Hello from the Dogpatch, and welcome to the dogfight! Here’s a selection from a short story by our own Jilanne Hoffmann, followed by critical yips and yaps. Dogpatch Writers Collective occasionally posts these excerpts of our group critiques of work in progress, and we’d love to know what you think about the excerpt or what we had to say about it.
And, woofs to Jill, who is soon headed to show this story at the prestigious Community of Writers at Squaw Valley!
By the age of eight, I’d seen my share of farm animals give birth and die: chickens, cows, sheep and even a horse. In one memorable birth, Dad had reached in to a cow and tied a rope around the leg of her stuck calf. Then he heaved mightily, pulling the entire heifer out. She and the mother both survived. But when it doesn’t work out and they die, they go silent and still, as if the air in their lungs were the only thing that distinguishes them from stuffed animals with glass eyes.
I knew that this ewe could die, and it was OK since she wasn’t one of our pets; she didn’t have a name. I think its one of the many ways children who are raised on livestock farms learn to cope with the death that surrounds them. If each one were a tragedy, a pet dog or cat, we would have been emotionally paralyzed from early on. As it is, this kind of emotional distance is itself a form of paralysis, one that leaves a certain aspect of the soul a little unreachable but safe. A human survival trait that allows us to function in the face of tragedy. And if we aren’t vigilant, it is a trait that also allows us to kill.
—from “The Hippocratic Oath” Continue reading