General Flash Fiction posted May 19, 2012

This work has reached the exceptional level

Farm For Sale

by Realist101

Lincoln Short debated with himself and mumbled incessantly over whether or not to kill the messenger. The vet had just declared his whole herd contaminated. He would be ruined if they killed all his cattle. Years of labor. Years of worry. Years of strain, cost ... and goddamnit, they just couldn't do this thing. He clung to the gate and wished himself dead rather than lose his beloved Holsteins. And he could feel the eyes of Doc Sherfick boring into his back.

"It's time, Lincoln. I'm sure sorry. We have to quarantine and put them down. Please understand, we have no choice." Short hated the shrill voice of the man. The voice of an educated idiot. So educated he was plumb stupid.

"I can't do it, Sherfick. I can't throw forty years away. These cows have given me my life." He spat his chew as he turned around. "You can't kill my whole herd."

"I'm sorry, Lincoln. We have no choice." Sherfick stood, legs braced, as if ready for a fight. Short wished he were young again. He'd kick the little man clear to Timbucktoo and back.

"So, you gonna pay me for 'em? You know how much they're worth? How much I got into this place, huh? You gonna buy me out then?" He glared hard into the eyes of ruination. Brucellosis was untreatable. And he knew he'd already lost.

Into the night the infected herd was shot one by one, and the dozer lifted and piled each cow on top of the one before it. The fire chased the darkness away, but the slow singeing of flesh sent the smell of death for miles, leaving no one to doubt the verdict.

Lincoln Short sat at his kitchen table, alone with his barren thoughts. He held the old Colt in his hand, and contemplated the unthinkable as the frantic bawling of his milkers numbed his mind. He thought he heard Daisy, his pet--his favorite. Her bell clanked, and he knew she was next. The shot seared his heart, almost stopping it. A sob choked his breath away as reality hit him. He could see it already. The realtor's sign ... so colorful. So cheerful. FARM FOR SALE.

A small, cold nose nudged his thigh. The nightmare wavered for a moment as his Lily dog sat next to him leaning into his knee, warm, comforting. Her white-tipped tail swished with uncertainty ... and though Short wasn't ready to smile, he saw in her brown eyes a promise that life would go on, and that the sun would shine in the morning.


Brucellosis is a bovine bacteria that causes abortion and loss of calves. It can also infect the bulls. Cows must be slaughtered or destroyed when tests are positive.

Thank you for reading and to Google for the loan of this photo. This man looks much like my father did.
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