The Woefield Poultry Collective (23 page)

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
6.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

I waited in my seat off to the side until everyone was seated and the curtains were going to be opened in a few minutes. Then I made my move. I got up there on the stage with my boom box, hit play and started singing one of the songs that I wrote for the drama teacher. It was a direct rip-off of “Love Hurts” by Nazareth. I mean it was very, very similar. The teacher’s name was Beverly, so I put that in there: “Bev hurts, Bev wounds.” You get the picture.

And as I sang, I started kind of taking off my clothes. I guess I was trying to express my emotional nakedness or something.

Because the audience was there to see
Jesus Christ Superstar
, and I have long hair, at the beginning no one clued in that I shouldn’t be up there. Not until I had my pants half off and fell over because I forgot to take my goddamned shoes off first and my feet got trapped. That’s when I started crying. I was lying there with my pants around my ankles and I was too drunk to get up. But I was also still sort of trying to sing. “Bev hurts. Bev kills.” Like that.

By this time everyone had realized that I wasn’t part of the program. The principal told a couple of guys from the hockey team, who had girlfriends in the play, to do something, and they climbed up and tried to drag me off the stage. I started screaming at them not to touch me, but my fucking pants had me trapped so I was crawling around up there with my shirt off and my underpants in the air. I tried to evade capture and ended up basically plummeting off the stage, a drop of at least four feet.

Where’s the blackout when you need one?

I landed just in time for the drama teacher’s credit union husband to take a run at me. Then it was him and the hockey team and the
principal and the vice principal, who was also the head of the phys-ed program, and everyone was pulling on everyone else and everyone was pulling on me.

They got me out of the gym and called my old man to come and get me. The next day there were questions from the cops and from the school. They wanted to know if the drama teacher did bad touching on me and whether we had an inappropriate relationship and I didn’t want to ruin her career, because what we shared had been intense, so I said I had a crush on her and she had no idea about any of it.

I have no idea how the play went. No idea what happened with the drama teacher. All I know is I never went back to school, especially not after the cell-phone video someone took of the whole fucking thing went viral and killed my chances of a career as a musician or metal music reporter. Basically, I went into seclusion. At least until the farm. Which is its own form of seclusion.

Anyway, I replayed the whole horror show of my life in my mind while I sat in our dark living room. And when it was over, for some reason, I got up and pulled the curtain open to look over at the farm. Prudence was standing at the end of the driveway. Not really standing. She was dicking around with the old sign, then she fell in a ditch and after she got out, she hopped around trying to clean up her foot. She was such a nice-looking girl. Fast moving, but decent. My heart kind of hurt when I looked at her. Not because I was in love, but because I could tell from looking at her that she didn’t hate herself. Not only didn’t she seem to hate herself, she barely seemed to think about herself. How fucking glorious must that be?

While I was watching, a big white truck pulled up. It was the same one from the afternoon. I let the curtains fall closed. I really didn’t want to see her get in that truck.

When I was sure they were gone, I got an idea. I walked out of the living room, like I was going to go use the john, but ducked into my mom’s bedroom and found Bobby’s wallet on the dresser my mom had decoupaged with flowers and leaves from old wrapping paper. It actually looks okay, that dresser. I took fifty bucks and then called a cab.


Up close the truck was even larger than I’d thought. I had to step onto a running board to get in. But it was quiet. A country song played on the stereo. The seats were leather. When I pulled my seat belt around me, I was reminded of Sara in Earl’s old truck. How she’d looked so small. In this truck, my feet, like hers, dangled above the floor.

As Eustace turned the steering wheel, I found myself staring at the sleeve of his blue-jean shirt, pulled back revealing a few inches of his forearm and his wrist. I don’t particularly approve of leather, but the smell of it was oddly intoxicating.

After driving along the narrow, two-lane road for several minutes, he turned onto a gravel road with a painted sign that announced the Duck and Bob. The place was done up like a British country pub. A lot of attention had been paid to landscaping. Fancy ducks and geese and black and white swans swam around on the large pond off to the side of the parking lot. A flagstone path led through a vine-covered trellis to the heavy wooden front door. Tidy, shaded beds filled with impatiens and hostas and young ferns flanked the walkway.

