The Practical Man

by Denisa Vítová

I.

When on some February mornings his sturdy frame filled up

the doorway, hindering the sun from peeking into the pigsty, the animals

began to stomp with apprehension; unlike us, they could always sense

their own death lying ahead. Outside in the yard, the unlucky

one ran around in circles, squealing hammer and tongs while children

cheered and men grunted, all teeth and spit, playing the game of

hounds: put down the wooden ladder to block its way out, enclose it

by prods, then let the chieftain come forward; only he knew how to kill

a pig with one precise shot between its eyes – an old-school

slaughter.

II.

If in springtime cats around the farmhouse started to reproduce too quickly, he

with his two calloused hands would grab the kittens by the soft hair behind their

necks, put the mewling mess into a bucket of cold water and – to Misha the Dog’s

delight – drown them one by one; through and through, my great grandfather was

a practical man: after a cock had tried to blind me, those same hands

cut off its head and then we fed it

to the dog.