July 08, 2005

Ye Olde Butcher Shop

The following was inspired by this post.

While I was growing up--and there's a strong case to be made that I haven't yet grown up at all--I lived about half a block away from a butcher shop. It was a sagging brick building, with very few windows and a circular asphalt driveway that I loved to go around and around on with my bicycle.

My parents referred to the shop as the "Meat Locker," and it was a place where, for a time, some of the best bratwursts on the face of the planet were produced.

The Meat Locker held a great deal of fascination for me during my formative years. Occasionally, the smell of assorted meats being smoked would waft along on the wind to our yard, and set my mouth to drooling. Other times, I'd watch as a big truck would pull up to the building and begin emptying large drums of animal entrails, presumably to become Alpo and Science Diet sometime in the near future.

Adding to the fascination, the Meat Locker was located about 30 yards from a sinkhole, a geologic depression that for years local inhabitants illegally used to dispose of any number of household items. Naturally, a dangerous dumping ground like that enticed curious youngsters from blocks around.

Well, one day, I was playing around the sinkhole with my neighbor friend, Benji. We were throwing rocks at a dead cat floating in the sinkhole when we became aware of a bleating noise coming from the Meat Locker. Curious, we approached the building's livestock pen, where we discovered an adult and a baby goat.

For about an hour, Benji and I petted the goats and fed them grass we plucked from around the sinkhole. We even liked to think we had taught them the trick of standing upright when they leaned against the gate with their hooves while we fed them. Yes sir, we were little animal tamers.

About the time Benji and I were about to name our new goat friends, a door opened towards the back of the pen, and a man in a blood-stained apron entered and herded the elder goat into the building. The door closed, and about a minute or so later a lightly-muffled gunshot-like report reverberated off the walls.

It was one of those moments in life where you're absolutely certain you're learning some sort of important lesson, but darn it if you can't quite figure out what it is. As we stood there, Benji and I, with tufts of grass clenched in our little hands, while the baby goat bleated frantically and lonely in front of us, I was fairly certain there was a lesson about life and death unfolding right there, and I was trying my very best to sort it all out.

Just when I was about to settle on the life lesson of "In Life There Is Loss," the blood-stained apron guy came back into the pen and herded the baby goat into the building. A moment later, the same gunshot-like report pierced the air.

And then it was all quiet. Utterly, painfully, eerily quiet.

Benji and I returned to the sinkhole, where we played for awhile longer before heading home, and all the while I played the goat incident over and over in my head, trying to figure out some sort of life lesson. Finally, that evening, it dawned on me:

"Man, it sucks to be a goat."

Posted by Ryan at July 8, 2005 01:00 AM | TrackBack
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