Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A Story About A Cow

Once on the edge of somewhere there was a large field. It was filled with grass and it was very large indeed. It was so large that the sky was not big enough to cover it, and at the far ends of the field, just above the horizon, you could see the stars and planets poking through, even during the day time. It was so big, in fact, that noone had ever found the middle – no one was sure whether or not there was a middle at all. Some people said that it was bigger than the whole world. Some said it was even bigger than two whole worlds. Some people even said it was bigger than everything put together, and that it was the Dwelling Place of Divine Oneness – but most people dismissed that as superstitious nonsense.

At any rate, it was a very big field. Not much lived on the large field. This was mainly because it was on the edge of somewhere, and not many things lived in somewhere, let alone on its edge. Something did live there, though. At a long way from the sides of the field – close enough to the middle to know where it was, but not close enough to see the stars and planets during the day time – there lived a cow named Arthur. Like most cows, Arthur was, for a cow, about medium height. He was black and white, and whoever had first painted him had almost run out of white after finishing one side, and so on the other side Arthur had patches of black which stood out like clumsy puddles. From one side, Arthur looked very much like an overgrown sheep. From the other side, he looked very much like a cow.

Arthur did very little. There were no flies, and there was nothing much to think about. Even if there had been something to think about, Arthur probably would not have thought it. Mostly, Arthur ate grass. But that was not all. Every three minutes, Arthur raised his right front leg off the ground and held it five hoofs off the ground, as if he was waiting for something enormous to happen. Then he put it down again. There was not much noise, apart from Arthur’s eating. Nevertheless, if a person were to find Arthur and open their ear right up and listen very carefully, she (or he) would hear a very soft, very dry and very insistent whining sound. This is the sound a maggot makes as it eats away a cow’s tongue. And the maggot said:

"It is that time of year again, and inevitably the atmosphere has changed. For there is in the wide noon of every year a certain vacancy in the air, a kind of drowsy emptiness that surrounds a maggot and his friends and insinuates itself into the joints and ripples of a the little creature, working its subtle poison on the tender parts. It is a vacant thing, but it has not the comforting formlessness of vacuum. Rather, it has the vacancy of dust, of not-quite-vaccuum, an almost-void of floating motes and dandruff, the kind of vacancy that tempts a creature with the fixity of substance only to torment him with substancelessness, with the falseness of its soft and yielding matter. It is a disease, but it is also a prison, a prison of an unusually paralysing kind. It is the prison of disorientation, of being lost among the empty inners of everything, and being hopelessly open. It is not a prison of somewhere, of iron bars and containment. It is the prison of everywhere, of large and changeless spaces, of slow, wandering uncertainty. It is the prison of monotony and nothing-to-do, of white time and settled space. It is not the prison of restraint, and it is not the prison of incarceration. It is the prison of ease. It is the prison of freedom."

Three minutes later the cow raised his right front leg off the ground. Then he put it down again.