“I’m telling you, Matt.”
“Manuel, between you and my family, there’s enough superstition here to float an aircraft carrier.” Matthew Thorson grumbled while leaning against the door to the milking parlor.
“Look, when my mother says something strange is going to happen, you had better listen!” Manuel protested. “Besides, it isn’t like you don’t have a bunch of beings from the spirit world hanging around here!”
“Yeah. Yeah.” Matthew wasn’t having any of it.
“Are you going to ask your father about it, or maybe Cam?” Manuel wasn’t about to let the issue drop.
A herd of cows doesn’t suddenly decide to skip their night milking—it is a necessary and expected part of their lives—much like Manuel’s mother couldn’t stop seeing flashes of the future. Both events occurring on the same day, however; would be enough to give anyone pause… unless you’re Matthew Thorson. Then you might blow it off.
“If dad or Cam knew anything, they would have said something. So the cows are fickle tonight. They’ll probably take twice as long to empty their teats in the morning.”
“Fine, you be all calm and collected. I’ll just stand over here and be freaked out.” Manuel shuffled his feet and recalled what his mother had told him earlier.
“Guapito (handsome little one), I saw a ring. It was like the crown of thorns, but bright—a white metal—maybe polished silver. There were angry faces all around. Jealousy like you would not believe.”
In Manuel’s childhood home, his mother ruled the roost with a velvet claw… a velvet claw that wielded an 8lb. sledgehammer. She was soft-spoken, but it was because she expected you to listen carefully, not because she wanted to appear demure. When it came to her moments of “astral travel,” or “messages from beyond,” she was just as serious about requiring her family’s undivided attention.
“And then,” she’d explained during his weekly call home, “I see a pretty girl’s face. Something about the chica made me want to cry. I see lots of cows, and they are very upset.”
Manuel repeated her story to Matt once more, to no avail.
Duke Thorson slid the milking parlor door aside and stepped out into the night beside his son and the ranch manager. He stretched and exhaled a gigantic sigh.
“Selma kicked me. Chubs tried to bite me. Auggie farted every time I tried to put a milker on her teats.” Duke shook his head.
“Chubs isn’t a biter. That’s strange.” Matthew commented. “Did Sofaretta do anything unusual?”
Sofaretta, the largest of their Jersey cows, was almost always cranky. She would butt her way to the head of every line, whether it was milking time, or feeding time. It didn’t matter if the creature in her way was bovine or human; she came first, and she was more than willing to show it… often by knocking unsuspecting people off their feet with a casual swing of her head.
“The Sofa? No.” Duke shook his head. “She was cowering in the back of her stall. Her eyes were wide, and she was looking a little panicked.”
“See?” Manuel threw up his hands in frustration. “Mom is right again! Something freaky is going to happen!”
Matt didn’t want to believe it, so he ignored Manuel’s agitation.
“Dad, have you heard anything from Cam or his family? I mean, if something strange is going on, you’d think they’d know about it before anyone.”
“The Pendy patriarch has been quiet today. If there was something to know, he’d tell us.”
The trio continued debating the strange behavior of the herd, oblivious to the large pile of rags in the nook between the barn and the fence. Watery, black eyes watched them as they rambled and paced back and forth. They also didn’t hear the comments the pile made.
“If I had a prune f’ every human who can see t’ future, I’d shit for a hundred years.” Herring grumbled. “Now, t’ ring… that be more t’an a little interesting! What’s the pretty girl got t’ do with it, though?”