Zach Dahuff (2015)

Zach Dayhuff

“A reader of an early, unconvincing draft of this story—a draft that paid no attention to the matter of faith—asked me, in order to help me arrive at some amount of verisimilitude, ‘Have you ever heard the sound an animal makes when it dies?’ She had grown up in a place where people slaughtered goats in the open, and frequently she might hear from behind a house or a berm somewhere the beasts’ terminal bleating. ‘It’s haunting. It’s like nothing of this world.’ she said.

“The initiated reader will find, I’m afraid, how little research I did for this piece. I asked twice to tour a facility in Colorado, but for obvious reasons they were reluctant to have me. There’s a certain amount you can learn from illicit videos or veterinary literature, but from them you’d think these places were staffed by villains and drones. In actuality, no one wants to work on the killing floor, and no one does it without ambivalence.

“In Texas, I met a fellow who hung up intestines for a living. It was a chance meeting, and I took full advantage of it to coax out of him all the profane details of his job that I could. And yet by the end of our acquaintance, we’d spoken very little of the slaughterhouse. More of the time we talked family and women and drinking and baseball. And we talked God. I realized I had been doing all the wrong kind of research.

“Job, in his devastation, asks, ‘Why is light given to a man whose way is hid, and whom God hath hedged in?’ After some debate, the faithful Elihu cautions him that man cannot see the work of God. ‘Can any understand the spreadings of the clouds,’ he says, ‘or the noise of his tabernacle?’

“Arlene has not suffered the trials of Job or even the trials of that man in Texas, but she has suffered more than anyone ought to. Yet in her suffering she can still hear the meaning of her life, even if she can’t understand it.”

A native of Colorado, Zach Dayhuff has lived and worked as a writer, editor and teacher in the Denver–Boulder area, as well as in Texas and North Carolina. He is a graduate of the MFA writing program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is his first published fiction.