A reminiscence

Jerry Eberts
From: (Jerry/Teresa)

During the Great Drought of the '90s, we had little to drink. Or
eat, for that matter. Life was hard and money was not easy to come
by. In fact, I remember that for a few days, once, we had nothing
more than a single bucket of herring pus to sustain the whole family.
My mother worked hard to keep the herring infected,
skimming the milky white scum from the top of the pond every
morning, but this left her little time to make the goats nauseous and
we therefore had no soup course.
My father, meanwhile, spent much of his time with the farm
animals - the sows, nanny-goats, ewes and cows - continuing his
experimental work at creating a half-human hybrid. Of course, Pop
was hardly what you'd call a scientist and used to just sneak up
behind the animals and stick in his tallywacker and hump away for
all he was worth. His faith, however, was all-consuming, and he
sincerely believed that one day a sow or a ewe would bear him a
litter of younguns, one of which would carry a few human genes. Just
enough humanness, he believed, to help him with chores around the
house, or maybe talk dirty to him while he mounted it.
At night my sisters and I would tend the gaping wounds left in
the chickens by my grandfather, a vicious old bastard who liked
nothing so much as stamping on the pathetic feathered critters with
his spiked shoes. Those that my sisters and I could patch back
together, we would; those that were already dead or near death, we
would bring back to the house to sew up inside calico pillowcases
which we sold by the side of the road to people passing through.
My cousin Wolfgang, who lived on top of the house, would
occasionally swoop into the upper floor bedroom I shared with
Grampa. Wolfgang was a tall, rangy fellow more than eight feet tall.
His arms alone must have each been six feet long. Depending upon
the time of year and his desires, he would confront Grampa or myself
with gibbering hoots and shrieks, indicating he wanted something -
food, water, a woman - and heaven help us if we guessed wrongly.
My cousin had a terrible temper and we hadn't seen my
grandmother since she had helpfully tried to pull a piece of
eavestrough out of Wolfgang's ribcage.
Times on the farm were tough. Everyone was poorer than
they'd been since the Dirty Thirties, at least according to my
grandfather, and government restrictions on travel meant that those
who feasted on human blood were kept close to home. I guess
unemployment would have been a bigger problem if the vampires
hadn't been killing off a family a week. As it was, we'd lose a
"specialist" now and again; once we had no one to repair our
chainsaws for more than a month - until we sort of persuaded that
salesman to live in the cage.
My sisters, all thirty-eight of them, all scrawny as rails and just
as alike as peas in a pod, would sit in front of the television set,
watching their favourite videotape over and over - an instructional
film about preserving cadavers. The multiple identical girls' reedy
voices would permeate the ground floor of the house as they echoed
their favourite lines from the video: "Use the No. 9 auger to drill into
the back of the cranium, being cautious not to split the skull itself.
Using a Litmann scraper, pull as much of the subdural brain-mass
away from the bony plates, being careful not to push the eyes out
the front." Their wheezing laughter percolated out of the living room
to lay about the house like dusty cornhusks.
Everything in those long-gone days was a constant struggle. My
mother rarely had time to cook whatever we had for dinner, so it
would usually be devoured raw, or whole - or both, depending on
what it was. Sometimes she would be too nervous to trust my father
with a carving knife and we would simply fall upon whatever
creature Pop could drive into the kitchen, until everyone was
clutching a hunk of hot, twitching redness.
Like a lot of young boys, I would occasionally sneak behind the
barn to root through the manure pile. All sorts of interesting and
valuable things might be discovered - toupees and wigs, human
femurs, gold teeth, metal hip-joints - and just as quickly reburied, as
there was nowhere else as safe on the property to hide such
I would spend hours battling with the gigantic carnivorous
worms. Sometimes we would fight the mutated, hairy rooster-things;
sometimes we would lay in wait for a platoon of my sisters to return
from their beauty treatments at the hands of my grandfather. I
would lie hidden among the creeping dandelions until I heard the
unmistakable shuffling of the rooster-things, or the unmistakable
shuffling of my sisters, and then leap up like a Sioux brave, calling
my challenge and advancing on the target with my troop of huge,
white, writhing, blind worms, their slobbering maws open, their
muted trumps of hatred resounding. Killing and killing.
And always, always, Mom would provide for our supper. Sure,
it's easy to say that a bowl of cold herring pus is hardly a meal for a
growing boy - and not very satisfying for that boy's father either,
satisfyingly exhausted after a hard day of rutting with thirty sows -
but Mom did her best. And when the whole family had finished
licking up the creamy pus from our crude wooden bowls, it was time
to enjoy a leisurely game of two-holer diving, with extra points to
the one who passed out first.

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