by L.M. Thorne
Jorge glides the final rolling rack, heavy with leather, through the spanking new, cutting edge, film studio. Hollywood came to Toronto and Jorge was the chosen one. He worked hard to get this job. Jorge hemmed and he pinned; he washed and he ironed; he was the runner and the footstool; spent endless evenings on his knees. He darned lace and sourced impossible-to-finds; he learned how to wrap a hijab without a pin, how to cloak an un-dead nun so she was dripping in sin.
Cherry-picked as head costume designer, now, rolling a rack. Whatever it takes. Sell every last piece and get the hell out of this haunted space, this industry of waste.
Thirteen weeks on a film set is a mini-lifetime, prepped, shot, and wrapped out. This job had been a grueling casket walk, a war with no cause, and Jorge, the valiant soldier, was hobbling, still alive.
Enough with the Hollywood Starlets.
Enough with the glamour of film.
Time to retire to Prince Edward County, open a bridal boutique, and work out of his cozy country home. Jorge wanted to make dresses for real women—to make them feel like Hollywood Starlets on their special day.
Time for wine and cheese and Johnny’s smile.
Sell the boots and never look back.
Those bloody boots.
Jorge traveled all over Italy sourcing costumes. This was a statement film—no limit, only divine. He wanted lush, luxurious, leather, leather, leather. Tuscany was a dream.
Johnny came along as Jorge’s assistant, a.k.a. lover boy. On production’s buck, Jorge proposed to Johnny in the honeymoon suite overlooking a mossy olive grove and a grapevine setting sky.
Johnny said yes.
Radiant with bliss, they sipped champagne and watched shadows dance across the vineyard. Faint and distant on the wind was the gentle sound of violins. A white Chianina cow, far out in the field, looked directly at the couple.
Serene black eyes, steady stance, she stares.
“Look, she’s blessing us,” Johnny whispers.
They drink a toast to the gentle meadow cow.
As the first star of the night sparks up in the sky, Jorge kisses his future bride. Sketches for Johnny’s dress are already complete in Jorge’s mind.
He brought home three pairs of the custom-crafted boots from Italy—the most exquisite leather Jorge had ever touched—a pair for the star, a pair for the stunt double, and a pair for unplanned disasters. In love with these boots, he couldn’t resist the urge to try them on, to slide them up, and strut.
Jorge had delicate legs for a man; petite feet, he was a natural queen. He checked his reflection. “Fabulous.”
Damn right, I’m fabulous. The voice boomed loud though he knew he was alone. Jorge prepped the rest of the costume fitting in silence.
How those boots had pleased Celia when she tried them on.
She held her tiny hands up to her modified breasts and squealed. “Pitter patter goes my heart! These boots fit me like a glove!”
She grabbed at Jorge, “Die.”
He smiled with relief, “Dying right?”
“To die for.”
He jumped up and down, “Couldn’t you just?”
Celia’s platinum curls bounced, “I am!”
They hugged, “Dying.”
Celia faced her reflection again, “So drop dead, Jorge.”
At the wardrobe sale Jorge sells the fine-Italian boots to Celia’s stand-in for a price that’s scandalously low.
A seething hiss fills his ears, Devil’s hooves burn.
He shoves the boots in a bag and tosses them to Audrey.
“Thank you!” Audrey cradles the boots, “Thank you, thank you!”
From down the hall, a piercing shriek of horror.
“Celia is dead! Dead! She’s dead!”
Audrey rides the subway home with her killer boots. Mine, all mine.
She admired them during the whole shoot, and when the photo-double called in sick Audrey was thrust into costume, on standby, incase they needed to get the shot. She sat on her arse for fourteen hours without being used, but seeing herself in that full-length mirror, she knew these boots had to be hers. Superhero-sexy.
She asked Jorge to put them on hold.
“Save it for your wedding dress, sweet pea, these are twelve-hundred-dollar, custom-craft boots.”
