Joel E. R. Smith

Witness Luthrial tether his ox in the kraal. Witness him remove ticks from its belly and scrotum, and rub cool ash from old fires on its back. Luthrial speaks to his ox not as a god or ghost, but because he reserves a gentle touch for all quiet creatures. "Display and sacrifice," his father told him, before naming him "Luth" for black and white, "rial" for cattle-bell. "You will sleep on their hides, bellyful with their flesh. Find you a nyeledit, genius of the herd, and ride out the thunder." "Thank you father, for my ox-name," Luthrial says to himself every night, before falling asleep on dust-rid skins. He is a favored second son, a wut ghok, a man of the cattle, or will be, after initiation. Then, he will no longer rub dung on his body, even if it means malaria, and they will pelt him for days with buk ke war. Then, he will cut the horns of his black and white ox until they grow crooked, and he will castrate it, because that is what men do to call themselves men. But what do I know about that, or them, and what solitary thing can you know about me?

Joel Smith lives in Tucson and edits fiction for Spork Press.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of Daniel Zimmel.

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