mhm mhm Nathan told me about the service the weekend we killed the pig. We've driven out in the van together, Nathan and me and a few guys we need from college heading out of the city to the kill farm upstate. It was november then and bitter. We were standing around in a muddy field which was slowly hardening in the frost, hands in our pockets and windbreaker collars pulled up high to shield us from the cold. None of us were looking at each other. It was taking forever for the farmers to lead us into the kill pen and all of us were realizing is the weight dragged out into a space that allowed for thinking that slaughtering a pig even like this all together was going to be more difficult than we thought. It's an ethical thing. Taking responsibility for your consumption. Oh sure yeah, for sure. That was about the level of conversation I was up to, we packed a cooler full of Epas to shield us from the cold supposedly. And I have been dipping into them in our very well heated rental van all afternoon. I was thinking about whether the pig would fight us. I've seen movies where pigs, eight people so they had to be some kind of threat. Thinking about it. Maybe want to drink more and drinking gave me a better imagination. And so now I wasn't cold but I was lightheaded and I had a horrible premonition that when we did it, I was going to puke if you're gonna eat meat, you should know where it comes from. You've got to own up to ending your life morally speaking. You know. No doubt. No doubt privately. I thought I could understand where meat came from without actually killing any. I could just think about it really hard or google pictures of teacup pigs still, this was a thing. It had been in the times and everything. Guys like us did this killed a meal to remind us that we were still animals, still men. Even in Brooklyn Wild source protein is good for you to connect your body to the life force helps regenerate cells, those fertility levels. It can actually help you. And carol. Carol and I were trying to conceive. I mean trying was one way to put it another was that we had been trying when we first got married two years ago and we've kept the routine up long after we realized it wasn't going to work. There were other things we could do. Medical interventions. We could look into adoption which was always open to people with our resources. We weren't doing any of that though. We were just trying the same way we always had, hoping carol's body would suddenly change its mind. Nathan looked away from me and out to the iron gray horizon. When you lisa and I were trying, we got hooked up with a co op that delivers really fresh proteins kind of illicit. Some of the animals aren't strictly approved by fish and wildlife. You know, it's an underground deal like raw milk, but I gotta tell you it really turned things around. Dylan wouldn't be here without it. I looked up at Nathan squinting against the wind. Something in his voice had shifted opened up like he was beckoning me into the room where he kept all the christmas presents Nathan and I didn't solve all over each other. We had all our problems like adults, but I knew it had been hard for him And you lisa lots of miscarriages, one of them late six or 7 months in when they say you're out of the woods, they hadn't seemed likely to try again after that. Then, about a year later there was Dylan protein. Huh? I said, like I say they're underground. You have to prove you want it. Make a sacrifice of certain female organs. My head was swimming and everything sounded a little weird to me, but I knew that last bit sounded objectively weirder. I looked to his eyes and saw only myself swimming in the mirrored reflection of his sunglasses. That's why I mentioned it now we could arrange something. It's very the right parts of the pig o of the pig. You mean, Nathan laughed and I laughed back. In a couple of hours later I was riding home with a plastic wrapped pig uterus in a paper bag under my seat. It looked ridiculous like a pink scalloped pillow with an elephant's trunk sticking out of it. I put it out on the stoop before he went to bed, and in the morning when I got up there was a different paper bag on the front doorstep. The meat looked bloodier, pulpy. Er It was badly butchered still, it did look alive using with fresh red blood the color of lipstick. It was funny the day before I got that package, I couldn't tell how freshly dead something was, but now I'd killed a pig. They do fight you by the way, but they don't win their trust up and outnumbered and they can't fight for long. I didn't know what to do with the delivery. It wasn't a steak or any recognizable cut of meat, just a raggedy chunk of something that had once been an animal. I just plopped it in a frying pan with some butter and gave it to carol. Once it looked brown, I did a bad job, but she enjoyed herself, bits of juice from the probably too rare cut trickling undated tilly down her chin. And the next week when the next bag arrived I did it again. She's got a weird taste, not bad, but kind of smoky. Maybe it's wild sourced, Nathan knows where to get it. He's in a co op. That was it for the question