Inside the pub, the walls were whitewashed. The roof was supported with dark beams, and mirrors advertising British ales were hung throughout. The tables were wood and so were the upholstered chairs. Dr. Eustace had to duck his head when he went through the doorway. As far as I could see in the dim light, the customers were mostly gre-haired. I liked the place very much for its orderly and well-established atmosphere.

“Is this okay? I thought we’d go out into the garden to eat,” said Eustace.

I smiled and he put an arm around my shoulders. We walked straight ahead to the counter, where a barman was taking orders. To the left were seating areas and a fireplace. To the right and through a doorway was another room. Most of the tables were full.

I wondered if Earl ever came here and then decided probably not. He didn’t seem like the British pub type.

“Hey, Doctor E.,” said the young barman. His ears were pierced with those lobe-stretching earrings and his head was shaved to reveal a nicely shaped skull.

“Hey,” said Eustace. “How you doing?”

“Good, good. We missed you on Tuesday.”

“Had to work.”

“Don’t stay away too long. That would set a bad example.”

Eustace laughed and said he wouldn’t.

We peered at a blackboard menu on the far wall behind the bartender.

“I’ll take the plowman’s special,” said Eustace. “And an iced tea.”

“The crab cakes are excellent,” said the barman to me, when he could see I was still deciding. “So are the oysters.”

“Okay, I’ll take the pan-fried oysters. And a soda water.” In another circumstance I might have had a glass of wine, but I was running a fake treatment center.

Eustace maneuvered me through the dining area to the right and out another doorway that led to a fenced lawn. Cedar picnic tables with large umbrellas stuck in the middle were arranged on the grass, and a few cedar camp chairs faced out toward the large garden just beyond the fence. I could see rhododendrons lush with papery pink and red blooms and ferns rising like sculptures out of the beds of mounded bark mulch. It was very beautiful even though not all the plants looked native.

Eustace took our drinks over to two of the camp chairs and set them down on the small table between them. He shifted the chairs so they
faced each other slightly. When he sat down, his knee brushed mine.

“So what did you miss on Tuesday?” I asked.

“Oh, I get together with some guys,” he said.

“You had to work?”

“I got a little behind. I was giving some cattle implants.”

“Vaccinating them?”

“No. I had to put implants in their ears. It’s a hell of a job. It was just me and the farmer. We could have used two more guys. Big guys.”

“Implants? Do you mean ID tags?”

He laughed and took a sip of his iced tea. He licked foam from his upper lip, which momentarily made it hard for me to focus on what he was saying.

“No. Implants that administer a low dose of hormones.”

“Hormones!” I said. “You mean that stuff that gives boys man-boobs and women breast cancer?”

His eyes went squinty. “Ah, I see you’re up on your nonsense science.”

“Excuse me?”

“Look, the implants administer natural hormones. It’s perfectly safe. You want to feed everybody? You’ve got to use every advantage. Farmers can’t compete otherwise.”

I knew he was wrong. I’d read all about it.

“You don’t inject them with antibiotics, do you?”

“Sure,” he said. “They get sick, I inject them. It’s what vets do.”

I vaguely remembered James Herriot writing about the wonders of sulfa drugs, but obviously that wasn’t the same as the wholesale overuse of antibiotics in the agricultural industry. I took a deep breath.

“Not all of them administer unnecessary drugs. Some vets confine themselves to helping injured animals.”

“And they use medications to do that. Just like me. When an animal gets sick I treat it.”

“Probably most of the animals you treat have illnesses due to an unnatural life caused by industrial agricultural practices. Animals raised on small farms don’t get sick as often.” To be honest, I didn’t know whether that last part was true, but I’d read it somewhere and it
made sense. Sometimes in an argument you have to extrapolate from the available data.

“You realize that domesticated animals were essentially created by humans?” he said, leaning in toward me.

“But that doesn’t mean they should be … abused. This is why Canada is a hotbed of mad cow disease.”

He frowned.

