“YOU know how you skin a rabbit?
Well I’ll tell you shall I.
You take it by the hind legs like this, and you cut circles, just above the joints,” He’s miming the action with his knife, “and the front legs. Then you cut a line down each leg to the arse or cock, or if it’s a girl rabbit…then you slip your fingers in, underneath the circle, and work the hide up and off the legs.”
Invisible men No. 1 and 2 are laughing.
“Now when you reach the tail, see now the tail poses a problem. You have to get rid of it. So you take your knife,” He’s waving the blade in your face, “and slowly, you saw through the tail bone. Slowly because you mustn’t hit the bladder, or you’re covered in piss.”
Your mouth tastes like sick, tastes like beer, tastes like piss.
“When that’s out the way, with both hands, you tear away the hide from the body, like banana peel, and it slips off easy like. Then, now this is the hard part, you have to work your fingers down into the sleeves of the front legs, and pull them out. It’s really difficult this bit. You have to use proper force”.
Snarling closer, and closer into your face.
“Then you work the hide down to the base of the spine, and I should mention that, at this point, the blind fucker stopped its squealing, stopped wriggling”.
A ball of his spit lands on your bottom lip.
“Then, and this is personally my favourite part. You hack, the skull, loose, from the spine”, He’s scraping the point of the blade gently down your neck, “and all the fur comes off in one with it. Then all that’s left is you break the legs and arms at the joint with your hands, and carve the hide that’s left off the feet. Socks off.
Breakfast, the man at the head of the table with pinkish juice in his teeth is the only one with steak. Plump dewy tears of bacon fat cling to his moustache. His bottom lip’s like a rock splitting a waterfall, and grease streams down either side of his chins, milky yellow. Meeting beads of sweat it thins to silvery rivulets. They drip and soak through his shirt. Imagine the hairy bog forming beneath. Shudder. Father said you had to be mannerly in front of these men. He said they use seven different types of fork. He told you a rumour he’d heard about the man.
“A while back”, he said, “his house keeper passed on, so he hired a new man”. When setting the table one afternoon he placed the desert fork where in fact the salad fork should be, and the salad fork in place of the desert fork. The planetary man who didn’t eat salad, ever, thought the house keeper had acted with intent, mocking his health. So he stabbed him with the salad fork.
With a voice like Behemoth’s stride, he speaks in booms.
“Carve more bird”, the glasses rattle, “more bird”.
A man dressed like a magpie, stood at attention in the doorway comes to the table. He seems stiff and brittle, made of slate, eyes and all. He grasps the huge two pronged fork, that’s already stuck in the bird, strangely. Closing three fingers round the wooden hilt, his forefinger stays locked and curved rigidly away from rest. Half a centimeter up from its knuckle, are four scars, all in a row, equal in length. Reaching for the serving fork you see his palm, just for a second, but you’re sure you see four more pearly lines slightly thinner than the other side just above the Venus arch of his thumb. You touch the knuckle above your forefinger, looking back to the man from the story eat across from you, polished forks glinting all about, and feel a glancing dread in your testicles. The same you feel when you climb trees too high and look down. Your father told you, he told you these men are civilised, in an old fashioned sort of way. You see egg yolk on his left lamb chop sideburn. You see egg white in the right.
Icy mud works its way into your eye. Your teacher told you that ‘Here’s mud in your eye’ was a popular phrase among soldiers in world war I, wading through boggy trenches, and with farmers toasting a good harvest, and before them it was used by race horse owners, and during fox hunts. You got a cotton wood seed stuck in your eye once. The doctor said you had a corneal abrasion. It’s where after you get something out your eye it still feels like it’s there, due to the light wound the debris causes. You either think you’ve gotten rid of it, and haven’t, in which case you can go blind, or you scratch and rub and wince forever thinking it’s still there, in which case you can go blind. You think of flea ridden dogs, scratching themselves furless, and on in to death. Your entire front is mud covered. The murderous gale dries the top layer but it has sunk through your coat, through your jumper, through your tee-shirt and vest. Smeared on your skin it comes to freezing rest. A stone under a burst of marsh marigolds caught your boot. When you put your arms out they were devoured whole by the bog, and your face slapped the surface. You thought of the hairy mire between the planetary man’s breasts. There’s mud in your mouth, -Bogs have a rich dead plant deposit, as well as animal waste, and a lot of the time, animal remains- some of it dries before there’s time to spit.