and answer portion. I didn't mention Children because the topic of Children between us was an ache. A cry it out conversation and over time as the crying felt less useful, it felt less and less wise to start the conversation at all. You have to understand that I wanted Children, some guys get roped into it, pulled along by the insistent urge of their wife's body. And even more guys claim they got roped in because it's easier than admitting they wanted to hold their baby. I wanted the baby, I wanted to be a dad. I wasn't sure what I would do once. I was one sometimes tried to imagine having conversations with my adorably precocious young critter and I realized I was just imagining Haley, Joel osment er the little kid and jerry Maguire. I had no idea what kids were like outside of movies, but I knew I needed one. If it meant serving my wife, what was probably dogged me. Well, she seemed down with it and our future son would thank her. So who was I to stand in their way? The package is kept coming and the awkward chunk of steak dinners happened once a week and one week I looked up to realize I hadn't heard carol complain about cramps or seen tampons in a bathroom waste basket for a while. Now she ate that weeks meet solemnly and I could see how had I not been able to see that something in her was blooming. It was shining through her skin. The glow thing is usually just bullshit. You tell a pregnant woman to make her feel nice. But it wasn't with carol. She looked tired, but the air around her was supercharged, vibrating with some magic from the beginning of time when she told me, I'm not ashamed to say, I cried, partly from fear. I mean, but I did cry and I was happy and for that if for nothing else, I am grateful to Nathan. In the prior week's package I found a wedding ring normally. That's just that hygiene. Are you worried for the person who lost it? But this was far worse. I found the ring finger to how do I stop the delivery Nathan and I were at a bar in chinatown that I was pretty certain was a cop bar. I felt bad supporting it politically. I mean the bathroom graffiti really made you understand some of the problems in our city. But the drinks were dead cheap. It was a place for men to go, nothing fancy or nice about it. The bartender treated you like shit and you've got your $3 beer and you drank it under a neon sign and silence Nathan furrowed his brow with me. Why would you want to stop Nathan was my best looking friend If I thought about it, Not that I thought about it that often. He had a really deep voice. He had two days double every day. He looked handsomely disheveled until he realized he must have been using clippers. He wore a suit everywhere, even to the cop bar, which raised the question of whether the bartender was actually crusty or just thought Nathan was an asshole. The point is, people were inclined to listen to me if he had a certain reaction that seemed like the reasonable one to have. Even though I'd come to the bar prepared with a long list of reasons, unsanitary conditions, I don't know what the meat is found, a human finger and so on and so forth. They all suddenly seemed like bad ones. Nathan ate this stuff presumably every week and he wasn't worried. What was my problem? Carol's pregnant so we don't need it anymore. All the more reason to stay on the program. Trust me, a pregnancy is hard to carry over the finish line, especially at carol's age. I looked into my beer, watching the red, white and blue of the Budweiser sign float and blur across its pissy surface. Look, I don't tell this story often, but you know, you lisa's last miscarriage, it wasn't a miscarriage, it was an abortion. Yeah, I looked up at him, startled. It was such a private thing to say. Nathan was cagey with his private life. Even when he was drinking, we were already in the coop, we stopped as soon as we had a healthy pregnancy. That makes sense right somewhere in that second trimester and they can start to detect things anomalies. When we went in for one ultrasound appointment, they told us the kid could be born if we want it, but he wouldn't have a brain, it just didn't develop. The whole top of his skull was missing, jesus, I can still technically feel my body located in the bar. I felt the cheap tattered pleather of the bar stool and it's chrome rungs under my feet. We could hear bad hair metal playing on the jukebox, but the core of me was floating and avoid. I thought about how hard it would be to spark a life in carol's body. But I hadn't thought about the rest of it. How hard it would be to put a human together from scratch. How helpless I was. How helpless we both were to determine the shape of what she made. Well, next one, we got deliveries all the way through and you've seen Dylan, he's great. But losing a pregnancy that late, it changes you. I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy what you lisa went through. I nodded silently saying anything more would damage the trust he'd shown me or I just start screaming. You really want every advantage for carol. She deserves the best. Mhm. Yeah, there were other signs. Sometimes there was a little skin attached to the