Excerpt of The Lives of Rocks by Rick Bass
(Page 6 of 9)
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They peeled the hide back to the ribs, as if opening the elk for an
operation, or a resuscitation How can I ever eat all of this animal? Jyl
wondered and again, like a surgeon, Bruce placed twin spreader bars
between the elks hocks, bracing wide the front legs as well as the back.
Ralph slit open the thick gray-skin drum of fascia that held beneath it the
stomach and intestines, heart and lungs and spleen and liver, kidneys and
bladder; and then, looking like nothing so much as a grizzly bear grubbing
beneath boulders on a hillside, or burrowing, Ralph reached up into the
enormous cavity and wrapped both arms around the stomach mass
partially disappearing into the carcass, as if somehow being consumed by it
rather than the other way around and with great effort he was able finally to
tug the stomach and all the other internal parts free.
As they pulled loose they made a tearing, ripping, sucking sound,
and once it was all out, Ralph and Bruce rolled and cut out with that same
sharp knife the oversized heart, as big as a football, and the liver, and laid
them out on clean bright butcher paper on the tailgate of their truck.
Then Ralph rolled the rest of the guts, twice as large as any
medicine ball, away from the carcass, pushing it as if shoving some boulder
away from a caves entrance. Jyl was surprised by the sudden focusing of
color in her mind, and in the scene. Surely all the colors had been present all
along, but for her it was suddenly as if some gears had clicked or aligned,
allowing her to notice them now, some subtle rearrangement or
recombination blossoming now into her minds palette: the gold of the wheat
stubble and the elks hide, the dark chocolate of the antlers, the dripping
crimson blood midway up both of Ralphs arms, the blue sky, the yellow
aspen leaves, the black earth of the field, the purple liver, the maroon heart,
Bruces black and red plaid work shirt, Ralphs faded old denim.
of those colors was illuminated so starkly in that October sunlight that it
seemed to stir chemicals of deep pleasure in Jyls own blood, elevating her to
a happiness and a fullness she had not known earlier in the day, if quite ever;
and she smiled at Bruce and Ralph, and understood in that moment that she,
too, was a hunter, might always have been.
She was astounded by how much blood there was: the upended
ark of the carcass awash in it, blood sloshing around, several inches deep.
Bruce fashioned a come-along around the base of the elks antlers and
hitched the other end to the iron pipe frame on the back of their truck the
frame constructed like a miniature corral, so that they could haul a cow or
two to town in the back when they needed to without having to hook up the
more cumbersome trailer and carefully he began to ratchet the elk into a
vertical position, an ascension. To Jyl it looked like nothing less than a
deification; and again, as a hunter, she found this fitting, and watched with
Blood roared out from the elks open carcass, gushing out from
between its huge legs, a brilliant fountain in that soft light. The blood
splashed and splattered as it hit the newturned earth Ralph and Bruce
stood by watching the elk drain as if nothing phenomenal at all were
happening, as if they had seen it thousands of times before and the
porous black earth drank thirstily this outpouring, this torrent. Bruce looked
over at Jyl and said, Basically, its easy: you just carve away everything you
dont want to eat.
Jyl couldnt take her eyes off how fast the soil was drinking in the
Against the dark earth, the stain of it was barely even noticeable.
When the blood had finally stopped draining, Ralph filled a plastic
washbasin with warm soapy water from a jug and scrubbed his hands
carefully, leisurely, precisely, pausing even to clean the soap from beneath
his fingernails with a smaller pocketknife and when he was done, Bruce
poured a gallon jug of clean water over Ralphs hands and wrists to rinse the
soap away, and then Ralph dried his hands and arms with a clean towel and
emptied out the old bloody wash water, then filled it anew, and it was time for
Bruce to do the same.
Copyright © 2006 by Rick Bass. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.