Interview With an Ox

As part of our ongoing series of conversations with animals on policy and population control issues, we sat down with Bill, an ox from Vermont who recently lost his companion of many years.

Us: Hey, Bill. We’re really sorry about Lou.

Bill: I appreciate it. It’s been a rough year.

Us: How do you feel about being eaten? Is that a weird question? It’s just, there’s been a lot of talk about eating you and your late friend.

Bill: He was my twin brother, just so we’re clear. Hm. Well, as an ox, I do not fear death, as I do not understand it, obviously, so I don’t have, like, any kind of existential yawp around the idea. I dislike pain. I guess, if I had to speculate, I would prefer life over death, and being eaten over having my flesh wasted? But, again, I can only speculate. As Lou used to say “I guess if they didn’t eat us, there wouldn’t be a lot of us around.” Maybe it’s like that part in Watership Down where the one warren is healthy and prosperous because the farmer feeds them while snaring a few a month, so they engage in a lot of magical thinking to pretend that isn’t their fate. But, being here at the college, my life has been pretty good. Are you okay? You look a little down.

Us: I mean, it’s not really about me. I just…have you seen any of the articles about the young Irish woman who was denied a potentially life-saving abortion and then died of sepsis?

Bill: No, I’m an ox.

Us: Sorry. Anyway, it’s made me think about death a lot. And how it’s real, and it’s not just a game of political gotcha. Like, this woman is dead. And we know about her, because she was a dentist and lived in what we call the developed world, but there are probably stories like this in many other countries and many other dead women.

Bill: You just have to keep going. After I lost Lou, I hung out by the gate for a while instead of eating. I’m just an ox, but loss confounds us all. Even when it’s not your loss, you know?

Us: I got an email from a publisher yesterday morning asking if I wanted to interview Emily Rapp about her new book. She wrote this incredible piece about her baby son, Ronan, who’s dying slowly of Tay-Sachs, and now it’s a book. And I wrote back, nicely, and was like “I cannot read this book. I am so, so sorry, and I hope it does well, and that Emily stays strong and emotionally whole, but I am rendered so vulnerable just looking at the cover.”

Bill: Oh, jeez, lady. You need to buck up a little.

Us: I know! My mother refuses to watch “Fargo,” because she’s worried Frances McDormand will lose her baby. And she’s already seen “Fargo,” so she knows that’s not going to happen. And I always thought she was a nut, but now I’m a nut too.

Bill: It’s probably genetic. Maybe they’ll do a bunch of painful experiments on animals and find out for sure.

Us: Ouch.

Bill: Yeah, well, it was supposed to be an interview about me and my loss, so there you go.