meat. Sometimes I could identify the fine world of body hair with the articulation of a calf muscle or a bicep. After my talk with Nathan, I paid no mind. I was making a human body or carol was so maybe some other bodies had to be sacrificed to the task. So what they always are, carol ate the meat in deeper and deeper silence each week, her appetite slowing into reverence. It was spiritual, the way she bent her head to the task, it was like she didn't even know I was there. I could see the glow of the life in her flickering wilder and brighter as she swallowed. And I knew I was doing a good thing. I was a provider, a Neanderthal dragging a fresh kill back to the cave mouth. And that's why I never told her. A provider doesn't complain about what he has to do. He just gives his family what they need he does until he can't. One sunday when I poked my head out of the door, checking for that week's delivery. The paper bag wasn't there? I made some excuse to carol, but we argued, she was teary and angry. She shot herself in the bedroom and slammed the door. I spent all that week waiting for the next sunday and when that sunday came, the doorstep was empty again. This time there was a note taped to my door, introductory period exceeded the note read. First shift owed Nathan, nodded wisely at the note in my hand. Oh, they're gonna put you on the harvest floor. Harvest. We were back in the cop bar, Nathan, perfect in his suit. Me sweating and clutching my beer so hard I nearly folded the plastic cup in half. Harvest was not a word I wanted to hear at that moment. It sounded too much like a euphemism. You harvest plants. What you do with an animal is kill it. It's a co op. You've got to start cooperating sooner or later. You didn't warn me about this, you piece of shit! Some stronger, some more confrontational version of me shrieked in my head. You never mentioned this, It was true. He hadn't yet, there he was smiling at me, looking like a guy in a beer ad or a Hanes commercial and it felt weak to be angry with him. Nathan was cool. Nathan was reasonable. Nathan had it together. And if you were mad at Nathan, that felt like your sign that you failed to be sufficiently Nathan. Like in your own thinking, it felt like you were the problem. I I won't be able to do that. My tongue was thick in my mouth. I sounded stupid or drunk. I knew I was both. I didn't even ask what that was because I knew that whatever it was, I couldn't do it. Have you asked carol if she wants to stop? I shook my head. It hadn't occurred to me that you at least some might know about the service or that she and Nathan might discuss it. It evidently hadn't occurred to Nathan that I might keep it secret. I think you should ask her. I mean it's her body. Suit yourself though. I waited for him to yell at me threatened. He just ordered another beer and change the subject. That's what made me feel the smallest. I didn't pose a threat to him. He wasn't worried about what might happen if you let me go. He didn't have to be assembled out of the bar into the subway. My cell phone rang. It was carol calling from the hospital. It's nothing, it's nothing. I just had some symptoms. They thought might be pre eclampsia. It's nothing. The second she hung up the phone, I was pulling out my messages and frantically texting naked. You're a good father. He texted back The next night we were on the harvest floor. Nathan drove me to the harvest at midnight using a worn out undershirt as a blindfold. I mean, of course he did. There's always a blindfold on a midnight drive in these stories, they don't mention the smell the way I was left sucking in Nathan's rank pit sweat and the stale lavender ghost of his cologne. The whole way there, I kept imagining myself hunting some homeless person down in an alley, yanking college girls off the streets as they stumbled out of bars. I didn't know what kind of weapon they'd make me use a gun if I was lucky or maybe a hammer or a blade like you do with livestock. How had we killed the pig? I can barely remember killing the pig. It was supposed to be a defining experience. It was supposed to make a man out of me turned me into a person who took responsibility. Yes. So many other experiences had come between that one and this one, each one washing away and dimming what was supposed to be some superlative moment. It didn't matter anymore. Killing has just become another thing I tried on a weekend. Nathan stopped the car and pulled my blindfold off, embraced, waiting for him to hand me the weapon. What I realized is light flooded my eyes and made me blink was that we were indoors, some kind of factory with a wide door for loading and unloading trucks. I sniffed in voluntarily, trying to clear my nose of Nathan. That's when I recognized it. Not a factory slaughterhouse. The bodies were stacked at the forefront of the room. They're at least 20 of them a pile high enough that a tall man had to pull them down from the top for processing. They were dead already, with holes punched in their foreheads or throat slit whoever killed them and used humane methods. I try to feel relieved by them by the fact that all the corpses were