The Bull: A Jack Tale, fiction by Jeff Wallace

Jack and Mrs. Jones stood in the foy­er of the Big House. Her half-blind, soupy eyes blinked, focused, and looked him over. He felt them range from his worn ten­nis shoes up his thin legs and thread-bare jeans and across his grey cot­ton t‑shirt. Her lips were pulled togeth­er in what, if she had been a much younger woman, would have been a pout. Pret­ty, even, Jack thought. “This won’t do,” she said, shak­ing her head. “We’ll get you to Hunt­ing­ton soon. Get you some­thing prop­er to be seen in.” Her hands flut­tered over him, mea­sur­ing him with the quick effi­cien­cy of a moth­er or a tai­lor. “I think some­thing of Danny’s should fit you.” She grunt­ed when she turned and walked away.

Jack had been giv­en the job on his four­teenth birth­day as a gift from his father and from the Jones fam­i­ly. His father, the estate’s care-tak­er, had asked Mrs. Jones if she could find any work for his son. Jack’s father told him that he’d had to beg the old woman to even con­sid­er him for any work at all.

She was a tyrant, his father had said. His father liked to use words like that to show he wasn’t as igno­rant as he seemed to think Jack thought him.  She’d ground up men all around her, he’d said. Her hus­bands (there’d been three), her son (she’d nev­er had a daugh­ter), and the men who worked for her in the mines. Oh, she ground those up, his father had said. Ground them up for the mor­tar that held that Big House togeth­er, he’d said. His father had been drunk or else he wouldn’t have spo­ken quite so open­ly with him. “It will be good for you to work for the woman,” he had said. “It’s an excel­lent oppor­tu­ni­ty,” he’d said, a lit­tle drunk­en­ly, accen­tu­at­ing the “x” and the “t” of those strange long words.

Mrs. Jones had cousins and nieces and nephews, but they were all gone. Off to school. Off to the east, out of the hills some­where that the coal mon­ey took them. Mrs. Jones was still there like a scare­crow in a corn­field long after the har­vest. “Make you a man,” his father had said. “Even if it is woman’s work.” Some­times his father said things by not say­ing them to show Jack that he wasn’t as igno­rant as Jack seemed to hope. In the foy­er, Jack wiped at the sweat that had formed on his fresh­ly shaven lip

Don’t just stand there. You’re here to help me—so help me,” Mrs. Jones said.

Jack hur­ried to her as she tot­tered to the grand stair­case in the mid­dle of the foy­er. He hunched to the old woman and offered his arm. She took it with thin, hard fin­gers, her nails on the out­side of his bicep bit­ing into the mus­cle. He felt the cold of her gold watch lying against the soft­er inner part. That’s real gold, Jack thought.

He’d lived on the Jones’ estate his entire life but he’d nev­er been inside the main house. His father even was always kept at a dis­tance, the dis­cus­sions of the gar­dens or the fences were always done on the porch or in one of the barns. The barns used to hold hors­es but had been con­vert­ed to hold­ing bull studs. What the Jones fam­i­ly had once owned in coal they now owned in meat.

It was a mon­strous­ly large home, eas­i­ly ten times the size of the caretaker’s cot­tage that he and his father lived in. The only oth­er deep wealth that he’d ever seen had been on tele­vi­sion, in flick­er­ing two-dimen­sion­al images. What was here, now, was dif­fer­ent. It had the feel of a muse­um, of objects that he could look at but nev­er touch. But here he was, guid­ing the old bird­like woman up the stair­case. Mar­ble, Jack saw, cov­ered with a blue Per­sian rug that poured down the cen­ter of the stairs like a water­fall. The rug was soft and a lit­tle worn with the hard­ness of the stone beneath it.

