Friday, March 29, 2013

self challenge

Still not feeling "the thing" so I opted for an old fashioned writing challenge instead of attempting to add to anything 'in progress' to share. This type of challenge involves getting out the dictionary, picking a number of words at random and using them in the first sentence. The idea is to write a bit of flash-fiction based around that sentence. Remember, this isn't perfect, it's written fast and just based on these randomly picked words to stimulate the muse or writing process.

Todays words: negative, course, sputter, fill, descend, carcass

Negative thoughts filled the young man’s mind as he watched the thin stream of cold water course descend over the cooling bovine carcass to fill the chipped concrete gutter in the center of the floor with a thick runnel of blood.

“’You’re good with animals, help your uncle out for the summer, they said,’” he mocked, twisting his alto voice to a screechy pitch. “This doesn’t require being good with animals.” He looked disdainfully at the rough planked walls and the unsealed concrete floors while the ceiling was enough to not bear closer scrutiny. The lid of the make-shift abattoir consisted largely of exposed rough sawn beams pierced by pieces of rebar that seemed to have been wrestled into shape by the world’s biggest, burliest fisherman. Most of pieces looked as if they had been scavenged from construction sites, splattered with paint, concrete, rust or just run over by heavy equipment.
At the least he was spared doing the outright killing, that or dealing with the farmers when they brought their animals in to negotiate prices. He was quick and efficient at processing a carcass that was the only reason his lazy uncle wanted him around, and he knew it. But at the rate the old man was having people bring in cows, he wouldn’t be able to get any sleep – or the meat would go rank, because the son of a bitch was too damned cheap to buy a proper refrigeration room. There was this creepy cellar that smelled like death, but there was no freaking way he was going to stack any of the hung beef in there. No way, no how.

When he complained, asking for another flash-freezer – because, face it, one wrapping station and flash freezer isn’t enough with the amount of cows his uncle had agreed to take in of a sudden – he got dragged around to a bunch of other places just like this 1930s horror show. All had the same motif, broken down barn meets light-industrial with a side of depressed splatter house horror in blue vinyl boots and a clear plastic slicker. Just…what the hell?
In school they’d read Upton Sinclair and those stories out of the slaughter houses, things were supposed to have gotten better, not worse, right? But that was all USDA, not mom-and-pop do-it-yourself and ‘as long as you don’t sell the meat no one cares’ fly-by-night outfits. It made him want to weep. The irony being he was saving up to pay for college, hoping for veterinary medicine. And here he was, using his knowledge of anatomy to make better, faster cutlets. Watching the blood change from dark red to a foamy pinkish froth, he wondered not for the first time, if the guys at the big, clean slaughter houses ever shared these maudlin thoughts, or if it was something he was stuck with based on the ambiance of drafty former pig-pen? Fervently he hoped to never find out.

With a shake, he returned to the task at hand. This beef need to hang. Time to focus on another. In this fashion he hoped to numb his emotions, preserve his sanity, dull his senses and keep a running tally on days, hours, minutes, and cows via steaks, chops, burger, and entrails. There was another guy, one with a missing eye who pulled his leg along like a puppy on a chain that dealt with head, hides and hooves. Let him face the faces and those horrors. The other man never really talked, he liked that as he was at his limit.

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