Saturday 24 June 2023

'Argive Burial' by David Luntz

The wanderer remembers the ox: pale, sticky, and shivering, gaping mournfully at his eyes, as he wrested it from its mother’s womb. Now they are alone, watching each other, while the sky spreads over them, as if yanked from infinity, still bleeding from its blue umbilicus. The ox collapses, panting heavily, gazing through him, too tired to moan.

It’s been an exhausting day. First his dog drops dead, then the bloodbath up at his house, now this…it never ends. He wraps his cloak around the ox’s shoulders, strokes its neck, and sinks to the bottom of his dreams. Down there, it’s nothing but a dark arena, concealed by a tatty curtain, a flap of loose sclera that he should never have drawn back. Across the way, he sees the ox’s bones crack, their marrow loaming dust, servants hacking off hooves, boiling them into glue: A shitty omen.

The next day, the ox dies the same way it was born: clammy and scared. He presses its mouth to a wet nurse’s breast. Who knows: it might provide some relief or convince the gods to change their minds. But there’s only clouded eyes, the nurse’s scuffed nipples, milk dripping down the ox’s bloated tongue.

He says: Fuck it. They can’t have him.

He looks around, (you can’t trust anyone), drags the ox into a cart and rides up into the cedar-clad hills. Digs a pit and lowers the beast next to the corpse of his dog. They will never find him now. Slips a coin under its tongue (just to be safe) and tells the ox, if he sees Argos, to thank him for waiting all those years.

He’s sorry he never got a chance to.


 

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Excerpt from a flash story 'Argive Burial' that appeared in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts in 2019

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