By Isabelle B.L
Golden hues spread across the Plains of Moab, adding beauty and warmth, but the serenity of the fertile land was ruined by the first of two murder scenes:
When the sun reached its highest point in the sky, an argument about fornication erupted between a stranger and the town’s carpenter. When the sun set, the carpenter lay amid barley fields, a silver blade wedged at the center of his bare back.
I lifted my head from the tasty grass and followed the murderer’s exit from the violent scene. Stems of grass stationed outside my mouth remained unchewed while I attempted to answer the question—who’s going to stop the killer—but soon, my jaws resumed mastication because human murder has nothing to do with cows. Ella, my best friend, lifted her heavy eyelids and mooed in opposition with my conclusion.
Turns out, Ella was right.
Seven sunrises later, Ella lay at the foot of a hill. Her once soft and glossy cowhide bestowed a black and white contrast to the sunburnt meadows. Ella’s neck leaned against a sandy rock while her body, ten meters away, began to decompose above tufts of soft and brown-speckled wool.
Why harm a cow? Why harm Ella?
Ella had walked across the plains of Moab longer than me. Long, thick lashes protected her eyes from dust storms. She sprinted, swished her tail, and grazed tall blades of grass. But something was missing. A calf. Her only wish was to become a mother and lie with her calf in the unspoiled fields warmed by the sun’s rays, dazzled by a starry night.
After cutting Ella into two, the townspeople formed a circle around her head, another circle around her body. Both circles off-limits to cows, sheep, and donkeys.
Cows, sheep, and donkeys charged toward the Dead Sea, thirsty for salinity, intoxication, oblivion. A yearning to forget animal sacrifice. My four-legged friends planned to drown their fears. After Ella’s death, I raised my head slowly, disinclined. Would mountains loom in the distance or murder? I kept my head buried in delicious verdure. When the cows, sheep, and donkeys began drinking, I demanded explanations, working my way up from Wise Old Bill to the Lord.
Wise Old Bill, the shepherd, sat on an alabaster-tinged rock away from the circles of townsfolk. I positioned my body to conceal the circle ceremonies. Wise Old Bill crushed wheat husks between his fingers, lowered his head, staining the soil with teardrops, but I pawed the rich, fertile soil, flared my nostrils—I refused to budge.
“Explain, Wise Old Bill.” I puffed in his bronzed face.
“An unknown perpetrator kills a man. The townspeople say they know nothing, have seen nothing. So, to be in the Lord’s good graces, they must kill a cow, wash their hands over the cow, and swear that they have nothing whatsoever to do with the man’s murder.”
“Swear to God, hope to die, stick a needle in my eye. Sounds like magic. Magic is a sin,” I said to Wise Old Bill, who didn’t seem very wise anymore. “The Lord should use his omniscience and omnipresence to capture the murderer instead of using us as a sacrifice. We give milk, cheese, butter, and feed men, women, and children. Aren’t we all HIS creations?”
Wise Old Bill told me to shush because God could hear and walked away from me and the two circles.
I shouted, “Please explain, my Lord.”
No answer. Will I be next?
“Can’t you at least change the rule book?” I kicked the earth, sending red soil toward the stormy skies. “Stop animals from being tortured and sacrificed, my Lord?”
Still no answer.
Ella always said to enjoy the present moment. Yet she dreamed of a future—as a mother of a calf who one day would sprint, swish, graze, and give life. I had tried to both live in the present and keep an eye on the future.
Flies formed a halo around my head. Then the flies buzzed around my rump. I shooed them away. They laughed along, swirling in a frenzy. Flies flew away, and just when I was about to take a nap under the fig tree, butterflies fluttered around my sleepy head. I humored them. Released a grunt, shook my head, and raised my ears.
While my ears were up, I whispered to the Lord, “Please explain.”
The heavens opened; rain pelted on my sandy hide. When the rain made way for the sunshine, I hoped to hear repentance from the Lord, but I never did.
Wise Old Bill returned when Ella’s body parts purified the town of a crime the townspeople never committed. Wise Old Bill said that the scriptures would tell Ella’s story one day. Wise Old Bill could see into the distance, and he told me where:
Wise Old Bill wasn’t that wise. Didn’t he know I would be dead by the time the story was written? Besides, cows can’t read. They’re into the tasty grass, not verbose books.
Seventy sunrises later, I gave birth to a calf. I named her Ella. I lay with Ella in the unspoiled fields warmed by the sun’s rays, dazzled by a starry night. I swapped praying for making wishes. Under heavenly bodies, I wished for an end to circle ceremonies, cleansing routines, and blood-stained meadows.