That was an all-inclusive trip to Costa Rica, an annual membership at Moksha Yoga, an LA retreat to the faerie cottage of FLB, a year of organic groceries delivered… She surrendered the boots.
Jorge tossed them on the shelf.
“How’s Peter? When’s the wedding?”
“We’re not getting married.”
“But you’re engaged, no?”
“I don’t see why you’d pass up your right to wear a wedding dress. Hun, if it’s about the money, I’ll make you a dress. Quality, custom, you just pay for materials.”
“I love you Jorge, I don’t need a dress.”
“You still want me to put you down for the boots?”
“Peter would kill me.”
Jorge took some pictures with Audrey’s phone so her fiancé could see how kick-ass she was in this fleeting moment.
She walked off the wardrobe truck thinking they could never be hers. And now, one hundred bucks later, no tax, the boots were in her bag. She would cherish these fine-Italian beauties forever. As shocked and disturbed as she felt about Celia’s tragedy, Audrey could not contain her giddiness about wearing the boots to Gustavo’s gala at the AGO.
Nearly every costume piece sold. Jorge stands drained, afraid, and alone. The place on the shelf where the boots once sat is now a platinum mass of matted curls, sopping in blood.
He knows the hair belongs to Celia.
The ground rumbles beneath his tired feet. The herd is coming, the clatter of devil’s hooves, rattling and shaking the shelves all around him. A massive crate of irons, not plugged in, yet burning hot, falls on Jorge’s head. Searing heat. Red fire pain. The irons scorch through his clothes and melt his flesh until he bursts into flame.
When they find him he is charred beyond recognition.
They know it is Jorge by the engagement ring dangling round his blackened bone.
“It’s so fucking huge,” Gustavo booms into the mic. “Everyone says that when they see my work.” The crowd laughs.
Peter installs art for eccentric, out-of-proportion, artists. He makes massive installations fit, he sets things right, and he can make even the most horrendous piece of work shine under his lights.
Gustavo is a brilliant sculptor with the spirit of a child; a huggable lab pup with the fury of a wild horse. He talks loud, he laughs often, and he kisses absolutely everyone on the mouth. Audrey enjoys his soft lips and always looks forward to greeting their dear friend.
“These Boots! My God!” Gustavo barrels across the gallery and pounces on Audrey’s thigh, he hikes her leg up in the air, “Look at these.”
He grips her ankle and rubs her calf, fingertips massaging the leather. A soft voice whispers in his ear, Yes, rub me, just like that.
Gustavo looks behind. Nobody. A tingle scratches down his spine.
He smacks Audrey’s calf a couple times and gives her back her leg. “Peter, marry this woman before I do!”
They all laugh.
Gustavo wraps a heavy arm around Peter’s shoulder and tucks Audrey in at the waist. He is intense and quiet, “I want you two lovebirds to be the happiest couple that ever did live. You hear me? How can I spoil you best? A month at my villa? Let me make this happen.”
Audrey is too warm and she’s had too much champagne. Gustavo’s breath is too hot in her face and he’s crushing her ribs. A hostess holds out a tray of shredded meat on a silver platter. “Paper-thin Kobe with a cracked pepper Roquefort, nestled in caramelized shallots, on a bed of arugula, with cashew crusted pear?”
One thousand beastly screams flood Audrey’s brain. Her mouth fills with saliva and bile. She pries herself out of Gustavo’s grip. Her heels clack loud on the marble as she forces her legs to move.
Spinning, lights dimming, she escapes the room and pukes in the parking lot. Gustavo holds her hair and Peter rubs her back.
Audrey weeps and wretches.
“Could we be expecting?” Gustavo smiles, “Hmm? Little Bambino on the way?”
The shower runs cold on Audrey’s back, she’s lost track of time. She’s watching her hair, coming out in clumps, catching in the drain. She towels off and gently runs her fingers through her damp hair. It tangles round her fingers, falling, falling out. Shivering, she scrounges through the ashtray and finds a decent roach to smoke.
