The gas-filled abomasum of Rene Chambers’ favored milk-cow, whose name was Hannalore to Farmer Chambers and Old Disagreeable to the rest of the farm, and the county, owing to her penchant for doling out kicks alongside the cream and the odious glare she bestowed on even the least of the fauna that strode God’s green, and no man but Rene exempt from that bleary, cud-spattered grimace, precipitated the end of the Chambers farm. For Farmer Chambers so loved that cow that he strove from before dawn to the flat midnight to keep her pinned to this side of eternity, ignoring the sundry of his daily chores and so integral to that process that his absence, more than the simple retraction of his skillful hand and back, diminished the other hands so that their reaping was outpaced by the locusts, their harvests blighted by their shunned faces, casting about themselves like blind and lame children abandoned by the only sentry to their rough, windblown lives, until their gazes engendered plagues on the vines, one by one, the miniature fruit of their labors hardly big enough to feed the field mice (not that they hadn’t had their turn), their great betrayal acquiring a salaciousness in its hourly gestation, their hopelessness in that time becoming a sin in itself. Because hadn’t Farmer Chambers loved that cow, Old Disagreeable, better than their hungry bones, and hadn’t he, in his old munificence but bound to his poor, poor land promised them shelter, and sweet succor? For the love of the great man brought their empty bellies the respite of a full heart, and now one dread cow was the sole benefactor of his paternal oversight, day in, day out, daily the compassion of this great man teetering on the flatulent hope invested in one, execrable bovine. Their minds turned towards vengeance; their hands wrought havoc where they tilled the soil; and life slowed on the farm as if to mimic the final, stentorian wheezes of Old Disagreeable, or Hannalore. Until the old cow died and Farmer Chambers arose to a fallow farm, her soil like something the earth had upchucked and not cared to wipe away. Then alone did he weep, not for the farm but for his cow, and not for the absent hands, whose ravage, ultimately, did not concern itself with the contusion of his soul.

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