If you love, adore the moon. If you rob, steal a camel.

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Thursday, July 18, 2013

KJ Hannah Greenberg: McCragherty and the Livestock Exchange

Ole McCragherty held tight to his blue ribbon winner. He had bred a d'Everberg, a Belgian ornamental bantam, with a guineafowl with good result; the hatchlings, once grown, outproduced even his most expensive egg layers. More than his generations of Faverolles and of Leghorns, his new birds delivered twice as many orbs as did the best of his battery hens.

Trouble was Rupert, the fellow with whom McCragherty had gone to Ag School to study livestock systems and production, was doing weird things with curassows and guans. If Rupert persisted in his ways, McCragherty might fail to sell his stock to the biggest food conglomerate, the one looking for shortcuts to a greater market share. In was no longer enough to breed domesticated fowl with good lay rates; the wise farmer also had to breed birds that tasted good. The meat from Rupert’s hybrids, when simmered with shallots and chanterelles, could make a four star chef cry.

McCragherty squeezed a little hardy. In response, the hen bwaked sharply. A few wing feathers drifted toward the dirt beneath the farmer’s feet. McCragherty sucked fiercely at his unlit cheroot. He remained unconvinced of the intelligence of Annabelle’s plan.

After forty-odd years of marriage, that woman had demanded the resources to return to school. An MBA followed a BBA as did a new hairdo and clothing that had no place on a farm. Annabelle, however, did not press McCragherty to relocate to a city; she worked from home on a fancy-fangled computing machine complete with earbuds and a microphone. From the hour after she served her honey his breakfast to a few hours after the cows came home, he was forbidden to even knock on her office door. At least the revenues from her endeavors had allowed McCragherty to buy a new Coburn 101-Plate MAXI Plate Cooler and to put a deposit down on a dozen exhaust fans for the henhouse. Rupert sure had been jealous.

Annabelle had gotten a little pushy, all the same. She wanted the man she had met in ninth grade and had married in tenth, when she had had that socially awkward burgeoning stomach, to take his best specimens along to the regional stockyard exchange she was meaning to attend. She had whispered, one night, as she had splashed his coffee with Pikesville Supreme, that there was more than one wealthy food conglomerate and that such companies sent scouts to centers of farming business and trade.

McCragherty had sipped the spiked brew and had had a second and then a third cup. Yet, he remained unconvinced that the pretty gal, the one who had: helped him vaccinate countless fowls against Anatipestifer Disease, won “best cobbler” at the country fair so many times that she had stopped entering the cook-off, borne and raised half of a dozen sons and daughters, and attached and detached quarter milkers faster than could any farmhand that had ever set food on their property, was really savvy about wheeling and dealing. McCragherty figured that his missus was using her “business hours” to buy and sell on EBay and to order exotic clothing from far away places. Just the past week, she had walked into their bedroom wearing a nightie that left enough to the imagination to leave McCragherty tired for three days.

On the other hand, she had wanted fruit orchards, and he had insisted on poultry. She had asked him to get a new motor for her church car, that Oldsmobile Toronado, and he had replaced it with a Buick LeSabre. As well, it was his life love who had nursed his Bassett hound’s puppies back to health twenty years earlier, when that entire bunch of whelps had contacted Canine Hepatitis. Old Silver, the lady dog that slept and slobbered at McCragherty’s feet, was three generations removed from that nearly ill-fated litter.

How bad could bringing a few breeders to a complex complete with boardrooms and a dance hall really be? If he covered the cages in the back of his pickup, maybe he and Annabelle could even dance a few squares. She had said she was packing her pettipants and his stompers. McCragherty wondered if she had ordered the former from the same vendor as she had ordered her new nightie.

A few weeks later, he had his answer. He also had had a meeting with a research and development assistant vice president from the nation’s forth largest comestibles giant and a check large enough to buy the materials he needed to repair the cow barn as well as to add the front porch Annabelle had been fancying for decades. McCragherty and his wife had returned to their homestead with empty cages, having entrusted the corporate fellow with their samples as collateral against that fellow’s generous pay out.

The porch never got finished, though, in spite of that good fortune. In addition, the barn sat half disassembled throughout the summer; the fellow’s check had bounced. More exactly, the firm had cancelled payment. Some clever other had bettered McCragherty in the hybrid race and had sold those superior results to the second largest comestibles giant. The man who had bought McCragherty’s birds was out of a job, and Rupert, who was vacationing on Mackinac Island with his wife, his kids, and all twenty-three of his grandkids, so big had been his bonus from the largest provisions organization, would remain unreachable for almost an entire fortnight more.

Old Silver at his heels, McCragherty knocked on, and then opened his wife’s office door. Reams of paper sat to either side of her keyboard. He printer was spewing out even more pages. On the screen in front of her sat spreadsheets for large corporations. Annabelle was not looking for competitive prices on personal acquisitions of satin and lace but was dealing in equity capital markets! Her job was to assess the risk of specified combinations of properties, loans, and borrowers. Old Silver licked his mistress’ feet and settled anew. McCragherty ran into the cow barn. Next to some antiquated hand milking pails, the farmer cried.

Latter that night, after baking her husband’s favorite shortbread cookies and serving them up with his mom’s recipe for spiced tea, Annabelle admitted to building them a retirement fund and to helping various of their grandchildren with college tuition. As she pulled a loose thread on her cardigan, she owned, as well, that while she never played around with pork bell futures, she was more than knowledgeable about trends in poultry processing.  It had just been such a long time, she sighed, since McCragherty had taken her dancing.

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Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east

I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road


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