farm city-novella carpenter

“That I could borrow a firearm like a cup of sugar sure felt neighborly. But in this case, it didn’t seem right. With one eye on the opossum playing dead, I passed the purse gun back to her.

I picked up my weapon of choice again. If I were a move gangster, I would’ve been the hit lady with a shovel at the back of my Cadillac. Channeling my rage, remembering the cuteness of my ducks, and the goose who would rest her head on my lap, I raised the shovel and came down on the opossum’s neck. After a few thrusts-and, I admit it, grunts-head separated from body. I had my bloody revenge.

Somehow, this wasn’t quite what I had imagined when I decided to expand my farm enterprise.

Only a few months ago, I had been signing for an air-hole riddled box clutched by a mailman, anticipating liberation from the meat market. And now the mangled bodies of some members of the poultry package lay in a heap. How far I had fallen.” (76)

“This act of tenderness strangely inflamed my rage against the opossum.

Forget the spike. I would place the opossum in the middle of Martin Luther King Jr. Way, where he would be run over repeatedly. I shoveled him up.

I walked toward the main street, the opossum balanced on the end of my shovel. For a moment, I had the illogical fear that he would come back to life. But no, no, the head was definitely separated from the body.

Before I heaved the carcass into the street, I leaned against the bust stop to think. I felt jittery and wide awake. A few shadowy figures stood on the corner a few blocks away. What would they have thought had they looked my way: a perspiring white lady carrying a mangled corpse in a bloody shovel down MLK at three in the morning?” (77)


4 thoughts on “farm city-novella carpenter

  1. “At first I thought it was cute that anarchists had rules. No alcohol. No dairy products. No meat. Then the paradox started to chafe.
    Forced by the strict house regulations, Bill and I would have to rendezvous in our travel-worn van in order to take nips off a contraband bottle of wine, gorge ourselves on banned cheese products, and remember the good old days when we oppressed chickens in our backyard in Seattle. And we plotted our uprising.
    One night I unearthed an apartment listing on Craigslist that would set us free. I found it during video game night at the house, surrounded by a pack of anarchists in our living room. While they fired imaginary guns on their computer screens, I clandestinely scanned the ad for the apartment.” (9)

    seriously. the new freedom is a different oppression.

  2. “Just as I was about to tell the carrot picker that he should come back to harvest the carrots when they were bigger, he said, “This place reminds me of my grandma.” His eyes filled with tears. “Everything’s so growing,” he said.
    In our neighborhood, there was some greenery, mostly in the form of weeds. But when you walked through the gates into what I had started calling the GhostTown Garden, it was like walking into a different world. There was a lime tree near the fence, sending out a perfume of citrus blossoms from its dark green leaves. Stalks of salvia and mint, artemesia and penstemon. The thistlelike leaves of artichokes glowed silver. Strawberry runners snaked underneath raspberry canes. Beds bristled with rows of fava beans, whose pea-like blossoms attracted chubby black bumblebees to their plunder. An appletree sent out girlish pink blossoms. A passionfruit vine curled and weaved through the chain-link fence that surrounded the garden.
    I restrained myself from hugging the carrot picker for feeling exactly as I did about the garden, but I did get a little misty. I wanted to grab this man’s arm and give him a tour, show him what’s edible, what will be at its peak next week, which part of the mint to snip off for tea. Pull up a few of the French breakfast radishes. Explain that carrots are native to Afghanistan and used to be tough and yellow before the orange-loving Dutch got hold of them. Then I’d take him to the backyard and show him my four prized chickens, their straw-lined nesting boxes, the four eggs from that day-brown and still warm. Maybe I’d take him upstairs to admire the brooder box of baby chicks, the waterfowl, the turkey poults.
    This I wanted to tell him, is your birthright, too. Your grandmother, like mine, grew her own tomatoes, killed her own chickens, and felt a true connection to her food. Just because we live in the city, we don’t have to give that up.
    But then I remembered that most people in our neighborhood have other things on their minds than growing local organic food and starting a revival.” (23-4)

  3. “My fall from grace came in Las Vegas. There with friends over a college spring break, I looked at a Circus Circus breakfast buffet that included a ceiling-high stack of bacon and felt dizzy with desire. My years of resolve floated away, and I ate fifteen pieces in one sitting. I felt simultaneously awful and wonderful. Though the top of my mouth felt as if I had eaten a can of Crisco, all that protein gave me vivid dreams, and I had the energy of one of the Bull Ship Pirates from the hourly Treasure Island show.” (55)

    “Maybe Ben Franklin had been onto something when he proposed that the turkey should be the symbol of America instead of the eagle. These turkeys truly embodied the concept of American independence. They did their own thing and refused to sleep shut in the henhouse with the chickens. Instead, they perched on top of the chicken house, out in the cold. They could-and did-fly around the neighborhood. The third turkey, a Royal Palm like Maude, had winged off and was never seen again. I like to believe he ended up at the nature preserve at Lake Merritt, a few miles away, instead of as roadkill on the nearby freeway. There was an odd assortment at the sanctuary-a pelican with a goiter, a skinny chicken, and now, hopefully, a black- and-white checked turkey strutting around, trying to mate with a duck.
    Harold and Maude commonly took afternoon strolls down Martin Luther King Jr. Way. Though this is a regular thoroughfare for drug dealers, sex workers, and homeless men, the sight of two turkeys strutting down MLK nearly caused car accidents.” (68)

    makes you question nature and nurture, don’t it?

  4. “Of course, we meat-eating city dwellers don’t have to kill something to survive. We merely go to the store with some cash in hand. How many people would eat meat if they had to kill it themselves? This was the question I had pondered for six months as I watched Harold grow from a puffy chick into a full-grown turkey. I eat meat, I like eating meat, it is part of my culture and, some might argue, my heritage as a human being. While Harold had to die, I had to kill.
    At the grocery counter or farmer’s market stall, the cost of the meat I bought factored in the cost of the bird’s life-feed, housing, transportation to market. A small portion of that cost included a kill fee. I had been comfortable allowing someone else to be my executioner. And suddenly, all the meat I bought, even though I had considered it expensive at the time, seemed underpriced.” (91)

    “Instead, we jumped out of the car and sorted through the trash. Our shirts got splattered with tomato juices; under the gloves, our wrists were smeared with olive oil; and rotten peach juice coursed down our arms. If we had had time to think about it, we would have realized that we had become these pigs’ bitches.” (221)

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