At the top of the stairs she led him down a dark hall­way. What had once been a large and open hall­way was now closed and nar­rowed. Box­es were stacked three-deep on both sides of the hall and rose from floor to ceil­ing. Large black let­ters were writ­ten on the box­es, non-sen­si­cal to Jack: “DWC” cried one, “AAC,” lament­ed anoth­er. As they moved into the hall­way, she hur­ried her steps and released his arm. He could no longer walk beside her but moved behind her and put his hands on her thin waist like one would a child on a bicy­cle. The two were soon in near dark but Mrs. Jones con­tin­ued for­ward with seem­ing­ly no wor­ry. The spiced smell of old card­board filled him as the dark­ness came in. He felt the need to sneeze but for some rea­son felt that this would be a car­di­nal sin to her and he fought it off. She stopped and turned left. There was the click of a lock and the cry of brass work­ings. He heard her moan and felt her body lean for­ward into what must have been a door.

Switch with me and push,” she said. “Some­thing must have fall­en.” She moved back towards him and gave him no room. He crushed him­self into the dark box­es and felt the insides of one move, some­thing drag­ging and grind­ing against some­thing else. Some­thing popped in the box and he felt bony fin­gers on his stom­ach. She pinched him hard on his stom­ach. He could hear her hiss­ing in the dark. “Those are Danny’s wed­ding dish­es in there, boy. If one’s bro­ken…” she let it hang in the dark like a noose.

It didn’t break,” he said. It was the first words since he’d intro­duced himself.

You’d bet­ter hope.”

Jack slid past her and up to the door. He leaned into it, push­ing with his legs, his ten­nis shoes slip­ping on the hard­wood. He leaned hard­er, his body a lever, and the door slow­ly opened inwards. The box­es hissed as they slid on the floor in front of them. Bright light shined through the crack in the door.

Far enough,” she said. “Crawl in there and move them. Stack them neat when you do.”

Jack scraped his way between the door and the fac­ing into the room. The win­dows in it were dusty but large and over­looked the south lawn of the home. Light came through, soft­ened by the dust but bright. Around the room were more box­es, how deep he wasn’t sure, but again stacked to the ten-foot ceil­ing.  The legs of a bed, the four posts as well, could be picked out on one side. Three doors were exposed oppo­site of the bed. Every­thing that wasn’t door or win­dow was locked away behind the boxes.

The box­es block­ing the door had tipped into the floor like a child’s blocks. One had rup­tured and had spilled a box of sil­ver watch­es, sil­ver tie-clips, and pearl cuff-links. They had scat­tered on the floor like dice. Jack knelt and put them into the small tin box they had come from. He remem­bered Mrs. Jones’ gold watch. The box­es rose around him. He looked at the cuf­flinks, how they seemed to glow in on the dusty hard­wood floor, he remem­bered pitch­ing pen­nies, the clos­est to the wall got to claim them, and how Mrs. Jones knew noth­ing of this box, of these links. He did not need them. He took them and placed them into his jean pock­et. He placed the watch­es and the tie clips into the tin box and back into the large card­board box that con­tained it. He moved eas­i­ly and quick­ly in this. Then, just as quick­ly and just as eas­i­ly, he stacked the box­es as he’d been told.

After­wards, when a path had been cleared and Mrs. Jones could enter the room, the two of them spent the day going through Danny’s old clothes. She would pull a pile of clothes out of the clos­et (it was behind one of the doors and was big­ger than Jack’s room in his home), and make him go through each piece. He had been shocked at first by what she expected.

He had gath­ered a shirt, a blaz­er, and a pair of slacks from the floor (she had picked out the set so that they would match—Jack wouldn’t know how, she had said) and told him to try them on. He’d picked them up and start­ed towards the clos­et to change but she had stopped him.

No,” she said. “Here, in front of me. It’s quicker”

Jack gripped the clothes in his hand, bunch­ing the shirt in his knuck­les “I’m not sure…” he said. He looked out the win­dow, the dust that cov­ered it, and then to the door. He felt the cuff-links in his pock­et. The box­es stretched up and seemed to reach over him.

Just change, boy. I’m too old to care about that. Your kind don’t care what a woman sees” She gave him a know­ing look.

