By Phyllis Galowitz
There’s a dead grouse lying in the grass about twenty feet from the glass doors in the kitchen. He’s lying on his back, his legs in the air, and his body in perfect condition. He doesn’t seem to have been attacked by a predator. Do grouse get heart attacks and just drop down and die? Maybe he charged into a window and knocked himself out. I’ve seen that happen with other birds. Usually they recover and fly away.
What does one do with a dead grouse? I know it’s edible and a hunter would consider him a prize. Somehow, the thought of picking up this probably still warm bird, plucking his feathers, removing his innards, cleaning and roasting him, is very distasteful to me.
An oven roaster from the supermarket, all cleaned and wrapped in plastic, doesn’t bother me one bit, nor does it bother me to put my hand inside its body to pull out the fat and the little neatly wrapped package of its organs. I wash it, season it, and roast it for dinner, loving every morsel and licking the bones clean.
I’ve seen a chicken, which a minute before, had been prancing around the barnyard, be slaughtered by swinging it around by the head until its neck broke. It then had to have its feathers plucked, its head cut off, and the blood drained before it could be cooked and eaten. It took me a while before I’d eat a chicken after that.
Half of my family is vegetarian, for various humanitarian reasons. Even though I love vegetarian meals, and for health reasons prepare them at least twice a week, I must admit, I enjoy a good steak now and then. I love having chicken, whether broiled, sautéed, or roasted, as well as cooked and uncooked fish of all kinds; I never give a thought to the living thing these items once were. They all come to my kitchen neatly packaged, not resembling in any way their former selves; therefore they’re no more heart wrenching than a green bean.
But there lies the grouse, a beautiful bird, perfectly formed and gorgeously feathered. I can’t touch him. I wish a predator would come along and whisk him away somewhere where I won’t see him and do what ever predators do. We’ll have pasta for dinner.
P.S. During the night, I awoke to a terrible odor in the house. I couldn’t imagine what caused it: was it the uncovered garbage under the kitchen sink, or perhaps the rotting compost, waiting for the backyard to dry up so that I could empty it into the bin?
This morning the grouse was gone! There’s not a shred of evidence left that it had ever been there. The only thing that remains is the memory and the lingering smell. Was it a skunk finding a good dinner? Do skunks, in fact, eat grouse? Would he have emitted that terrible smell in thanks? We’ll never know. ~