Beside the Rusted Fence

A rooster’s lonely song crows through the darkened field. A yellow light blinks on.  It’s her nearest neighbor a mile away— a rundown rental where the Filipino cow boys who work for the dairy live.

 

She sits on the lanai steps, barefoot in a nightshirt, her knees bent. She waits under the morning moon as a single row of cows, head to tail, trudges up a path from the ocean leading toward her fence.

 

The black and whites, scuffling their hooves, finally arrive at the line of barbed wire. The nearest cow stands less than twenty feet from where she sits. The heifers line up beside the rusted fence, jostling for space, arching their necks over the jagged prongs, their thick tongues greedily tearing at the ti trees she has planted on her side. She waits some more.

 

Not long after she had inherited the metal roofed plantation home, she was awakened one night by a mournful lowing coming from the field out back. A small herd of cows, like a bovine coven, was gathered in a circle, their noses low to the ground. The next day she spotted a noisy ATV spewing smoke through the field. A cow boy jumped off and waved, before stooping down and covering a lifeless calf with a layer of lime.

 

This morning, the cows sport yellow plastic tags dangling from their ears—each bears a number.  She recognizes No. 487—with that brindled back and No. 203– with a mohawk topnotch.

 

She picks up the bunch of ti leaves she’s placed on the step next to her. She stands and slowly walks down the steps, carefully. Quietly. Softly, as the sunlight comes.

 

She inches through the pili grass. Slowly. Slowly. Hardly breathing.  She offers the ti to No. 655, the one with the crooked tail.

 

No. 655 stops chewing, looks up, her mouth paralyzed. With a whoosh, the thundering of hooves bursts beyond the wire. The herd takes off, madly chasing after No. 655 who, with a stricken look, has swiveled around and sped back towards the ocean in the merest of split seconds.

 

She could still smell them as she inhales the vibrating air in their wake, rear ends rumbling down the path. Then, she drops the bunch of ti on the other side of the fence beside an oily cow pie, shiny in the pink sunlight, splattered on the grass.

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