A farmer stood in the center of a field that was really no field at all with his hands in his pockets. Close to him lay a bawling cow half covered in dust. It had no muscles, no fat. The noises it made were abnormal, sort of muffled and pinched, as if scores of insects were crawling across the sound. We had left the Ford at the edge of the road, two wheels inching off into the dirt, the car’s original metallic gloss long blasted to a scratched and cloudy rust. The car didn’t seem to fit and didn’t seem to belong, certainly not in a desert, and my father had often lamented his purchase and cursed the man from whom he had indirectly purchased it: Henry Ford, the capitalist. My mother had said that she thought that however horrific a man he might be, he certainly made a car good enough for my father to drive every day. She said it hoping to get a rise out of him, but failed, as she inevitably did, for he had by that point stopped even listening to her. She would just leave us, retreat into the tiny bedroom, and lie quietly on the bent, sunken mattress in her blotched dress, her throat heaving heavily in the heat. We could hear it through the thin walls.
The farmer did not see us at first as we walked toward him. The cow had stopped moving. My father stopped too. “Look there,” he said.
“What,” I said.
“It’s a waste. He should’ve called me earlier. It’s too late. I can see what’s happened already. See there? The thing can’t even stand up. Starvation. Maybe encephalopathy. It’s finished. But he still thinks it might survive. So. Our job now isn’t to save it. Our job is to let him know the truth about it. I’m sure the stomachs, everything, they’re all filled up with dust. The lining’ll be dried out, worthless. The spiders are probably already at it. But we’ll let him know. Okay?”