Jack slow­ly pulled his t‑shirt over his head. He became aware of the smell of it, like wood and cig­a­rette smoke. The smell was on every­thing he owned, but it was so present that it had dis­ap­peared. Here though, the strange­ness of the smell and the way it cov­ered all that he had was plain. Soft light fell across him from the dusty win­dows. He undid his belt, get­ting the length of it stuck, fight­ing it. It then stuck in a loop. He had twist­ed it putting it on and had not known it. He felt a ris­ing in his stom­ach and a bub­bling in his chest, and felt the backs of his eyes go soft. His face red­dened. He looked sharply at Mrs. Jones, his face try­ing to screw itself into an embar­rassed apol­o­gy.  Mrs. Jones was look­ing at the box­es. Jack pushed down his pants, his pale and thin­ly-haired legs look­ing cold. Mrs. Jones still looked at the box­es. She seemed to be count­ing them.

With­out her eyes on him, Jack quick­ly dressed him­self in Mrs. Jones’ dead son’s cloth­ing. She ‘tsked’ when she saw how the white sleeves weren’t quite long enough. The black pants were tight around his mid­dle. She walked to him and, hook­ing her hard fin­gers into the front pock­ets, yanked them low­er on his hips. She looked into his face with anger. She gave him anoth­er set. Again, embar­rassed, he changed. Again, her eyes were not on him.

Final­ly, after hours of chang­ing, Jack had a gift of neat­ly fold­ed cloth­ing. He was told to wear these when he came to work. He also had the cuff-links for which he had no use.


No, god­damnit, the blue umbrel­las. Easter’s past. It’s the fourth of July next. I swear, it’s like you have no sense. None at all. It’s a won­der your father hasn’t run you off.” Mrs. Jones threw the yel­low  umbrel­la he had hand­ed her at him. Jack was able to block it, but the sharp met­al tip ripped through the thin cot­ton of his long-sleeved dress shirt and cut his forearm.

Go clean your­self. Don’t bleed on any­thing,” she said .

The par­ties were planned to the small­est detail. Every­thing had a pur­pose. Jack’s father, though the Fourth was still a month away, had spent weeks plant­i­ng red, white, and blue petu­nias all around the prop­er­ty. Patri­ot­ic bunting was hung around all the porch­es and from the eaves. Jack worked with Mrs. Jones. The upstairs por­tion of the house was sealed off. Jack, under Mrs. Jones’ watch­ful eyes, had draped thick vel­vet cur­tains at the top of the grand stair­case. Upon enter­ing the front door, the upstairs land­ing looked as if it were an emp­tied the­ater, the cur­tains wait­ing to be pulled back and for the show to begin. There was a gold­en rope that would tie the cur­tains closed the night of the party.

Jack left the aban­doned servant’s room and walked down the dark hall. His foot­falls were silent on the thick red car­pet, the sound dying there at his toes. The bath­rooms were scat­tered through­out the home and what­ev­er wing on the sec­ond floor they hap­pened to be on Jack would have the right door. He fum­bled in the dark­ness try­ing one door and then the next. Most rooms were filled with the box­es. So many things, Jack often thought, locked up.

After he had found a room to clean him­self in, dis­pos­ing of the waste paper by plac­ing it in his pock­et, he returned to her. She was asleep.

Often, when left alone in a room, Mrs. Jones would lie down on the bed of the room they were in—if there was a bed, if not there was cer­tain­ly a couch that she could recline in—and she would fall asleep. The first time it had hap­pened, he had wok­en her as gen­tly as he could, but it had only made her incensed. She had smacked him, scream­ing that she did not sleep well, not at night, nev­er must she be wok­en. He had nev­er wok­en her since. When this hap­pened she would sleep for hours. He would leave her there and search the house as he pleased. He would look through the box­es that filled the house and would take things, small but pre­cious things, from her. He would walk with them to town, pawn them, and then go shop­ping. He was amazed at how much some very small things were worth and how lit­tle some of the larg­er ones would bring. Mrs. Jones would keep a ring worth two hun­dred dol­lars next to a piece of cos­tume jew­el­ry, both of them wrapped in the same black vel­vet cloth and tucked away into the cor­ner of a large box of sil­ver­ware and china.

