Flash Narrative: Oliver’s Intuition

Flash Narratives are a way to share my current work in progress, a book based on the Great Plains diaries of my great-aunt Hattie, which she kept from 1920-1957. For more flash narratives, go here. A big thank you to everyone who has watched last week’s Flash Narrative video!

April 25,1930: Oliver’s Intuition

1921 drawing of Hampshire Hog

The air is pregnant with steam from pots of boiling water on the cookstove and rain through the open kitchen door and the heavy stench of it all. I fight the urge to gag. Talking helps.

“Louise thinks it will be a boy,” I say, “but I hope it’s a girl.”

Nell nods as she squeezes the innards from the intestines. She places the emptied tube in front of her and scrapes it flat with the back of her butcher knife. She scrapes again and again until the casing is clean and raw and pink, ready to be filled tomorrow with ground fresh sausage meat.

We work on the floor, the broken dining room table with its collapsed leg pushed to the corner. What did the men expect, throwing a 400-pound hog on the table as they did! Nell works steadily. I look at the head with its gaping mouth and dead eyes. “The chicks are hatching,” I say.

“I saw two of them this morning,” she says with a smile. She sets aside the raw casings, and, together, we pull the bucket to the center of the floor and heave the head out and onto the linoleum.

There is no word for as all in as I am. At this moment I would be happy never again to take care of a hog to cure for the upcoming hot weather months.

I remember that we had named him Oliver—I don’t remember if there was a reason—and he seemed to know this morning that something wasn’t right.

Click for larger Images

Hattie’s entries for April 23-25, 1930:

April 1930 Entries

“Sausage and Head Cheese”
From the The Wyoming Farm Bullet
The Agricultural College and Experiment Station of the University of Wyoming
December 1914 (click on image for larger view):

8 thoughts on “Flash Narrative: Oliver’s Intuition

  1. Though I never seen the process with my own eye, I know this is how it works out. However, I don’t think I could ever bring myself to do what Hattie just did, especially after I named it. Well, maybe in another time I could have, I’m not sure. Your great-aunt Hattie had to have a strong stomach. 🙂

  2. Beautifully written piece with a perfect, prologue-y title to play on the “twist” at the end. Your vivid description puts me right there in Hattie’s April 1930 kitchen, and the two women’s conversation adds a dimension that really captures the moment. I love your flash narratives!

  3. Thank you so much, everyone! I’m not sure I would have been able to do it, either, but who knows? In a different time, with different expectations… that’s part of the intrigue of history and historical fiction, I guess. Originally I wrote the piece without the conversation, but it needed a little something to show the disconnect between Hattie’s sensibilities and the physical nature of what she was doing.

    Poor Oliver, indeed.

    • Thanks, Christi! The last line is nearly word-for-word from Hattie’s entry about another day of hog butchering. Amazing.

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