Unsaid 7: PORTIONS, by Richard St. Germain (Co‐Recipient of the 2014 Joan Scott Memorial Award)

portions

Perhaps she would have eaten whichever of them slept through their feeding times. Before they spoiled. But she would not be squeamish about them, either. They were food. They were meat. But they would have been so small, so delicate, so precious to her. They must not spoil. We must preserve them. But not indefinitely. For the time being, time being denied us by the microbes. She carried them in a sack convenient for preserving them in, so their number remains unknown. Their weight and their volume must have become impediments to her. They must have made her hungry. They must have made her slow. Where were you going, so slowly, little lady, where no one goes slow, if they can help it? Were you afraid, where your renowned means of defense is underappreciated by your pursuers? But your only predator eats other animals. We prefer chicken. If you were a chicken, we would understand why you crossed the road, little lady. But there is no escaping us, little lady. Your time was coming. Only our time is not coming, not for a long time, little lady. Perhaps next time we will evolve as companions to each other, with no memory of a relationship that was never other than mutually beneficial for each of our species. Perhaps next time no animal species will eat another animal species. A being that yields its life after bitter struggle must taste sweet. Everything is edible, if only for the microbes present for the feast. Let them have blood. Let us wash none of it off our hands. Let us carry some with us into our homes, to wonder whose blood we have bloodied the handles on our faucets with. We should know where it comes from by the pain of the wound. All animals feel pain. Sometimes we must wait for pain to be felt. Sometimes something is more important than the pain we should be feeling. Or the hunger. Or the fatigue. We become machines. We become dangers to ourselves. We are glad no one is near enough for their safety to be our concern. Or for our safety to be their concern. Our safety is our own concern. But safety is not our only concern! Otherwise we would never have touched her. No one would have touched her except perhaps with a shovel to pick her up with. No one would have gone near her except out of compulsion. We would have gone along our thoroughfares wondering where the smell was coming from. Perhaps we would have guessed, by the strength of the smell, that we would not find her alive. This little lady would not be offending us again. Some lucky animals would not be so offended. But could those animals smell the flowers? But flowers also offended us by their smell if we came too near them. Only particular animals could come so near to them and still be attracted by their smell. Only particular animals could navigate the delicate parts of a flower and have it be intact when they left it for the next flower and the next and the next. Because they would be always improving their navigations and increasing their efficiency in the task they had been assigned as a species. The smell that would be to us so overpoweringly attractive as to be repulsive, perhaps even suffocating if we could not smell it without breathing, would be to them the confirmation of their success in the task and perhaps even as a species.

 

We imagine their task must have been difficult for them before they evolved as a species, before the information they needed to do the task was transmitted via their genes. They misidenfified flowers. They desecrated flowers. They would not be the individuals assigned by the species to reproduce themselves via their genes, naturally. We could not allow even their participation in the rearing of the young, possibly. They would expose our children to dangers unnecessary to the children’s upbringing in our society. Perhaps such misidentifications and desecrations could support a new species if there were more flowers, more time, more individuals we could withstand the loss of. We could withstand the loss of individuals but not of our children. Children were more precious to us than in most other species. We would not eat them if we had food that was yet edible, despite delays in its utilization. Other methods of preservation have proved less reliable, but the method of preservation we use for children preserves savoriness as well as edibility. Perhaps we should choose methods of preservation that improve savoriness when the preservation will be indefinite. Other animals ate the children first, raw. Cooking gives us more of the animals’ value as food. Other animals ate children whole. We would be eating the last surviving representatives of her species, probably. Though they were not surviving entirely intactly, as we jostled our choices of meals we could not finish the eating of. But at the other meals we had inscribed a date of preparation on the portions we could not finish eating. We wanted never to feel compelled to eat the entirety of a meal. Some meals we wanted a repetition of, in some small portion. But a repetition of the repetition is not what we wanted. We wanted the taste to inform us of some improvement or alternative that would help us on our culinary journey. We wanted to exploit new food sources. Our shit smelled like her. The portion of her that we could consume without the feeling of its imminent expulsion was requiring larger amounts of bottled water to wash it down with. The description of the flavors on the bottles of the water were less succinct each time we sought a flavor that would wash the taste of her down with the portion.

