Jeremy had grown up in a family of meat-eaters. Their belief was that a meal wasn’t a real meal unless it included meat. Jeremy questioned it no more than he questioned he put his socks on before putting his tennis shoes on every morning. That was until….
The day started out like any other. It was summer vacation and he was being shoo-ed outside by his mother. Back then – before personal computers and cell phones – kids played outside all day, maybe checking in now and then, and were back inside by the time the street lights came on. Jeremy’s best friend, Willy, was at summer camp, so Jeremy decided to ride his bike around. His usual boundaries, as set by his mother, were 5th, Smith, Poplar, and 8th Streets. Today Jeremy decided to go beyond and crossed 8th Street. He’d gotten as far as 24th, when he saw a large, cow-shaped sign by the road that said Morgan’s Packaging. Looking towards the large brick building and corral, he saw several cows standing.
Jeremy had never seen a cow close up so he rode up the long gravel driveway to get a better look. As he marveled at how large they were, he heard a distressed “scream” that ran a chill through his entire body. The cows in the corral began to push each other and their eyes grew wide.
Jeremy’s curiosity was great. He looked around to see if anyone was watching – there wasn’t anyone, besides the cows. He rested his bike up against the fence and walked over to a large window on the side of the building. Jeremy had to pull several loose cement blocks over to be able to stand on and look in. What he saw he was never able to forget. The man in coveralls had a stick with two metal tips on it. He opened a gate to a chute, then got behind one of the cows with the stick. Touching her back flank with the stick she lunged forward and down the chute. The touches with the stick kept her moving until she was running up a ramp, towards a man with another device with metal on the end. When she got within reach, the man put the metal to her forehead and a killing mechanism went into her brain. She screamed but was a screaming corpse. A device from the ceiling snaked down. The first man looped the cable around her back leg and she was hoisted up up up. The second man pushed a button and she began to move into the bowels of the building along a conveyer belt.
Jeremy’s head felt light and the blood drained from his face. He started running, forgetting he was up on cement blocks, so fell on the gravel, the stones cutting into his chin. He jumped up, scrambled to his bike, and rode home as fast as he could. As the bike reached the yard, he jumped from it, the bike rolling a few more feet before falling over.
“What’s wrong, son?,” called his mother just before his bedroom door slammed shut.
Mrs. Jones went to check on Jeremy and found him under his blankets in his bed. She pulled back the cover and saw Jeremy’s bleeding, gravel-encrusted chin.
“What happened to you? Those Smith boys bothering you again?”
Jeremy never did tell his mother – or anyone else – what he saw. But he never ate anything made from a cow again. His mother was able to scrub most of the gravel from Jeremy’s skin, but a few pieces remained embedded – as a reminder each time he looked in the mirror.
Reena Saxena is the host of Reena’s Exploration Challenge. Reena says:
The prompt is to write something in a similar spirit – it could tell the story of a year or day or hour or minute – something that brought about a change in the life of a protagonist, family, community, nation or the world.