One puff sends Audrey into a cough attack. Heaving and hacking, she leans over the sink and horks out a wad of mulched grass, matted with bloody mucous. “What the fuck?”
Peter knocks at the door, “Everything okay in there, Aud?”
“I just need a minute.”
By the time she gets out of the bathroom he’s asleep.
Audrey watches Peter. His sleeping breath is deep and steady. She envies the oblivion. Her legs twitch and itch with agitation.
Fucking sleep. She gives up and trots to the kitchen for some dreamy-time tea. More out of habit than hunger she opens the fridge knowing there is nothing to snack on.
The fridge light blinds her and pain drills her skull. A pack of ground beef seems to growl at her, the milk bottle rattles with menace, the havarti screams. A sick cry of moaning cows blasts from all around. The floor beneath her shakes, like so many cattle hooves clattering the plank, herded toward their end. The horror, the dying mooooooooos.
Audrey slams the fridge.
It feels darker now than it did before.
The kettle whistles and she jumps.
She zones out while the toaster-oven burns her toast. When she lifts the lid to the butter-dish a shock jolts through her like a cattle prod. She tries to spread the butter but her hand shakes so that she cannot grasp the knife. “Fuck it.”
She settles for partially buttered burnt toast, and tea. As she crosses through the dark living room an album topples off the bookshelf knocking the plate from her hand. The toast lands butter-side down. “Fuck.”
She picks up the album. Meat is Murder it says on the soldier’s helmet. Audrey crumples to the ground, light-headed, clammy.
Peter rushes down the stairs, “I heard something crash, everything okay?”
“I dropped my toast and the meat was growling and The Smiths tried to take my eye out and I just don’t feel well, honey, I don’t feel well at all. I don’t feel right. I don’t feel right at all.”
“It’s been a crazy day.” Peter kisses her, “I’ll make another piece of toast.”
Audrey glares at the album. A woman whispers, Clack-clack, devil’s hooves, moooooo, murderer. Audrey shoves the record across the floor and it slips beneath the couch.
The whispers die.
Peter holds Audrey’s hand so that she can stand, dizzy, at Celia’s funeral party. The director is frothing on about how much Celia loved pumpkin swirl cheesecake with whipped cream on top.
Audrey rolls and unrolls the little prayer card decorated with Celia’s smiling face, birth and death dates; it’s like an empty joint, a crinkled headshot, roll it up, straighten it out, again and again.
She wants to be anywhere but here.
Already the tweets are off the hook about the horrible sudden death of the actress. Unseasonably strong winds, a vicious hurricane; blowing debris, such a tragedy. The end of one bright star, nailed by a flying billboard cut into the shape of a massive smiling cow.
Wildfire whisperings about Celia burn through the funeral crowd.
“They said it took her head right off.”
“She was so odd.”
“You could tell something wasn’t right.”
“Consuming vast quantities of yogurt.”
“She would only eat organic.”
“Only thing she could stomach near the end.”
Eventually gossip shifts off Celia and onto the cursed-luck that shadowed the whole project. “Remember how sick everyone was after the taco lunch?”
“And that horrific disaster with the stunt girl?”
“I heard her family got half a mil for compensation.”
“What about the photo-double who went up in flames in that car-wreck?”
“I heard she wasn’t union.”
“No, she was totally cash.”
“No compensation. Not even a credit for her work.”
“The whole studio stank like bad BBQ for days.”
“And then of course…”
A disgusting hush, a hungry lean.
“It doesn’t even make sense.”
“How did the irons get so hot?”
“She fucking loved whipped cream!” The director waves a can of readi-whip with wild rage, spraying an old lady in the face. “She used to suck it right from the nozzle! It was her fucking favourite.”
