I was such a tough kid all the cattle would stop by our house to chew on me. They’d ring the doorbell, or they’d wait for me as I was walking home from school. Their hot breath, their sad eyes as my salt taste filled their mouths.
My mother, unlike all the other mothers, watched. I didn’t complain, but neither did my brothers or sisters, who I had beaten up mercilessly. “Serves you right,” each of them said, when they weren’t busy petting the cows. So each day the cattle chewed and chewed, but in their mouths I stayed whole.
It took such a long time to become gentle.
Hugh Behm-Steinberg’s prose can be found in The Fabulist, Joyland, Vestal Review and Gigantic. His short story “Taylor Swift” won the 2015 Barthelme Prize from Gulf Coast. He is a member of the non-ranked faculty collective bargaining team at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he edits the journal Eleven Eleven.
You can see more of Hugh's work in issues 5.2 and 2.4 and 1.1