Some­times these sleeps would last all day. If she slept for longer than an hour, Jack would walk the grounds near the home. The lawn and the fence rows were all beau­ti­ful­ly kept by Jack’s father. The barns, too, were kept in a pris­tine sparse­ness, as if the house inhaled the clut­ter from the estate. She kept all the meat cat­tle off-site, in a large flat-land farm far­ther north. The Big House farm was now only a stud farm. She had men scour the coun­try look­ing for the next great bull. She only kept a few bulls at a time, nev­er more than five. This sum­mer she was down to one. The sum­mer before she had auc­tioned off all the rest. The one she kept had not sold at her auc­tion. Her reserve price had been set ridicu­lous­ly high, 5,000 dol­lars, for the Longhorn.

Jack left the house after wait­ing an hour for her to wake. He stood on the back porch and looked out over the farm, not­ing the blue, red and white petu­nias his father had plant­ed all along the house. There were more of them in hang­ing bas­kets on the cor­ners of the porch. From the porch Jack saw the side of the black barn, paint­ed in the spring by his father and some hired men. There was a neat grav­el road that ran to its front. The door to it was open. Jack won­dered how much an antique deal­er would give for hun­dred year old farm tools.

He walked from the porch and towards the barn. The sun was high. The hon­eyed smell of the petu­nias and the song of the cicadas lulled him. He walked care­ful­ly into the barn. He pulled the heavy wood­en door to. The sounds of the life out­side were cloaked by the oak boards, the scent of the plant­ed flow­ers dis­ap­peared into the smell of ani­mal sweat, dung and the sweet acid of hay. The dark­ness, after the bright of noon June, blot­ted his eyes. He lis­tened to the barn. He heard a fan tick­ing in the breeze that ran through the barn. He heard the creak of the boards. The grunt of the bull.

Slow­ly, his eyes returned to him. He could see the shapes of hang­ing leather straps. The long wood­en han­dle and slick met­al of a scythe. He went to it and picked it up. He swung it in the dark, feel­ing its length, the awk­ward motion of back it forced on him, and he heard the whis­tle of the blade. “This is how men used to work,” he said to himself.

That morn­ing he had plucked two ear­rings from a jew­el­ry box. They were small pink pearls. He had rolled them in his hands, the small sil­ver clasps on their backs stopped them from rolling. Impul­sive­ly, he pulled them from his pock­et and locked them onto his ear lobe, smil­ing slight­ly at the small pinch. He laid the scythe back in its place.  The bull grunt­ed again. In the cav­ern of the barn the sound echoed around him. Its hooves sound­ed soft, like a man’s foot stump­ing out a cig­a­rette. He looked as close­ly as the dim light would allow and saw noth­ing worth tak­ing. Again, the bull grunted.

He groped in the near dark towards the birth of the sound. There in a stall stood the bull, enor­mous and black. It had been born on the farm and Mrs. Jones had bred it numer­ous times. It shook its horns at Jack, paw­ing soft­ly at the ground. It moved towards him and brought its face close to him. It chewed its cud, its mouth mov­ing in a lazy cir­cu­lar motion. Jack looked into its watery eyes.

Behind him, the door to the barn start­ed to open. He heard his father’s voice loud­ly address­ing anoth­er man.

Well, some damn fool of yours sure as hell shut this door. You’re like to cook that mon­ster alive. Then we’d all have hell to pay.”

The oth­er man tried to answer back in a voice tinged with fear. The weak­ness in his voice, which Jack knew would only push his father far­ther, was evi­dent to even Jack.

Just shut your god­damned mouth and help me get this place cooled down before the old woman piss­es herself.”