Giddy silence spreads across the crowd as they watch him lose his shit, delicious fuel to stoke the shallow chatter at Jorge’s funeral next Tuesday. The director raves on.
Terrified and wide-awake, television lights drown out thought, ancient alien conspiracies cloak the silence. Audrey watches infomercials promising the movie star glow. She wants the grill, and the magic blender, she wants the baby food containers with smiley-faces. She wants the sculpting bra and the thunderless-thigh panties, Joan Rivers jewels and Eau du Twiggy parfum. Sixteen numbers and a phone call. Free delivery for all the emptiness in the world, the void would never be filled.
Audrey dials the wig stylist who helped Celia during the shoot.
“Deb, it’s Aud, did I wake you?”
“No sweetie, we’re out having drinks, come join!”
Audrey makes it to Kensington just before last call.
Deb squeezes her and they tuck into a quiet booth.
“You’re wearing her boots. Interesting choice.”
“I scored such a good deal,” Audrey shivers. “Do you think the boots are bad luck?”
“Who the fuck knows, but I wouldn’t be caught dead with those things on my feet. Just seeing them brings back the creeps. Don’t you remember the bleeding coats? Some freaky shit went down.”
Deb takes a shot and leans close exhaling a fine tequila mist, “She was sick, honey. We tried to help. This was beyond.”
Sour saliva fills Audrey’s mouth, “Did the coats really bleed?”
Deb nods her head and signals for another round. “Beyond.”
“Let’s shoot!” From behind the monitors the producer rages, “Time is money! What’s the hold up?” The 1stAD scrambles to his side and speaks quietly.
Audrey, the dutiful stand-in stands solid on her T-shaped tape-mark as the whole production grinds to a halt.
The producer yells, “For fuck’s sake! Fucking Celia. She’s under a goddamn wind machine in the bloody dark! It’s about the goddamn bones she’s burying in the dirt beneath the goddamn tree, it’s not about her bloody hair! Get her to set!”
Celia was drained, draining, going down the drain.
In the makeup trailer they whispered about how she was wasting away. During dailies they cringed at the wrinkles in her young face. On the craft truck they suggested she eat a sandwich, they made her special treats.
“Wrap her in seaweed.”
“Remind her to eat.”
“Re-shoot the close-ups.”
“Put her in the sun.”
Celia saw how they stitched her clothes tighter. She felt the makeup cake on. Bigger bounces, brighter lights. She was barely twenty-five but her skin sagged like a withered hag.
“Who am I? Who am I?” She mumbled to herself.
Starlet, fading into the shell of a star; dried up treasure, seahorse without a tail; hollow smile, cracked teeth under veneers.
Sadness walking. Dead girl talking.
Even her voice, once smooth and soft, now crackled low.
“Will you help me run my lines?” Celia clasps Audrey’s wrist. “I couldn’t think last night. It’s like someone else is in my head.”
Audrey reads with her. Celia gets the lines.
And then her jacket bleeds.
The 1st shouts, “For the love of— Can we get someone on wardrobe? There’s a gooey dew forming on the jacket. Did you treat this leather?”
Celia touches her coat, “Oh, it feels like—” she looks at her fingertips, dripping, warm. “It’s blood!”
The producer screams, “Let’s shoot!”
The on-set dresser frantically scrubs Celia’s coat with baby wipes.
The 1st AD shuffles the wardrobe girl away, “Let’s just do it without the coat.”
“But it’s continuity.”
“I’m being haunted!” Celia screams and runs off the set.
The 1st speaks into his walkie, “Bring in the goddamned photo-double.”
Fluorescent overheads flicker bright in the grungy bar and a gruff voice calls out, “We’re closed ladies.” Audrey and Deb pay no mind.
The drunken hippies and broken hipsters roll into the street. They unlock their bikes, kiss in the alleyways, hail taxi-cabs. Deb and Audrey sit in the empty space, watching their candle burn. The bartender lets them be.
