David McLendon


Strings of waste and what appeared to be blood dripped from the backside of the animal. Something moved from inside the liquid and disappeared among the strings. I propped the animal on its back against the ground. I placed my blade against its body. I made a cut from the skin above the genitals to where the blade touched the base of the ribs. I was careful to cut through only the hide and stomach muscle. Otherwise I might have easily opened out the intestines and freed the foulest of odors into the air. I slanted my blade from against the sternum and cut upward through a number of ribs. This made it easier to reach into the chest. I propped the animal on its side and allowed the guts to fall out. I cut away the fat that held the intestines. Most of the fat was in the upper cavity near the spine. I removed my arm from inside the body. I cut around the anus of the animal and tied off the sphincter with a length of string. I held my blade with the handle placed outward and returned my arm into the cavity. I reached to where the cavity narrowed down along the hips. I turned my blade outward with much care so not to puncture or break the bladder. From across the bladder something crawled across my arm. The animal was tainted from its insides with parasites. The meat of the animal would likely kill the families before their plates were fully cleared. I tried picturing the faces of my family among those who ate weeping or in silence before being led out into the garden for the saying of a final prayer. I recalled the touch of my father’s hand and nothing more. I shook myself from such thoughts and cleaved deeper into the body. I cut backwise and forth along the wall of abdominal cavity. Again I was careful of the bladder. I was careful not to empty any droppings or urine before the bladder was expelled from the body. I touched against the diaphragm at where it separates the lungs and heart from the stomach and intestines. I cut upward from against it and reached with my other arm as far into the chest as possible and took hold of the esophagus. With my free hand I slid my blade into the chest and worked it upward. I cut the esophagus from above the grip of my other hand. I pulled at the heart and lungs and the intestines fell out from behind them. I lifted out my arms and stood alongside the body. I said a prayer for the families. I said a prayer for the animal. I dragged the body out from the woods to where the woods became a road. I kept to the shoulder. The sound of the body against the ground kept me company. It became one sound then another. By the time I reached the village it was every sound I’d ever known.

David McLendon is an Edward F. Albee Foundation Fellow. He is the founder and editor of Unsaid. "Orison" is from a work in progress.


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  2. A skinner is a skinner is a skinner for the sake of description, no more.