With­out think­ing, Jack jumped into the bulls stall. It was large and clean. The hay trough ran along the side and Jack brushed passed the bull. It stomped and shook its head, nar­row­ly miss­ing Jack. He stole behind the trough and ducked into the hay on the floor. The men came through, his father lead­ing. His father stopped as the oth­er man con­tin­ued. The sound of an indus­tri­al fan came upon the man’s disappearance.

How you doing, you big bas­tard,” his father said to it. “You all right, sun­shine?” He cooed to it and held out his hand. The bull shook its head again and grunt­ed. It took two half steps and lunged with its horns. Jack’s father stepped back­wards laugh­ing as the bull’s body rammed the gate of the pen. “Mean all the way through.” He chuck­led again as he did at fools.

All right, Hoss, let’s get on.” His father shout­ed. “Behind as it is. God­damned par­ties.” He turned and walked from the stall. The sleek shape of the oth­er man trailed quick­ly behind.

The bull raged and stamped in its pen. It thrashed its horns, scratch­ing at the boards. Jack rose gen­tly from the floor. The bull qui­et­ed its motion. The bel­lows of its chest raged under the skin and mus­cle of its ribs. It turned and looked at him again. It turned it head to the side as if ask­ing him a question.

No,” he said quietly.

It turned its head again as if mov­ing the sound of the words from one ear to the oth­er, rolling them like a cannonball.

Jack moved gen­tly to its side. He could feel the air vibrat­ing from the pow­er of the bull’s lungs. It stepped clos­er to him. He could feel its wet sweet breath through his shirt. He reached out his hand and touched its horn gen­tly. Star­tled, it tripped backwards.

He moved past it quick­ly and lift­ed him­self over the edge of the stall. He land­ed soft­ly on the oth­er side. The bull was again gen­tly chew­ing its cud, the same placid look in its eyes.


Don’t daw­dle, ye hear me? You’re like to kill me with your slow­ness. Like an old maid,” Mrs. Jones said. She struck him at the back of his legs with her cane. There were to be guests from the east and from the south on the Fourth. It was a mid-week Hol­i­day and the guests would be stay­ing all week long. The box­es that he had moved ear­li­er he was now being forced to move again—what he had done in June no longer suf­ficed.  Mrs. Jones would have him clear one sec­tion to anoth­er and then have him clear that sec­tion by mov­ing box­es even deep­er and high­er into the house.

It was hot work. The Jones’ estate did not have air-con­di­tion­ing or even ceil­ing fans. Jack car­ried a box fan into every room that he cleaned. Mrs. Jones moved quick­ly from room to room, tak­ing stock of all the box­es, open­ing them and check­ing their con­tents and then, arbi­trar­i­ly, instruct­ing him where to take them.

Since the morn­ing when his father had near­ly dis­cov­ered Jack in the barn, Jack had gone sev­er­al times to vis­it the bull. He would sneak in before com­ing to the estate, dur­ing the cool morn­ings when the barn doors remained closed. The smell of the barn, the dark­ness, the hid­ing and secre­cy, drew him. He would wear the women’s jew­el­ry he had stolen from Mrs. Jones: pearl ear rings, thin dia­mond ten­nis bracelets, large jew­eled rings. He would go and stand next to the stall of the bull. It seemed to have no inter­est in him. It would watch him for a while, but when he made no moves towards it, it would go back to breath­ing and eat­ing. He would talk, telling it what he want­ed to do, where he want­ed to go: “Mia­mi,” he would say. “It’s sup­posed to be beau­ti­ful. I’ve seen pic­tures and movies. I’d like to go there for col­lege.” Oth­er days he would talk of Alas­ka: “It would be cold, but the men are sup­posed to out­num­ber the women by four to one,” he said, grin­ning, sur­prised at his own hon­esty and the delec­table nature of his fan­tasies. But these fan­tasies were short and he always knew that Mrs. Jones was wait­ing for him.

He car­ried the box­es silent­ly from one room to anoth­er, sweat­ing and grunt­ing with the weight and the heat. His back and shoul­ders, which at first had both­ered him of an evening after work, were now taut and sinewy, like his idea of a sav­age. He would stand in front of the mir­ror on the door of his room and flex his arms, tight­en his thighs, and smile at what he was becom­ing. His father had caught him squeez­ing his bicep while they were eat­ing din­ner. He’d smiled at him then.