“Her hair was falling out. I had nowhere to pin the wig. Audrey, I had to shave spiky things that were growing down her spine.” Deb shudders. “Strange little nubs formed on her head. We tried to cover them with clip-ins.” She blows out the candle.
“Nubs?” Audrey touches her thinning hair.
“There was some fucked up magic at work, Aud. I’d lose the boots if I were you.”
Guided by Google, Audrey stumbles along the 4AM street parade of androgynous girls and sparkly boys; laughter and bitching spatters her ears; debaucherous displays of affection, strutting and slutting, shout it out proud. This was the village, where anything goes. A seven-foot-tall-Marilyn hollers at Audrey, “Werk those boots, sexy!”
Audrey fumbles up the stairs to Jorge’s place. Johnny answers the door wearing Jorge’s baby-pink-leopard-print robe.
“I need to know where he got the boots.”
Johnny squints at her through the screen door, “You’re wearing them right now?”
“You have to leave those beasts at the bottom of the stoop.”
Through the screen of Johnny’s sorrow Audrey gleans real terror—haunted, sleepless, freaky fear. He’s serious. She leaves the boots by the gate. Her socks sop up gritty rainwater as she climbs back up the stairs. Johnny holds out fuzzy-bunny slippers and pulls her through the door, “Have you been drinking sweetie? It’s okay, so have I.”
He hugs her tight. “I’m so lost without my Jorge. I can’t understand, you know? He was sick, but to take his own life in an avalanche of hot irons? How could he leave me like this?”
“You think he killed himself?”
“He wasn’t well, Audrey.”
Johnny walks her down the hall, pours her a scotch, “I thought he was just stressed, over-worked.” He pours himself another.
“You know how it is, long hours, little sleep, bad catering. I thought he had some kind of stomach bug, food poisoning. The pain was driving him mad. We tried every remedy. Garlic, acidophilus, apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, coconut oil, I mean, honey, his skin was glowing, but his stomach—right up until the bitter end.”
Johnny flops onto the couch and falls apart. “I miss him so much.”
Audrey holds him. He leaves mascara marks on her white scarf.
“I have to tell you everything Audrey, I have to be strong. For him. For you and Peter. You need to know the truth.”
Audrey shivers, “The truth?”
Johnny chugs his scotch and his eyes blur far off.
“There was a tragedy with the shoe-maker’s wife when we arrived to pick up the hand-crafted boots. Production took care of the cost to extend our stay. Our extra night in Italy was magical, Audrey. Jorge proposed to me, all our dreams were coming true. We toasted our blessings with fluffy crusty bread and freshly melted butter; we drank copious amounts of cheap and delicious red wine. We thought life does not get sweeter than this.
“As Jorge slept that night he tossed and he twitched in a clammy sweat, he screamed about the smell of slit throats, said he heard gurgling seas of blood coming for him. He stumbled to the washroom and was vile, vile. Super sick. Swore he heard the howling screams of a tortured cow.
“I said, ‘Too much wine honey, I told you to slow down.’ He was too sick to collect the boots the next day, so I went on my own. Sadness and rank death hung in the air of that shoe-shop, the dreadful stench of wet leather and old man shoe polish. I had the heebie-jeebies for sure, but I got our three pairs of boots, I gave them a whack of cash, and I ran for the door.
“On my way out, this ancient blind lady grabbed my ankle and said, in a voice that could not have been her own, Clack-clatter go the devil’s hooves, splick-splatter goes the bovine’s heart, flesh and bone, rattle and rot. Beware the soul that steps foot within; for she will suffer, suffer fates not fit for beast!
Audrey’s heart pounds.
Johnny continues, “My ankle swelled up with blisters that night, like I had been marked, scorched, branded.” He shows her the scars where the boney hand cuffed him.
“What am I supposed to do, Johnny?”
“Bury the boots. Bury them deep.”
