Chee Brossy

Issue #
February 18, 2013

The Steer

The uncles and great-uncles  congregate around the long stock trailer, shit splattered,

dried shit caked to the wooden floor. They rest their hands on the trailer, knuckles dry

and swollen from labor,  fingers curled around the painted metal. Only one steer in the

trailer, led out from the back, hooves making the metal bars ring. They draw it out by a

rope and talk about who will do it, are nearly decided when the white man steps out of

the house. They look at each other. He could do it, they say. The man smiles, says

nothing, nods his head when asked, the only hesitation when they hand him the

sledgehammer, a flicker of clouds in his blue eyes. Two uncles, brothers, hold the cow

with rope. The man looks at the cow, feels the eyes on him, hefts the hammer. The first

blow comes from the man’s shoulders, is solid but the cow just nods and blinks. The

second, harder, the cow lows, tugs the rope. Now the man works, rising and pivoting

with the hammer head swinging low to his heels, then up arcing, torso twisting, knees

bent, the metal in a long curve, hammer face flashing in the midday sun and landing

between the steer’s eyes, meaty crack shuddering through the toes, stagger and low,

foam and mucus in its nose and mouth. Blow four, the animal buckles and falls under

the hammer’s malice. The man, winding up, dropping the hammer behind his back for

another, arms straight and loose, free in their sockets, stutters in his motion, loses

power and, newly unbalanced, he, too, staggers. The cow’s last breath and tremble in its

neck. Sweat on the man’s brow. The uncles kneel to the cow for the rope, undo it, loop

it around their hands and elbows. Blood from the cow’s mouth. The man does not

smile. One brother makes a joke, claps the white man on the back, squeezes his

shoulder. The man with the light eyes turns the hammer head in his hand, finds a nick

there. I’m sorry, he says, and walks to the tool shed. That’s where we find the man, at a

belt sander shining the hammer face, sparks flickering and dying against the leather of

his boots.

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