124. Bloody Fast Food

Staffy has a shocking limp. He’s hobbling about, wincing and muttering.
I say, “How do, Staffy. Hurt your foot?”
He says, “Aye, Luci. I think I might have broke a bone in it or somethin’. Hurts like Holy Joe Fuck.”
I say, “Maybe you need to rest it. Take some weight off it.”
He says, “You callin’ me a fat cunt?”
I say, “You are a fat cunt, but that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that broken bones need rest or they’ll set all wrong.”
Staffy shrugs. “Aye, but rest don’t pay the fuckin’ mortgage, does it? If I stay at ‘ome, soon enough I don’t have an ‘ome to stay in. Simple as. It’s fuckin’ in’umane, that’s what it is, all this not givin’ no sick pay when you’re sick and that. The gaffers treat us like fuckin’ animals!”
I say, “Aye, they do. How did you hurt your foot, by the way?”
He says, “Stampin’ on a fox.”
I say, “Oh.”
Did I mention that Staffy is a poacher? No? Well, that’s what he is.
There’s been a lot of poachers working in the factory over the years. Don’t know why. They turn up at six in the morning grinning with excitement, carrying heavy bags that drip blood, and before starting work they disappear for an hour to dark hidden corners, to pluck things and cut things and skin things and gut things.
I’ve had the arguments too many times over the years. They never work.
I’m an animal lover, and I don’t mean that I fuck dogs and goats or anything. I mean I like nature. Nature is the opposite of a breeze block wall.
I’ve argued ‘till I’m blue in the face, pleaded with these blokes not to go out badger bating and hare coursing and rabbit trapping and fox twatting.
I’m not going to change them. I’ve tried and I’ve failed.
So what do I do? Sulk? Ignore them?
If I ignored everyone I disagreed with in this factory, I wouldn’t utter a word from sun up to sun down.
I say, “So that fox did something to piss you off, did it?”
Staffy says, “You could say that. The ginger fucker wouldn’t die quickly and quietly, that’s what. Dog were after it, getting a fine chase out of it too, but then dog caught it an’ shook it an’ it started screamin’ an I were worried the farmer would hear so I ran ovver to finish it off wi’ the old size tens, but it had a head like a fuckin’ half charley so I think I brokk me foot.”
I say, “Bit cruel, no?”
Staffy laughs. “Cruel? Fuckin’ cruel? Fox is cruelest bastard out there! Fox’ll kill owt, fuck owt, murder for fun! That’s fox – a right bastard, mark my words. Don’t want fox near your ‘ouse, I tell thee.”
I almost tell him about the eight fox cubs we are feeding in our garden every night, spending a small fortune on dog food, but I don’t want Staffy in our back field with his mates and his dogs and his size tens. I stay quiet.
Staffy says, “You think I’m a right bastard, don’t you, Luci? You think I’m just out killin’ everythin’ I see. Well you’re wrong, y’know. It’s nowt like that. Half o’ the things we go after get away!”
I say, “So you only kill fifty percent of what you see then?”
Now Staffy gets a bit heated, says, “Nah! Ah, fuck it, y’don’t understand. It’s not about killin’ stuff! It’s not. It’s about being… out. Doin’ things ‘They’ say you’re not to do, tellin’ ‘Them’ they can go fuck ‘em sens and going out an’ doin’ ‘em anyway.
“Remember… remember when you were a kid an’ you’d go play places you weren’t meant to go, like quarries an’ rail lines an’ that, and the fun you had were spiced by that fear o’ gettin’ caught? Well, it’s like that, only bigger. Two in the mornin’, freezin’ cold, yer mates in the van wi’ dogs, you climb in wi’ your best dog, an’ then you’re off to fuck knows where! Out into the woods an’ the fields an’ the wilds in the dark o’night, free as owt, where there’s no fuckin’ people an’ no fuckin’ cars, just men wi’ dogs, just like it’s been for thousands o’ years, men wi’ dogs, huntin’ stuff, seein’ what they find, bringin’ stuff home for the pot. That’s what I do, mate. Not just killin’ for fun, but killin’ for food.”
I say, “That fox tasted nice then, eh?”
