Joy shared this piece, an excerpt from a larger work, with us last week on her 26th birthday-- it was so powerful that I asked her to read it again. I love the way she reads. I wish I could describe the way it works -- but I can't. You're just going to have to listen for yourself. Enjoy.
excerpt from Midwest farmers daughters really make you feel all right
We thought it was hilarious, my brother and me. Mom didn't. We were appalled at the injustice of Ashes the cat lounging on the family room chair when Goblin couldn't even come in. But our incomprehension didn't change the fact; it was back to the barn for Gobby.
When Gobby was a small, he was 150 pounds of creamy Charolais-cross. A marginalized beef half-breed, he was nonetheless my baby. He would thrust on his gallon sized bottle so hard he'd knock me over my nine-year-old frame. Of course, it's not hard for someone big to plow down someone small.
I thought he had been abandoned by his mommy; truth is, he had been taken away by my dad. But now he was my baby. He slept in the first stall of our weathered gray barn. His days were spent lolling in a green gold pasture. For entertainment, he would run from us for hours when it was time for his bottle and bed. With gritted teeth and tightened jaw, I would curse him in my mind and love him in my heart. He really was my baby.
After blizzards and spring buds, summer marched in through wheat in waves of gold. It was time for fair, my first fair, and I knew that I was cute. I pulled up Gobby's neck and poked at his toes, just like a good mommy. I brushed his hair and sprayed his tail. Batting my eyes, I allowed a friendly farmer boy to trim Gobby's belly for me.
I don't know where I placed in the competition, but I know it didn't matter. We were headed to the ring. Suddenly I was not cute. I was a monster lurking in a brutal farm life truth. I couldn't look in the mirror, so I flipped my switch. At the back of my heart, beneath the hopes and dreams, I have an emergency switch. When the status is code red and I'm facing the destruction of my world, I flip the switch. With ferocious efficiency, my tears dry up. The heavy steel walls of my heart collide shut, smashing any tenderness left in the way.
I pulled and tugged Goblin\'s lead rope latched to his blue-green halter. I couldn\'t look into his damp brown eyes. Manipulating the buyers with my blue button-up shirt with little pink flowers, tiny white boots, and sweet smile, I was disgusted with my father. After the ring had emptied itself of the animals, my baby and I walked in. Money came flying. Old men were flinging their bids into the air, and I was a ten-year-old prostitute. I turned my head away and locked my heart. A few minutes later it was over.
A weathered gray farmer was there to take my baby. With him, my Gobby would find no home. Two weeks of grief staining my cheeks, I knelt in shame before the old farmer. My dad assured me the man would take care of him. I scratched and clawed and cried to hold on to this comfort, but I could not deny the truth. I, his second mother, would walk away. My baby was headed to slaughter. With fraying braids plastered to the sweat upon my neck and an indelicate spray of purple feathers atop my head, I was a lost little Indian child mounted by a cowboy hat.