“Canada is not a hotbed of … never mind. Look, bovine spongiform encephalopathy is caused not by medication but by feeding cows animal by-products, including contaminated beef.”

“Yeah, but vets invented it.”

“Vets invented mad cow disease?”

“No. The idea of feeding cows to other cows. You never saw James Herriot telling his clients to feed dead animals to their herbivores.”

“Actually, it was British vets in the eighties who started this ball rolling. Wanted to keep their beef production competitive and didn’t treat the protein supplements properly. Which reminds me, why are we having this conversation?”

I really wanted to let him know that I disapproved of industrial farming techniques and the vets who made it possible for farmers to raise animals in unnatural conditions. But I didn’t want to get too strident because that would ruin our date and he was very good-looking.

“I disapprove of industrial farming,” I said. “Just so you know.”

“I’m not crazy about the Canucks lineup this year. And you are very pretty,” he said. His knee was back on mine.

I decided to change his values later.

A young waitress, dressed as though she’d just gotten off the couch where she’d been watching Saturday morning cartoons on TV, arrived with our meals.

She placed a plate with four large oysters and a tossed green salad in front of me. The oysters had been lightly breaded and fried to a golden, crispy perfection. A small ramekin filled with homemade tartar sauce flecked with bits of onion and pickle, and four slices of lemon surrounded the oysters.

On Eustace’s plate was a small loaf of bread, a large wedge of white cheese, red grapes, a green salad with cherry tomatoes and bright radishes, and a scoop of potato salad.

“Enjoy,” said our server. “Let me know if you need anything else.”

I lightly salted the oyster, cut a small piece and tasted it.

“Oh my goodness,” I said as the flavors and textures settled on my tongue.

Eustace nodded.

“You have to try it.” I cut another small section and added a swipe of tartar and a squeeze of lemon. I picked the morsel up on my fork and moved it to his mouth, my free hand under the fork to catch any juice.

He ate it and we grinned at each other.

“I think peak oil is a load of crap,” he said, offering me a morsel of aged cheddar on a torn piece of crusty bread.

“I think people who drive unsustainable vehicles are killing the rest of us,” I said, feeding him another slice of oyster.

“David Suzuki is the greatest conspiracy theorist of our time,” he whispered, giving me a grape.

“I don’t even know who that is,” I said, feeding him a cherry tomato from my salad.

When we’d finished everything on our plates, I sighed with satisfaction. “That was amazing.”

There was something in his eyes when he looked at me and I had an inkling of what he looked like right after sex.

“I don’t get what all the hippies are bitching about,” he said.

“Rednecks are a drag,” I replied.

He leaned over the table. I could feel the warmth of his lips before they even touched mine. Just as my nose filled with the smell of garden and soap and man, a loud, slurred voice pierced the evening.

“Dude, I know two things: heavy metal and celebrities. And if you want integrity, pick a metal musician every time. That actress’s publicists want you to think she’s all that, you know, with the adopting starving kids and buying up villages. But it’s a sales job. Tits and ass. Same as all the rest.”

Startled, I jerked my head and the kiss became teeth knocking against my ear.

“Umf,” Eustace said, pulling away and rubbing his mouth.

“I’m sorry. I just heard something.”

The voice continued.

“She’s a total whore. Just like a certain someone who works at the high school. Well, actually, she might not work there anymore. I haven’t kept in touch. Fact is, I been home ever since I left school. ‘Cept for this one trip I took to like Home Depot. This shit here is like my coming-out party.”

There was a pause and then the voice sounded again. It was decibels louder than any other in earshot and it was coming from inside the bar.

“Don’t get upset, dude. You’ll fuck up your oxygen tank.”

What was Seth doing here? Wasn’t he supposed to be eating pizza back at the farm? When did he get drunk? He’d been doing so well.

Eustace was listening, too, with a smile on his face that looked like a combination of pity and annoyance.

“Always has to be one,” he said.

I took a small sip of my drink and tried to think. Seth was supposed to be a patient in my treatment center. People gossip in small towns. I couldn’t let anyone know that my one patient was out drinking at the local establishments. Seth’s behavior was endangering my whole plan.

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
6.36Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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