Staffy grins, shrugs. “Well, maybe we do a bit o’ killin’ for fun. But do you reckon blokes haven’t always done that? Huntin’s in our blood, fella, an’ you can’t deny it. You know what hare coursin’ is? Dogs chasin’ hares? Well I bet you reckon it’s nowt but cruel, but it’s not. Granted, you set a dog on a hare in Summer or Autumn, then dog’ll rip hare to pieces. That’s cruel. But you go coursin’ in the dark o’ January, wi’ a moon right high up covering a bare field in light, then you’ll see sport. Them winter hares, they’re athletes, they are. Fast and fit an’ strong as owt. Can run for miles without tiring.You’ll get a fine old chase out o’ them an’ even you’re quickest whippet’ll have all on to nip the feet of hare in his prime. You wanna see it, y’know. Hare loping an’ turnin’, effortless, dog pantin’ with claws scratching the frost hard earth, ‘ungry for what he’ll never catch, moonlight turning hare white and clouds of breath driftin’ off like smoke… Thing wi’ you lot o’ soft pawed poofters is you’ve never done it. Never tried it. Once you been out an’ killed an’ ‘unted wi’ dogs and wi’ men, then you’d understand.”
I sigh. “I suppose it’s no different to Hemingway.”
Staffy says, “Who?”
I say, “Ernest Hemingway, a writer. He wrote a lot of books about hunting, sport fishing, bull fighting. Basically, just what you were saying. The joy of the hunt, the thrill of the kill, men spending time with other men.”
Staffy, suspicious, says, “Men with other men? You mean he were a…”
I say, “No, he wasn’t a… Think about what you said, being out there with men and dogs. That’s what he meant. Men being… well… manly.”
Staffy nods, says, “Well he sounds alright does that bloke. Maybe I’ll read one of ‘is books one time.”
I say, “I can lend you a copy of…”
Staffy says quickly, “Yer alright, Luci. Truth is I don’t really read if I don’t ‘ave to. Still, he sounds alright… what were ‘is name again?”
“Hemingway. Ernest Hemingway.”
“Yeah, he sounds alright.”
I say, “I’m not agreeing with you though, Staffy. I don’t agree with Hemingway. I just don’t think killing things like that is right. Yeah, I know you eat some of it but a lot of it is killing for fun. I find that weird. Hemingway killed for fun, for the thrill, but that was back then. Things have changed.”
Staffy snorts. “Fuck all’s changed, Luci. You got computers an’ phones an’ Wi fuckin’ Fi fallin’ out of everyone’s fuckin’ arse these days, but nowt’s really changed. Men and dogs haven’t changed. Dogs still like to chase an ‘kill an’ we still like watchin’ ‘em chase an’ kill. That’s how it were, that’s how it is, that’s how it’ll always be.”
I say, “We’ll agree to disagree, mate.”
Staffy winks, “Whatever. Tell you what. You want some venison?”
I don’t say anything.
Staffy says, “We saw a big red deer the other day, me an’ me mate. I let my dog out an’ it went after it. Deer shootin’ off across this field, dog hurtlin’ in hot fuckin’ pursuit. Me an’ me mate were chasing in the motor, headlights bouncin’ all over the shop. Any’ow, dog jumps up, get’s deer by t’neck, almost brings it down. Me mate leaps out o’ the motor, pulls out ‘is knife. I try grab this ‘ere deer but there were legs an’ antlers flyin’ out everywhere, an’ I ‘ad to avoid gettin’ bitten by t’dog, which were going radio fuckin’ rental on this ‘ere deer. So I grabs it an’ quick as owt, me mate cuts it’s throat an’ that were that. Done.”
I say, “Fucking hell! Staffy, that sounds pretty extreme, you know? What the fuck did you do with it?”
“He says, You don’t wanna get caught wi’ owt like that, not wi dogs in the car an’ that. You get properly done! So what we did, we slit the deer open, pulled out it’s engine an’ gearbox and slung ‘em away for the foxes an’ badgers to fight ovver, and shoved the deer under an ‘edge. We went back for it next day, quiet as you like. Wrapped it up, slung it in the boot, then home. Hung it for a week or so in the garage, butchered it when our lass were out. She don’t like the blood, yer see. Or heads. Not keen on heads.”
I say, “I can understand that. Heads are a bit of an acquired taste.”
Staffy eyes me, says, “So, what about it then? You want a few steaks? Straight off a deer’s arse, dragged down by me dog, throat slit by me mate, butchered by yours fuckin’ truly?”
I hold his gaze. I think, ‘a deer that has been run to ground by dogs, terrified, it’s throat slit before being gutted and slung in a bush? Do I want to eat that?’
I shrug. “Put me down for half a dozen steaks.”
Staffy laughs. “Fuckin’ hypocrite! Believe me, it tastes better when you’ve killed it yourself.”
I say, “I’ll have to take your word for that, mate.”

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