men. They were old, young. Their clothes were often nice and sometimes tattered or outdated in a way that spelled poverty, but they were guys, people who had at least theoretically been powerful. We were murderers. I told myself we probably weren't rapists, which ought to make a difference. It didn't. Next to the bodies was the conveyor belt and in front of the conveyor belt where men had spent doing the work I've been sent to do. I've gotten so used to receiving the chunks of meat in expertly hacked up and ragged that I thought I was immune to the site of death. What I had not considered what I ought to have considered. Every time I saw it was that someone had to do the hacking and that each chunk belonged to a man who had once been hole. As I watched the man wearing an apron and rubber gloves dived into a bearded old man slip abdominal cavity and removed the intestines, scooping them out with both hands. He slipped and grabbed them too hard. He ripped one right and half spilling shit all over the conveyor belt and the scrawny, hawk nosed face of the dead man below. I could smell it from across the floor, even though that floor smelled like 1000 other things. I told myself not to throw up. I told myself not to pass out, only listen to one of those orders and my dinner came out fluid and hot and tasting of Cuban and acid from the same slick pink cavity that those men, we're steadily ripping out of the other bodies. I stood bent over, hands, on my knees, dizzied by the unwelcome awareness that my body had. An inside. Nathan nodded and patted me on the shoulder as I choked it up. That's right. Better to get it out now. It'll happen a few times on the first shift. It does for all of us. But you don't want it coming out on the conveyor, it could have screamed, I could have pleaded, I could have made a spectacle of myself. Would you like me more if I had but I already felt weak puking in front of everybody. I already felt myself to be visibly not in control, visibly frightened and I knew that the other workers reactions was probably worse than pity. So I just wiped my mouth and let Nathan lead me to the pile of aprons and rubber gloves. Will I have to kill anyone? Not this shift, we were closer to the bodies now and I could see that one of them was looking. It was a young guy, athletic with an expensive watch and thick golden brown hair, it poked out from his shirt collar, stood stiff along his arms edged his jawline. His brain leaked out a little from the perfectly symmetrical hole between his eyes. What if I tell the cops this is going on? What if I don't show up to the next shift? Just tell you I want to stop Nathan Green down at me buddy. Who do you think these guys are? It's gotten easier over time that first night I just hacked through any piece of the body that was available, barrelling through shit smelling blood spatter, keeping my eyes open only after I'd hurt myself with a miss aimed blade. I got used to it eventually used the saw with purpose. I dry heaved more than I vomited and when I did vomit I knew where to aim. I had to harvest every night that week Then I got a week off then two weeks on. I never got a fixed schedule but it was considerate as far as it could be. The bosses like to ramp up slowly in terms of the work they make you do. The slaughter floor is worse than processing by the way, but only a little like I told you they fight but not for long and they don't win. Not when it's a bunch of guys and one trussed up animal. It's about ethics. That's what Nathan told me. If you're gonna eat this stuff, you have a duty to know where it comes from. Mhm. I processed Nathan about two weeks ago. I don't know what happened. He always seemed so all in. I guess they asked him to do something that even he wasn't capable of. I was glad I got to do his processing though. He would have wanted someone who took it seriously who understood the moral responsibility involved. I want to tell you that getting the meat back fixed, our pregnancy made carol healthy again. But you know, I can't tell you that she yelled at me more over the next few months, ran into our room and slammed the door more often. I think she's been in there for three weeks now. I haven't seen her. I haven't wanted to. The noise is behind that door. Aren't coming from something. You want to see. What struck me after we butchered Nathan. Was that I actually hadn't seen you lisa since before Dylan not in person. I mean it struck me that Dylan didn't really look much like Nathan or like lisa either that I had no real proof he'd come from their bodies. It sounds paranoid, but when I see the shadows in our bedroom, through the blinds at night, it seems like a question worth asking. What I see is enormous. It breathes heavy in the night when I get home from work. A sacrifice of certain female organs. Nathan said, I guess I should have known. He didn't mean the pig what we're sacrificing for and what it wants. I may never know. I don't think I'll survive to see its crowning. My son will be born soon. He's been fed from the beginning on the flesh of weaker men. When he arrives, he will be hungry, he will reach for his father.