Though it was a long time ago and the intervening years have not been kind to my memories (incarceration tends to do that to you), lately I’ve been thinking a lot about animal crackers.
I’m not even sure they make them anymore—of course, they don’t, but I mean just a little bit ago, before the war reduced everything to hardtack and rubble—but in my childhood, for my brother and me, they were a regular staple of those weekends where my father had custody of us.
Mother, you see, ate no meat or animal by-products, proudly proclaiming herself to be civilized, that is to say, a vegan—to which, pre-divorce, my father’s response was always, “Me, I’m Terran. I come from Earth. I eat meat.” Nevertheless, despite his own preferences, he allowed our mother to control what we put into our mouths not only while we were still a family unit, but thanks to high
powered lawyers and an iron-clad divorce agreement, after as well, threatening to further limit his access to us should he dare to breach her version of kashrut. Hence Damon and I were never to taste meat until our rebellious teenage years.
But what we did eat on those alternate weekends were fistfuls of animal crackers: small beast-shaped cookies that came in brightly-colored cardboard boxes painted to resemble circus wagons and mostly of the megafaunal variety that were seldom seen outside zoo gardens anymore: lions, elephants, tigers, giraffes, zebras—“bush meat,” as my father called it, “if forged by the hand of man, and not quite as tasty as a steak or Mcburger, and ground from the bones of wheat and cane. Nevertheless: still animals. Enjoy, my sons—this is your heritage. The legacy of Carnivore rex, and in all likelihood what led us from the grasslands of Eden.”
And enjoy we did, but in the manner of children—I doubt we were older than five—taking out the various beasts, prancing them about in the modern jungle of Dad’s apartment, making animal noises, then to gust-smacking delight, popping the small critters into our mouths, although we were just as often prone to taking tiny nibbles first—if not chewing off the heads, then reducing them to leglessness.
But then came the real cookie bakers. Not from Alpha Lyrae or some other offworld New Eden where “lower” life-forms were never eaten, but from Aldebaran, where gastronomy, taking a back seat to neither science nor religion, was held in the highest regard, having been the basis of several major political and theosophical movements.
Hence their eucharistic alchemy in the kitchen, their grail of sauces and accompaniments—today, actually, a ripened tallow whose provenance is probably best not speculated upon and which now coats today’s entrées, myself included.
Already a number of feasters have gathered.
Soon the dinner bell will ring.
Smelling myself, I have no doubt what will happen next.
If they do not bite off my head first, I am likely to scream long and hard—but not for my mother.