Hard work is good for you, ain’t it? Get’s your head straight,” he had said. They were eat­ing in the cramped kitchen. The smells of sour corn­bread, bacon grease, and brown beans seemed to make the room hotter.

Yeah,” Jack had said. “I didn’t think it’d be as tough as it is. She’s pret­ty con­stant on me. And those box­es each weigh a ton.”

That’s how women are,” he said as he shov­eled in a spoon of brown beans. “Your moth­er was the same way. Always some­thing to do. Men are apt to do noth­ing when there’s noth­ing to do. Women will cook so they have dish­es to do. That’s why you got­ta choose care­ful when you get mar­ried.” He raised his eye­brows know­ing­ly at this and leaned towards Jack. “Now show them mus­cles you been work­ing on,” he said, grin­ning. Sheep­ish­ly, Jack flexed his arm. His father’s big hand clamped over it and squeezed.

Noth­in’ more than a knot, yet. It’s comin’ though. I knew you need­ed a woman to set you straight,” he said, and Jack’s heart had grown and lurched at once.

He was pulled from his remem­ber­ing by Mrs. Jones. “We’re almost done with this one.” the old woman said, smooth­ing her home-made apron and work dress.  She was sweat­ing heav­i­ly, her tight­ly pulled hair was com­ing loose in wisps around her face.  She too seemed to have become stronger. The springs in its frame squeaked from the sud­den weight. “Turn the fan up and go fetch some ice water.”

Jack did both hur­ried­ly, want­i­ng to fin­ish the rooms in this sec­tion of the house. He moved quick­ly and light­ly. He took a short­cut down the servant’s steps to the kitchen, fetched the glass­es from their spot in the third cab­i­net and filled the glass­es with ice from the trays in the freez­er and used the water from the fil­tered water tap. He hur­ried back up the servant’s steps and to the room. When he entered Mrs. Jones was asleep on the bed.  She had not fall­en asleep imme­di­ate­ly. Two small box­es which had been stacked were now on the floor by the foot of the bed. Both were opened and their con­tents were spread on the floor.

There were neck­laces made of pearls, heavy gold­en rings, ear­rings with dia­monds. Soft­ly, Jack stole towards the box­es and the trea­sure. He knelt before the box­es at the old woman’s feet. He set the glass­es down gen­tly beside him, one to either side, on the dusty hard­wood floors. He reached with trem­bling fin­gers to the jew­el­ry. He ran his fin­gers over the pearls. He fon­dled the ear­rings. He slipped all three pieces into his pock­ets. He picked up a watch and laid it over his thin wrist. It was a woman’s watch, light and fine­ly engraved. It glint­ed in relief of the angu­lar bones of his wrist. He snapped the clasp. The sleek fem­i­nine curves of it and its cold met­al on his sweat­ing skin made him chill. He wouldn’t sell this one.  Care­ful­ly, he unclasped the wrist chain of the watch the watch. He held it between clasped hands. With­out ris­ing, he moved the watch towards his jeans’ pocket.

I’d thought bet­ter of you, son” Mrs. Jones said qui­et­ly from above him.

Jack turned on his knees towards her, knock­ing the ice water over. The water spilled and flowed around him, wet­ting his knees. He looked up into the shin­ing white face of Mrs. Jones.

She rose from the bed and Jack stayed kneeled in front of her. She smacked him across the face. He stayed kneeled, still look­ing up her.

The room was filled with the sounds of their breath: her breath a high whin­ing whis­tle, the sound of train’s breaks, his breath the rat­tle of a near drowned man. Her body had straight­ened itself, her faced shone with right­eous­ness. She smacked him again.

Take it,” she said in a dead­ly whis­per. “Take it and nev­er let me see you again.”

