Pastoral

by Grant Bailie Read author interview March 15, 2005

There are sheep in a field beside the highway. This is unusual to us. This is not the land we live in and our brains must adjust. We are used to cows, the occasional horses. It seems oddly exotic, though it is hard to describe sheep as exotic exactly. They’re sheep.

“They’re cute,” my wife says, and they are, but their wool is less white than I have been led to believe by cartoons and advertising. They look like clumps of dirty snow. With legs. Eating grass.

“It looks like a pretty good life,” I say. And, ah, to be a sheep, I think. To stand on grassy hills in the sun, to chew on grass, to be loved by all.

But there is a slaughterhouse not far away and after a few moments we begin to smell it. We don’t know that’s what it is right away. We just know that something somewhere has gone bad on a massive scale. The stench of it startles us, we roll up the windows and then we see a truck getting on the highway. It is carrying meat. It has a picture of a smiling cartoon sheep on the side. Underneath the cartoon sheep in cursive, hand-painted letters it says: “Peach’s Fine Meats. ‘If it’s delicious, it’s a Peach!’”

Tiff starts to cry. Not sobbing, but her eyes are wet, she sniffs several times and I know. “I thought sheep were for wool,” she says, and really, I did too. But sheep to the slaughter, that’s the saying, right? And here comes a truckload from the place they do the slaughtering.
The truck passes us. We both can’t say a thing for a moment. I let the truck get farther and farther ahead.

“Who eats sheep?” she asks me and I say: “I don’t know,” because I don’t. “Not me.”

Later on we stop for gas and Tiff picks up an almanac that lists all the area features. She finds the section about the sheep farm, the slaughterhouse, the decades of tradition. At one time the town was almost named Abattoir. Someone thought it sounded classy. But someone else knew what it meant.

About the Author:

Grant Bailie is the author of the novels Cloud 8, Mortarville, New Hope for Small Men, and TomorrowLand, as well as numerous short stories and articles both in print and online.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.