Stories

Eckstein’s Duck

Longlisted for the Quiet Man Dave Flash Fiction Prize, Oct 2020 https://www.mmu.ac.uk/qmdprize/finalists-and-winners/

It was Eckstein’s idea, the duck. Who’d miss it? Sure, when it was alive it had golden feathers and a long, sad call. I certainly had nothing against it. But dead it was meat, chestnut-sweet and pink on the plate. Eckstein said all the animals would end up in the abattoir ‘We’re closed. Closed forever. What can we do?’ He had a point. Reinhold only noticed our slow slaughter when it was too late and by then we couldn’t stop.

There were plenty of geese and seals and crocodiles in our little zoo. State subsidy at an end we, like the animals, were doomed. Instagram, Netflix, cruises, porn – they all did for us. I suppose some of the birds might have found new homes, but the rest, the mammals, the snakes, the startling, fluorescent frogs were always destined for the slaughterhouse. 

‘Let’s make ourselves a little money on the side’ said Eckstein. I couldn’t disagree. His bleak blue eyes always made me dance to their tune. If I resisted, small flecks of spittle would bubble up in the corners of his mouth, and then there’d be trouble for me – you can’t imagine what trouble.

Crocodile meat tasted like salted chicken, but marmoset, mongoose and wombat were not to my liking. Alive they were so many mouths to feed and their dull snouts and rainbow smells tumbled and blurred into a howl of unquenchable hunger. Yet dead they seemed suddenly distinct; their pelts like so many flags fluttering over a mountain tomb, their dreams alive again, entering my bloodstream, insistent and feverish.  

We did not eat Reinhold, but you will understand when I say that we could not leave him uneaten. 

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