Jack stood and ran from the room, grip­ping the watch. He ran down the hall­ways and out the back door. He could taste blood on his lips. He ran to the edge of the farm, to the hard­wood for­est that sur­round­ed it. His face glowed with the heat of Mrs. Jones’ hand.  He knew she would call his father. He knew he could not go home. He walked through the woods until he saw the hulk­ing shape of the barn. The dew of the evening was begin­ning to set­tle. Mos­qui­toes began to bite his arms. He still held the watch tight­ly in his hand. He clasped it onto his wrist.

He went to the barn door and pulled it open. He stepped into the black­ness and felt along the rough wall with an open hand to turn on the light. The light crack­led into the dark. The bull snort­ed at the sud­den day. The barn at night was not the same as the barn at morn­ing. The heat of the day lin­gered in the hay and the muck. The smells which had dis­si­pat­ed in the long cool night were thick in this ear­ly darkness.

Jack picked up the scythe from its place and strode to the bull. There it was, behind the high doors of its stall. It moved slow­ly, look­ing con­fus­ed­ly at Jack and at the scythe. Jack swung the blade, pen­du­lum like, over his shoes. He watched the animal’s mute face as it tried to pull itself from sleep. The sweep­ing curve of the bull’s horns, Jack real­ized, matched that of the blade he swung. He leaned it against the door of the stall. He removed Mrs. Jones’ dead son’s shirt. He put on Mrs. Jones’ ear­rings and pearls. He turned his wrist and felt the weight of the gold watch. He took off the dead boy’s pants and shoes, leav­ing on only his under­wear and socks. He took the scythe in his hand again. He opened the stall door.

The bull stood at the far cor­ner, stamp­ing its hoof. The sound of the run­ning fan came from far off and above them. Jack imag­ined slash­ing at the bull with the blade. He want­ed to cut at its face, to blind it, to knock off its horns. He imag­ined the strug­gle of his mus­cle against the bull’s, how its dark skin would feel as it, blind and polled, slammed into him. How he would turn under its hooves as they fell, died, togeth­er. He could see his naked­ness with its blood and hide.

He imag­ined instead of lead­ing it to Mrs. Jones home, rid­ing it across the mar­ble foy­er, up the mar­ble steps, and run­ning down the halls, gor­ing the end­less box­es with its horns, spilling the guts of them onto the floor like blood and water, wash­ing the home in all those things that were locked away and for­got­ten. Jack watched as the bull stood pas­sive­ly in its box.

He dropped to his knee in front of it and laid they scythe at its feet. He took off the ear­rings, the pearls. He turned the gold watch on his wrist, felt its love­ly weight and cool. He unclasped it as well and laid it in the straw.

He rose, near­ly naked, and walked away from it, leav­ing open the stall door. He left the light burn­ing and the barn door open as well as he exit­ed. The fan drew in the cool night air.  He walked from the place feel­ing the smooth and easy move­ment of the mus­cles of his chest, arms, and legs. The dew soaked his socks and he removed those as well, toss­ing them into the dark. He fought the youth­ful desire to run towards his father’s house, and he won­dered what his father would say to him in his nakedness.

Jeff Wal­lace received his MA in Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture and his MFA in Fic­tion from Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty. He is the author of numer­ous short sto­ries and has been pub­lished in mag­a­zines such as The Louisville ReviewAppalachi­an Her­itageKey­hole Mag­a­zine, Plain Spoke, and in such online jour­nals as New South­ern­er, and Still:The Jour­nal. He lives in Mt. Orab, Ohio with his wife Emi­ly, son Oscar, and mutt Mem­phis. He cur­rent­ly teach­es at South­ern State Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege and is work­ing on his first nov­el The True Sto­ry of the Appalachi­an Revolution.

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One Response to The Bull: A Jack Tale, fiction by Jeff Wallace

  1. Dena says:

    Always some­thing to do. Men are apt to do noth­ing when there’s noth­ing to do. Women will cook so they have dish­es to do. That’s why you got­ta choose care­ful when you get mar­ried.” — love this — great story -

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