When you’re a beater in a hunt, you work as part of a unit that spreads out in a thin line, spanning a massive portion of land. You sweep an area strategically, shouting, waving cracking flags, and banging sticks against trees and rocks. The idea is you scare any hiding birds into flight toward the shooters. A lot of the time you’ll scare rabbits out as well, in which case, dogs will catch them. This is the last drive before break the leader tells you. The shooters drive from point to point waiting in position, normally on lower ground. When the birds come, they kill them. The leaders of the beating teams drive two to three trucks of beaters from drive to drive, establishing the points and approach. As the line stretches out and the beaters either side you are dots, you’re alone. It’s a doomy place. To be a shooter, you must have an all-terrain vehicle, an approved weapon and license to own it, a dog, and around £20,000. There will normally be around ten shooters. This is what the land owners charge. Your father won his place today in a clay shooting contest four months ago, which is why you were invited to the shooter’s breakfast. Slowly the dots at your sides turn back into lines, into figures, into people. Break time means half the drives are over.
The break point is a small concrete box with no door, and a flat metal roof. Inside is a wooden table, with rusty metal chairs, all different, and creaking foldable wooden chairs, all different. The crackle of hot tobacco burns beneath the voices of Farmer’s sons. You want to get up and go. More than anything you want to leave. There’s no lock, no handle, or hinges, no door, but if you wander out, you’re on your own and you will die. Welcome to nowhere. It’s a doomy place. Everyone gets a beer. It’s undrinkable, bitter. It’s all there is. Everyone else drinking is sighing like they’re sliding into an armchair with evening slippers propped up in front an open fire. The three smokers, all in camouflage, neck to ankle, are older by far, invisible men. Looking over, one says “Did you see?” He’s finding it hard to talk because he’s having hard time breathing, because he’s laughing so hard. “Did you see him fall? The little cunt”.
Invisible man No. 1 has new black boots with steel in the toes. You know they have steel because he’s been inviting the others to stamp on them. Invisible man No. 1 says
“I shot a rabbit,” You take a gulp, “in the garden with my rifle two days back, and it didn’t die so I went out and swung it against a rock. Stops its suffering and that”.
He laughs. You hear the blend of a thud and a snap of the rabbit’s skull against the stone. You choke.
“It left a big red smudge on the rock”, He giggles.
Beer surges through your bronchial tubes, falls out your nose, and fizzes like acid on your coat.
“There was a little bit of eye as well.”
The invisible men laugh. You see the half sized flat side of its head with a three quarter eye. Beer stings beneath the surface. Your eyes stream. Invisible man no. 2 has brown boots and his jacket is far too large for him, and says the same thing happened to him. He’d shot a rabbit in the leg, however where No.1 had taken the rabbit to the rock, he’d brought the rock to the rabbit. It was squirming around so much that when he dropped the boulder he crushed the entire animal, bar a triangle of fluffy ear poking out. You know the exact angle of the rock on impact because Invisible man No. 2 adds that, from underneath the other side of the boulder its guts reached out half a meter all in a straight line from the middle of its belly. No. 2 says it was pregnant. He knows this because half a hairless fetus was tangled in the slimy, squashed organs that came out.
They all laugh louder and louder. It’s amplified by the concrete box.
“You’ve got to put them out their misery though”.
The smoke that was thin coils, is now completely shapeless, almost opaque. It dries your mouth. Invisible man No. 3 has a flat cap, and a knife tucked in his trousers. You take a sip.
