BOILED HEAD by Rob Bliss
Ma boiled the head this time instead of having Pa skewer it through the ears and giving it the slow roast over the barrel fire. Nelly and Fridge found a pot that was big enough, might’ve been a tractor gas tank, found by the blue Edsel, rusted to shit but that mostly scraped off, and besides a little iron is good for you, Gramps used to say. He’s been dead near on ten years now, not even half of him decent enough to eat, rife with the syphilis, screwing wharf whores when he was in the Navy, screwing four-leggers with rabies. We’re all meat for something, he used to say. We eat and are eaten, so if it don’t taste good, screw it. So he did … and we do.
Pa told Ma to burn off the beard and the rest of the head hair first since it’d take too long for the water to loosen the skin. They started arguing, naturally.
“Hair can be saved—make it into a shirt, a scarf—”
“Who’d ever want a raggedy old scarf made outa that frizz?”
“Ain’t no worse’n yours—and you got a godforsaken nest of critters living in yours!”
“I ain’t eatin’ no hair head, god damn it all!”
“Blasphemer! Pray to Jesus right now! Kids—y’all kneel to Jesus before the head’s ready—thank Him for this bounty we’s gonna receive.”
So we kids all, young and old, knelt with Pa on the sackcloth and ashes to the great chrome bumper Christ, feathered pretty with corn stalks and chosen rags and colourful wrappers. Greased hands folded, uttering praise and glory and the same old wishes by the dozen … a cool breeze, a warm sun, a fair rain fallen in all the upturned hubcaps … and, of course, for the occasional wayward traveller who can’t read a map, who finds himself come our way.
The road provides. Months, years of quiet incest, death void of blue eyelids, then a short spurt of action and satisfaction. New kill always smells so clean, like rain still impregnating the clouds, flashing boom branches, making the hair rise between your legs.
We sometimes let them hope and try to use their little devices to escape, but mostly we’re too hungry. Can smell the blood in ‘em. Hear the hearts bumping the side ribs—tough not to think of barbecue. In a quick swarm of kin, we’re all hopping and laughing and hard, and they scream. Scream good. Like music.
And soon the meat falls. After a bit of a run and then it’s quiet, crickets in the grass. We don’t hang ‘em up to dry or talk—we ain’t nothing to reason with, why do they always try? Before the sky bleeds its prettiest colours, they’re all stripped and screwed, meat tenderized by chain and pelvis, and a few of us got new clean clothes to try on.
The daddy got a beard. That’s what Ma and Pa were going on about. Must be the fashion of the times on the outside, beyond the dump, full beards for the fellas. Used to be handlebar moustaches and side-chops. Even the son, in his first breeding years, had a wisp of beard on his smooth white chin to match his caterpillar. Some of the thinnest cockscomb I ever saw.
Anyway, don’t know why Pa was bitching, he got his barbecue for most of it. Ma just wants her style once in a harvest moon. Took longer, but the taste is different. Even with all the hair scorched clean, head is head, boiled or baked or barbecued.
Always delicious meat.
Jesus got His share, too. Gotta feed the Christ.
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