MEMBER OF THE HERD • by Guy Anthony De Marco

They’re coming for one of us.

Burt leaned on his hay fork and looked at his girls, neatly lined up along the two strands of barb-wire fence. He pulled a thin red bandanna out of his Carhartt overalls, inspected it until he found a clean spot, and wiped dirt from around his eyes. “Okay, Girls, you’re all acting strange. What’s the matter?”

The Herefords broke rank and surrounded Burt, slime-covered noses probing his hands. A few licked his fingers with broad curling tongues, and he laughed.

“Sorry, no snacks until after you’re milked.” Several of the cows tilted their heads, looking like half-ton Labradors. Burt scratched their noses and shooed away the bottle flies.

“Time to get some udder relief.” Three of the younger cows crowded the chute leading into the milking barn, but the rest lingered, surrounding an old milker named Glenda.

They’re coming for one of us.

Burt stopped trying to sort the eager cows and turned towards the herd, his head tilted, one bushy eyebrow raised, not realizing he was imitating their peculiar behavior. “You girls trying to tell me something?”

“Yo, Milkman!”

Burt jumped backwards, dropping the hay fork.

“You okay? Didn’t mean to startle you.” Dean, the owner, hopped over the corral gate leading to the pasture.

Burt blushed and picked up the hay fork. “Sorry, Boss, I guess I was lost in thought.”

Dean clapped him on the back. “I don’t pay you to think, old man.” The laugh lines around his eyes bunched up as he smiled; he liked teasing Burt when they talked. “How are the girls doing today? You pick one out to marry yet?”

Burt shook his head, “Nope, I haven’t. I can’t afford the dowry anyway, not on your wages.”

“We’re paying you? I need to check with accounting.”

They stood together, watching the cows watching them, when Dean’s demeanor changed. “We need to cull Glenda.”

The herd crowded tighter around the old cow, who burped up an extra-large lump of cud. Her grizzled head turned to the left, and she stared at Burt with her one good eye.

“I know you like Glenda, but it’s her time. I’ve sent for Sam to take her to the butcher.”

Burt nodded, and was surprised to discover his eyes watering. “Yeah, I guess we all knew it was coming sooner or later.”

“Okay, then. Go ahead and get the girls going on the milking machine.” Dean didn’t look at Burt’s face, out of respect to the old man’s feelings. He patted Burt’s shoulder, and left through the pasture gate.

“Stupid old git, I can’t believe you’re bawling over walking hamburger.” Sam, who had been eavesdropping, limped through the milking barn door with his hand on an old six-shooter tucked into his belt, scattering the three young cows from the entry chute with a string of curses. “You people make me sick.”

Burt could see the contempt and gleam of cruel death on Sam’s face as he sized up Glenda. “She looks a bit like the bull that gored me. I’m gonna enjoy this one.”

He began to push his way through the herd, smacking the offended cows’ noses when they refused to move. When he reached Glenda, she stood calm and proud.

“I’m sorry, old girl,” Burt whispered.

It’s fine, she seemed to say, that’s life. She broke eye contact to give one last glance at her numerous daughters. They mooed goodbye in unison.

Sam scowled and kicked at the cow. Burt heard the distinct sound of leg bones breaking. Glenda went down fast, mooing in agony. Before he realized what he was doing, Burt lunged at Sam, swinging the hay fork in a wide arc. It caught Sam on his jaw, knocking him backwards while he spit out some of his remaining brown teeth.

Burt looked down and saw Sam’s revolver. He picked it up, aimed carefully, and fired one shot.

Glenda exhaled, the spark leaving her eye as she passed on. Burt tossed the gun at Sam’s feet.

“You’re done here, Sam. I’ll make sure Dean fires you.” The herd crowded around Burt and bumped him towards the milking barn.

They’re coming for one of us.

Burt, still fuming, tried to direct the cows into their milking stalls, but they kept nosing him. “I know girls, but Glenda is gone, and I don’t have any snacks.”

They’re coming for one of us.

Burt couldn’t get the cows to move. He didn’t notice Sam’s silhouette by the door, pistol in hand.

Guy Anthony De Marco resides on a ranch surrounded by zombies and cattle. His kids enjoy burning voodoo dolls, and his wife puts up with the zombies because the view is wonderful off the back porch. Guy attempts to maintain a website at when the demons let him out of his cage.

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Every Day Fiction