 

We were filling our bellies before we came home. We were drowning her in tomato sauce. We were eating her by ourselves. She was spoiling. We could redeem ourselves. We had not butchered them. Parts of her were irreducible. Parts of her would never be utilized properly. But if we could deplete the smell of those irreducible parts, we would have souvenirs of her for our windowsills. Everyone smelled a little different. We were not aware of how much everything still smelled like her until we came home. We hung out our clothing before stepping inside. She tasted best cold. She was wiry. They had been the bulk of her. They had caused the satchel to swing beneath our shoulders. They had robbed her of the fat we were ready to cut away as we peeled her skin. They had shifted the belly and intestines into her chest and groin, respectively. Their time was near when she crossed the road. They should have teeth and fur and tails. But baby teeth. Soft fur. Tiny tails. Their bellies should be empty. They would be uninjured. Unscathed. Unsullied by us. Unsteeped in tomato juice. Unsmothered by onions.

 

We were becoming hungry thinking about them just rolled in bread crumbs. Just browned in butter. Washed down with just our original, unfiltered tap water. We hardly knew which part of her we would be eating anymore. Our throat would close. A belch would threaten to bring the taste of her back up. It could be from just the water. Better to release it before it sought a longer way out, causing us mortal embarassment when we could not isolate ourselves in a ventilated environment. We knew whose these slippages were. She was overpowering us.

 

Food smelled bad for a reason. She was the first of all the animals we had eaten that we had killed and butchered ourselves. We had seen how much of her was wasted in the butchering. We told ourselves she would have died anyway. We asked ourselves if we could have saved them if they were alive when we cut them from her. They too would have died anyway, anyway, we told ourselves. If perhaps one of them had been alive, we would not have seen it, surrounded by the rest of them. We asked ourselves if any of them would have been alive, anyway, before being born.

 

Our fear was a microbe that could utilize us if we went near the wrong animal. But the wrong animal could be a chicken or a pig or another person. We should not eat until we were hungry. But we could not be too hungry, either, or we would eat anything convenient to eat before we ate the food that awaited our preparation. Cooking killed microbes. We must wash anything we touched. We must wash the handles of our faucets.

 

We must add oil to the butter. The oil and the butter and the bread crumbs in the pan could become a gravy if we wanted. They needed salt. We would know they were done when their juices ran clear. When the knife went in easily. Some were done before others. While the last few were cooking we chopped up the sack. More salt. We reheated them with the chopped-up sack in the gravy. The gravy was reduced to a thick paste they looked like they were asleep in. We spooned them with the gravy around them onto a plate.

 

They would not be good reheated, we told ourselves. One was cut into already. This one did not appear to be sleeping. We would not be disturbing this one if we ate it. We would be putting it out of its misery, we decided. Their father, too, was probably dead, we told ourselves. Perhaps their father had been trapped by yard specialists and freed in the place promised in the yard specialists’ propaganda. Their juice thinned the gravy as they cooled. We spooned some gravy into the wound we had given one. We would have the prerogative of eating this one if we were going to serve customers, we told ourselves. We would serve more potatoes or rice and space them farther away from each other on the plate. Perhaps wild rice and a green vegetable. Whatever was in season, we told ourselves. Servers would provide a sharp knife, but we could cut them with our spoon. We tasted the gravy. Probably just right, salt-wise, we decided. Perhaps we could provide a somewhat larger spoon for customers. We could pick them up with our fingers. The little things. Their tails would break if we tried to hold them by their tails. We should have used a different thickener in the gravy. We would probably not want them splashing gravy on our customers’ dinner jackets. We would cut off the tails. We would serve the tails as an appetizer. For someone who made the sandwiches on someone else’s menu, for someone else’s customers, our fantasies were getting rather fancy, we told ourselves. We should have known better than to serve them on a cold plate, we told ourselves. Even if we were only serving ourselves, we told ourselves. Our biggest complaint was a smell characteristic of the method of preservation we had used for them. They would be taken off the bill, of course.

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