Audrey leaves Johnny’s wearing a pair of men’s size nine galoshes. He gives her an industrial strength garbage bag to lug the boots home in.
“Promise me you’ll bury them, Audrey, torch those suckers and bury the ashes!”
Rain pitters. Rain patters.
Pitter. Patter. Pitter. Patter.
Maude lets the rain drop into her big black eyes. She watches what’s left of her old self being bagged and lugged away. She weeps. Tears and rain roll off her snout. Rainy nights remind her of her babies. The screaming pain of birthing and the unbearable anxiety that came when they stole her babies away.
Audrey buries the boots in her yard under an ancient oak tree. She claws at the dirt with her bare hands, remembering the photo-double doing the same thing. The scene plays out exactly like the movie. She’s dizzy with déjà vu.
Peter says it’s just the grief and the shock that’s making her spin.
Audrey cries, “This is real.”
“Let’s get you cleaned up.”
“It’s real,” she mumbles. “This is real.”
Peter strips her and showers her. He sets up the ipod speakers in the bathroom. He runs her a bath, pours some wine, and climbs into the tub with her. Things feel almost normal.
The warmth and the bubbles, the blur of the booze, Audrey almost forgets the horrors of the night. She lets go and floats to the melodies of Broken Social Scene. Submerged and entwined with this love of her life, Audrey begins to relax. She slides onto Peter’s lap and crosses her legs around him. “Kiss me.”
He kisses her.
Foreheads pressed, just he and she, in this bath; in this moment, all mistakes slip away; all the unsaid, left to rest; nothing else, just flickering candlelight and a sexy bathtub dance; soaking, dripping, drinking Lover’s Spit. Warm and wet, skin slippery against his, so hot in this tub, Audrey feels present in her body—her heart pumps vital, hungry.
Clack-clatter, I’m alive. Alive.
Audrey pulls away from Peter, “Did you hear that?”
“Nothing. Kiss me again.”
Water sloshes as they grope and grind.
Peter rubs and admires her every inch with squeezing hands. Deep inhales, exhales moan. Cracking open tight spaces and tense places. Audrey floats in luscious escape as he moves his lips from her mouth to nuzzle her neck.
He pulls back, sharp, like he’s been stung, “What the?”
“What’s wrong?” Audrey raises her hand to her neck.
She finds a patch of stubble, thick like whisker, coarse like wire.
Curled in her bathrobe, sat shaking on the couch, Audrey is freaking the fuck out. The sun is rising, it’s a new day, but Audrey is still drunk from the night before and dirt clings, gritty, beneath her nails.
Peter stands at the window watching the sky shift from dark to light.
“It’s happening. It’s happening.”
Peter looks at her, “What is happening?”
“It’s the same disease Celia had.”
Audrey rubs her fingers across her balding scalp. She feels two hard spots swelling above her temples, “Oh my god. I’m growing the horns.”
Gustavo recommends they try his Ayurvedic physician at the Sacred Cow Healing Centre in Little India. Audrey is given potions and balms and teas and poultices. Nothing works.
She’s losing her mind.
And then one day during a hot yoga class she hears a voice. Clear. Kind. Become one with your wilderness. Love, the transformation is now. Embrace your wild terror and you will be free.
Audrey kneels at the oak tree and frantically unearths the boots. She yanks them out of the heavy-duty-hefty-sac. “Okay, Cow!”
She screams at the sky, “You want me? Come get me, Motherfucker! Here I am, Cow! I’m not afraid of you!”
A fat drop of rain lands on her face. Pitter. And another. Patter.
She hears a cowbell, clank. More cowbell, ding. And more until she’s surrounded by pitters and patters, dings and clanks.
Out of the sea of sound and darkness, one lone cow emerges.
A hauntingly thin beast, ribcage wrapped in loose and glimmering ghostly white flesh. Her horns are long and proud, springing forth with sharp direction. But her eyes, her big black eyes, are sad and sopping as though she has cried too many tears of horror, so many weeping sorrows.
