War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

goats (from May Day)


J’s chica set him up at the petting zoo. that little farm in the middle of the city. filled with donkeys, llamas, Vietnamese pigs (reject pets), miniature horses. goats.

“J,” chica said, “my worst days, all I have to do is feed, brush, pet my creatures, and troubles vanish.” this, from a woman who spends her days cleaning up the crap lousy people cause when their neglected pets and farm animals end up at her S.P.C.A.

like J, chica has seen the worst that humans deliver. starving horses. blinded pups. kittens set aflame. for weird fun. and he, has seen war.

and the petting zoo’s good for J. something his shrink’s been saying for ages. “animals. will bring you back. some of the guys who come home from Aghanistan sign up to work with the horse regiments. interested?”

but J wants to sort himself outside the army. doesn’t want the brothers to see him. being human. maybe an officer thing.

so he signed up at the zoo instead. gets up early. eats breakfast. heads out. carries his field book to take animal notes. does anything that needs to be done. and they’re glad at the zoo to have a strong young guy like him. take orders without question. know how to work.

he spends his days watering animals. cleaning pens. shovelling shit. “I’ll take animal crap over human any day,” he laughs one night after dinner, shows me a pic from a leaguer in Afghanistan. a toilet seat on four legs perched in front of a parked LAV. no hole in the ground. human waste. scrunches of toilet paper like filthy white roses. “oh, that’s gross J. thanks a lot for showing me that.” I laugh back. throw the dishtowel I’m holding over his laptop. “the worst thing about that was no privacy. the guys lie down on the ground and watch from behind the LAV. throw insults. jokes. while you’re trying to do your business.” “enough J. enough!” I say. though I have to admit M, it is kind of interesting. men. how they behave without women.

J’s favourite chore is brushing the baby goats. “they’ve got all these different sizes of curry combs. my babies like the fine one’s best. scratches their itches I guess.” “and I’m fussing over little goats, when just last year I was bargaining for them. whenever I could.”

“what do mean J?” I ask. and he tells me about the time he went out on recce with a FOO. in a Coyote. the desert. “we’d been out of KAF for weeks. eating IMPs. and we were sick with the runs. from eating chicken and tuna bits that make Miss Mew look like a feast. so anyway, we’re sweating and nervy and exhausted. haven’t seen Hadji for days. when all of a sudden an old guy wearing one of those wool hats, long pyjamas, comes over a hill. and we get out of our vehicle. raise our rifles. because he’s looking back and calling someone. and we’re thinking maybe he’s got his own ragged platoon behind him. and if he reaches for a cellphone. he’ll be dead.”

“he sees us. yells out. ‘no trouble. no trouble.’ stretches hands skyward. and suddenly, over the hill, a little white goat. with a tiny tinkling bell. then a little black one tinkling along behind. we lower our weapons.”

“I get close. speak to him in Pashto. he speaks a little English. ‘spent a few years in Toronto back in the 80’s. my brother still lives there. drives taxi. maybe you know him’ farmer says. and he tells me he’s heading to market. his little goats. ready enough. money hard to get these days. so I ask him if he’ll sell us one. and we dicker prices back and forth like ping pong balls. I pull out a little roll of American ones. and we settle. for the black goat. the cheapest.”

“we stop the engine and the driver pulls the grill off the Coyote. we make a fire. burn the paint off the grill. farmer takes the little black goat. pulls out an ugly knife from under his coat. slits the animal’s throat. one sure cut. the goat jerking once. then limp.

farmer bleeds it. skins it. cleans the guts. splits the goat into pieces. and we roast it. slowly. and the smell of that meat cooking was like Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter. every birthday. wedding. summer barbeque. rolled into one.”

and I say to J, “poor little goat. how could you?” and J says, “S, sometimes you vegetarians give me the pip. rich enough to have choice. let me tell you. that little black goat, roasted. eaten with our bare hands. meat ripped from bone under a full Panjawaii moon. was the best food I’ve eaten in my life.”

“then how can you fuss over those kids at the zoo?” I ask him.

“S, in theatre, a soldier’s gotta do what he’s gotta do. back home. different story. hey, want to come down sometime? I’ll show you how to clean a Vietnamese pot belly pig’s teeth.”

so tomorrow M, I’m going to go down after my rehearsal. chica is going to join us. she wants to visit the miniature pony the S.P.C.A. placed there last fall. the little horse they found covered in shit. all skin and bones. tethered inside a windowless barn. no water. no food. chica says, “only a few weeks of TLC and his coat got thick and shiny. his little eyes cleared. it’s taken longer though. for him to trust. human beings.”

and I’ll send you pics of farmer J with his little goats. his eyes getting clearer and clearer.
every day.


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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled goats (from May Day). It was posted here on February 02, 2009.


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