Koulangyet!” “Fuck outta here—you saw that goat!”

As the hand scrambled after her, the other goats seized their chance. The truck driver alighted, trying to help wrangle the escapees. He caught one, but the angora didn’t make it across the street. I had to look away from the blood curdling his curls.

The intersection was utter chaos. Cars were honking. People were cursing. Sirens were deafening. The driver now stood guard over me zealously, loosely handling the other one. I was almost 250 pounds at last weigh-in; at two to five dollars a pound, I would fetch a nice price. I took pride in that.

Finally, the farmhand emerged from the tunnel, angrily dragging the fugitive goat across the road. We were marched into a grim warehouse. Chickens squawked bitterness and gossip from the tightly packed wire cages that covered the walls, and cows, sheep, and goats bleated greetings, obscenities, and misery at us from their pens. I nearly slipped on the blood, but I maintained my composure as we passed buckets full of dripping heads. Just as I ate, I told myself, I would be eaten. This is life.

Once again, the hand used unnecessary force to push me into the pen I would share with a phalanx of wethered bucks. I had put up no resistance, but as a buck that had once been the alpha on the farm, I understood his need to assert his power given that he had lost the nanny and angora.

As he entered the pen, the goats parted in panic. When he left, I took my spot in a corner. I could smell the musk of another buck in my new resting place, but I was the biggest of the lot and no goat would dare tell me to move. His place was now mine.

I closed my eyes, as concurrent recitations of the Tasmiya and Shahda rose in the distance. Bangladesh was in the house, as was Trinidad, Ecuador, and Brooklyn. This is where the accents had been last season and this one; and where the accents went, I now knew, we had no choice but to follow. This was the way of meat.

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of Powder Necklace, which Publishers Weekly called “a winning debut”. Named among 39 of the most promising African writers under 39, her short fiction was included in the anthology Africa39: New Writing from Africa South of Sahara. Most recently, she was shortlisted for a 2014 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship. In April 2015, she was the opening speaker at TEDxAccra. She is currently at work on a new novel.

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