spring blood and flowers

The land was rushing with birth all around the hills and the treetops held a maddening lambent green. The sky took on the daunting task of being compared to the green, there was not blue enough to sit above this spring. I watched as she pulled her hair back from her face and the blood and the freckles on her face got mixed together. She grit her teeth. She looked really tough, like some teenage martyr from a comic book. My first impression of her was that she needed to lose some weight. She needed to get out of the Carhartts and into some jeans. I would have tied her hair for her and shown her how to smile. I wasn't a sissy. I even held the legs and watched as they kicked and bled and squealed, but I was there because I chose to come to see. An older man, with a thick red neck was shouting at us. "Hold her still, hold it....next!" The little calf got tossed off the table and scurried ball-less back into the shoot. I watched the girl wipe a tear from her eye, but it wasn't sadness, it was dirt and dust.

I thought about the needle I held to inject them. I couldn't believe I was using a needle on these animals. They were bleating at me. I pinched the little part of skin near their rear and did it quick so they wouldn't hurt, but they felt it.

I took a drink of coke that had been warmed up in the sun. It tasted like somewhere else and I imagined going home and showering off. I thought I might be experiencing some sort of lifestyle, but I knew deep down that I wasn't really doing anything different. I looked like I might be used to this sort of production. I had blood on my pants and shit on my shoes. I smelled like hamburger, then I threw up in my mouth a little when I thought of that.

The girl was only fourteen. She now had piss on her shirt because one of the calves had been really startled and everyone laughed at the stream of calf piss. I laughed too, but I didn't think that was funny at all. Proving that I could do these things wasn't really proof, it just meant that I could play act for a few hours on a weekend away from college.

My room mate had driven us out in her pickup. We climbed out of the car into the dusty sun and offered our pretend casual acceptance of the situation. I knew I should be able to watch.

The girls arms were bruised when we left, she was covered in shit and blood and too much sun. She never stopped to take a break, even when all the other girls were making sandwiches for the ranchers. She stood there and held every calf and then let go of every calf. Catch and release.

I thought that because I came from a family of ranchers that I would fit right in, and I was really good at faking it. But when I got back to my dorm room all I could think about was the little calves and the blood. I bought myself ice cream to cool down and I showered. I put on new clothes and threw my dusty shirt into the laundry bin. I opened my laptop and thought about never doing that again or telling stories about it.

Finding out that you really don't belong is something.

I can repeat stories about life on a ranch, and I can grow tomatoes and I can kill a chicken and gut a trout, but I am not a girl like the girl with the blood and freckles.

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