“My name is not Cow,” the bovine ghost says. “My name is Maude.”
“Come get me Maude, I’m not afraid.”
The cow trots closer. Audrey holds still.
“Clack-clatter, you’re the one. Pitter-patter, my bovine heart.” Maude smells like olives. “All the others, Audrey, they shut me out. I do apologize for coming at you with wrath and rage; it’s the residue of suffering, a thing I can’t control, an after-shock of torture. Sometimes I lash out.”
“Sometimes you lash out?” Audrey is talking to a ghost cow.
“All I want is the meadow, Audrey. Help me find some peace.”
“Find me a meadow in the Tuscan sun. I want a sexy bull and some horses to chat with. I wish to raise my calves knowing they will not be killed before their time. So many little ones ripped from me. And when they felt I had nothing left, they cut me to pieces and sold away my heart, turned my skin to slutty boots. But I found a way to get inside. Each life I took made me stronger.
“They say you are what you eat, well meat is murder, and I am what I kill. I felt life course through my ghostly veins when I destroyed that starlet. I have some mild regrets—she was a vegetarian, though not for the right reasons. She cared only to fit into size zero jeans. A vanity vegan, victim nonetheless, to my wrath, and for that, I am sorry.”
“You’re sorry. That’s all?”
“We’re a gentle kind, not murderers. The vengeance gave me an ugly thirst for blood. I am sorry, Audrey.”
“What will happen to me? Will I go absolutely mad?”
“I’ll spare you the e.coli. Lactose intolerance is karmic balance for all the corn humans have made us consume. Oh, the stomachaches we’ve endured since they decided it’d be cheaper to gut the bile than give us green grass.”
Audrey is stunned silent.
“I think you’ll like being a cow, Audrey. We take simple pleasures in life. Sunlight on our backs, a crisp chew of long grass, calflings suckling our teat, freshly blossomed flowers. A thoughtful discussion with a horse.”
Audrey is lulled by the thought of life in a green meadow, warm in the Tuscan sun. She feels a serene heat, allows it to bask over her.
I am becoming Maude.
I am one with the cow.
I am the cow.
“Will you still love me when I can only say Moo?”
Audrey smiles, “In sickness and in health.”
Peter smiles, “Till cow do us part.”
He caresses her horns. “My beautiful cowgirl.”
Peter stands with Maude at the airport. Gustavo has commissioned a private jet. He’s shipping a massive piece to Spain, and he’s added a stopover in Italy for Maude.
“You look beautiful, darling. What a stunning coat.” Gustavo smacks Maude’s rump a couple times and they load her onto the plane.
Gustavo turns to Peter and he kisses him firm on the mouth. “Brave warrior, I admire the power of this love.”
Peter finds Maude an organic farm in Tuscany, run by a wholesome family who harvest olives for olive oil and grapes for their own small winery. They promise to love Maude dearly, to give her a home to roam, to allow her a natural life, away from the slaughterhouse.
Peter walks Maude out to pasture. It is everything she’s ever dreamed. They watch the sun go down together.
Pitter-patter goes Maude’s heart. Her big black eyes say goodbye.
Peter strokes her sharp horn and caresses her soft cow ear. He hears a faint and distant song, playing somewhere deep in the valley; heart-breaking layers of violins, heart-pounding percussive beats, floating and dancing on Tuscan wind.
He vows to be vegan from this day forward.
And then he lets his cowgirl go.
LM Thorne studied playwrighting at the University of Toronto and has written several plays. Her short story “Facebook Fidelity: Dazed and Fumbling Fae” was published in Francesca Lia Block’s “Love Magick” anthology. She is currently writing her first novel, a rock n’ roll fantasy for young adults.
Inspired by her experience working in the surreal world of film and television, this story is what happens after too many sleepless nights, watching too many documentaries about cows. For vegans and costume designers everywhere.