FICTION: Before Four Stomachs

With a mouthful of grass, the cow plucks up a patch of dirt that covers something browned, something with a silken texture and notes of dirt, feeling both solid and liquid in the mouth, tasting and smelling of earth before waves of her spit reveal that everything about the thing in her mouth is temporary, yielding a unique unknown because the thing, the plastic, so strikingly resembles nothing as something, a taste without taste, a feeling without feeling, as if she is chewing air that has become too full to chomp through, like clay spreading across her mouth, becoming full and thin, long or slim, both big and small as the plastic is sucked up into pockets of her head as she snorts and bellows to push it out, making her realize there are areas of her head that she didn’t know she had, making her chew at the nothing in frustration, trying to break the plastic as it becomes stuck between the teeth of her lone row of incisors, feeling like cloth parts, a texture to drag against the hard palate as she still gums grass and dirt and the remnants of cud, traveling bits of plastic around and around her tongue, spinning this endless rope that feels so similar to what she sometimes wears around her neck when she is led from place to place—but the plastic is tight and not and, with every chew, the plastic seems to flex its lifeless body, heating her tongue with pain as it tightens, bulging her eyes and inspiring an accidental coughing up of unchewed food from her reticulum, something she isn’t quite ready for, that causes her mouth to overflow, taking with it some of the corded plastic in her neck that she has been trying to relieve herself of, which she is thankful to feel rid of, if only for a moment, but now dangles in and out of her mouth like a fake extra tongue that she attempts to whip off by swinging her head up and down and left and right, across dirt and rocks and grass, against the rear of another cow, on a spiked fence post, yet it remains as she pushes and pushes and pushes her lower teeth into the toothless ceiling of her mouth, this gummy, harmless cave of hers, until the termination of a pressure that makes her feel relieved that part of this plastic thing has broken up, even if inside her, forced down by her involuntary swallows, taking down parts of plastic which feel like the longest piece of grass in her throat that she tries to spit out or spit up but it stays as everything from both her rumen and reticulum travel out of the stomach, to the throat, but not the mouth as it gets caught in the blockade of plastic, causing her eyes to bulge again, forcing her to swallow, making that small blocking sail within her disappear with the downward force of the swallow, she hopes, until she feels the uncomfortable plastic nothing against the interior of her throat as she realizes this part of the plastic is somehow still connected to the dangling something stuck in her lone bottom row of teeth, knotted together, unescaped, still wrapped around her as she chews and chews and chews, as she is wont to do, as dangly bits of yet untouched and unchewed plastic dribble out of her mouth, unsullied enough to sail up in a gust, above her while attached to her, while within her, covering an eye, like a personal cloud has come to visit her, is fogging her, as she continues to chew and chew to try and make it go away but it doesn’t and she thinks for a second that she will live in this cloud forever, as the rest of her flock wanders on, leaving her, as a human child passes by in a giant car, pointing and laughing, telling their parents “That dumb cow is eating a plastic bag!” causing them all to laugh, as more of the plastic continues on within her, as the tips of it are processed, mixing with the dirt and grass she digests, these plastic things that always come back into her mouth to chew once more as cud, all of which will pass this new part of her—the plastic that lines her throat, the plastic that feels like a new vein that she could never pinpoint or pull out herself—as she attempts to break down this new cud mixed with bits of plastic, before swallowing this mixture back into her body, where it will break down to nothing, where the bits of plastic go unnoticed, to come out of her, only partly, to seem like a normal byproduct, a difference so impossible to see when left out naked, all because this plastic can travel out of her, via the rear or the udder, completely undetected, seeping into the skin, into the meat, into her.

Kyle Raymond Fitzpatrick is a writer based in Los Angeles.

Image: Cow in a Stable (also known as The Black Cow), Camille Corot, c.1840 - c.1845

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