“I found a blind one in my field one day. Rabbit like that, it’s got no chance, just gonna suffer ain’t it. I got up real close. It never even heard me.”
At the start of harvest seeds are planted and the fields ploughed, so the mud is turned and quiet, and crumbles gently under foot. Around the old farm house where you live, father owns a little bit of land, and grows arable crops like barley, and sugar beets, and wheat and potatoes.
“I grabbed it, like this, He grabs an invisible rabbit, “and shoved a stick up its arse”.
Hot vomit shoots in to your closed mouth.
“It was squealing and jerking around like a mad thing”.
They’re laughing so loud it hurts your ears.
“Then I held it by its back legs in one hand,” You swallow, “and took out my knife,” You need a deep breath. He removes his knife from his trousers. You inhale smoke, “then I skinned it alive”.
You vomit again. This time it leaks out on to the floor. The invisible men saw it and are laughing at you now. No. 3 approaches.
“You know how to skin a rabbit?
It’s the last drive. The moors are brown green striped and endless, stuck with bracken and heather. The brown lands are fire scars. Landowners set fire to the heather which makes better living conditions for grouse. This means more grouse, means more hunts, means more money. It’s a doomy place. The grasses are so long and woven that one step takes the energy of ten, and bogs snake beneath, stagnant, waiting to be moved. The brutal sky would better suit an ocean; faces whipped raw by sharp rain. The bark of shooter’s dogs and crack of last shots muffle in the wind. In the distance Invisible man No. 3 falls down, flat cap flying. You stop to tie your shoes but you can’t feel your filthy hands and give up. Invisible man No. 3 is still down. You walk on. You look back.
No. 3 is still down. Jump a bog, look back.
No. 3 still down. Turn, walk back up the hill. Still down. Closer. Still and down. Talking distance. No. 3 IS HIT. No. 3 DOWN.
Shotgun ammunition used for hunting smaller game like pheasants and grouse is a blunt, heavy slug, 18 mm long, and weighs 28 grams. This is to ensure a killing blow. Your father told you this. But due to this design and low muzzle velocity, around X feet a second, the slug slows down dramatically over a greater distance. Your father didn’t tell you this. You know this because the invisible man is still alive. And his eyes are on you. The slug hit the cartilage of his nose, which had burst into red nothing. Invisible man No. 3’s hands are trembling. From that impact the bullet ricocheted downward and opened the roof of the mouth, his chest flitting up, down, up, down quick as sparrow’s wings. The slug’s on the floor just there, with a few teeth. And his eyes are on you. You step forward and hear the blend of the thud of your foot and the snap of twigs. His eyes are full moons, and the wind tears at your ears like screaming lions. You can see inside his face and just make out, through all the devastation, the back of his tongue twitching like a snake digesting too large a creature. And his eyes are on you.
The Ammunition of a hunting shotgun is a blunt, heavy slug
This is so the bullet doesn’t go too deep, or through the other side.
This is because the bullet mustn’t destroy the prey as an object.
This is because the final pleasure of the hunt is not the kill.
This is because the final pleasure of the hunt is the taste of the dead.
You pick up a couple rabbit droppings. Wait for a lull in the wind, standing over No.3. Lodged between your thumb and forefinger, slowly, you grind the droppings together, crumbling them, and watch the flecks and dust dance down into No. 3’s new hole. Its eyes are on you. The dust falls in them too, and darkens in the moisture, peppering the white. No.3 doesn’t blink. Its eyes are on you, but you keep looking on into the stringy abys. Looking around, the line’s moved on. No one is coming. It’s swallowed a lot of blood by now. Eventually it will vomit and choke. It’s suffering. You’re surprised it didn’t choke on the slug.
It’s on the floor right there.
Passed the slug are some teeth,
The wind tears at your ears like screaming lions.
passed those teeth are more rabbit droppings,
The brutal sky would better suit an ocean.
This is a doomy place.
is a rock.