Snakes and Pills

046 - chair

The last few months had been lean for Joseph. The whole community had suffered, but he had especially felt the pain of the weakened economy. This sleepy mountain community relied on tourists. City slickers who wanted a quick getaway for the weekend.

When everything started going downhill, Joseph watched the stream of visitors dry up from a steady flow to nothing more than a trickle. And then even that trickle evaporated, and nothing at all was left.

Joseph had always planned for a rainy day, and he had socked away some savings for himself and his family to live on. But he had never quite planned on the rainy day lasting for as long as it had. The savings ran out, in due time, and there was no glimmer of hope on the horizon, no turnaround coming behind the next corner.

He thought he was especially unfortunate. Sure, others were in the same boat. Mr. Potter's souvenir stand was perhaps worse off than him, he reckoned. But some of them were better off than others. Better off than him.

The Harvers, for instance. They were farmers, just down the street. Now, sure, they relied on being able to sell their crops at the local farmers market, and the tourists were some of their biggest customers. And they also sold to the grocery store, which sold more to local residents, but when the residents stopped making money, they couldn't afford to spend on groceries, and their business dried up there, too.

But at least, Joseph figured, the Harvers wouldn't starve. Their crops were good, and what they couldn't sell they could survive on.

But Joseph knew in the back of his mind that really he wasn't in such the dire straits that he thought he was. He had options similar to those of the Harvers. These options made his outlook less totally bleak, and he was not actually in the same boat as Mr. Potter, after all.

That didn't make him feel any better about it.

Marcia and the girls were hungry, though. He was hungry. Their pantry was complete barren, and their was but one option left. The kids pleaded with him.

"Please Daddy, we're hungry," they implored. They didn't mention specifically what they were begging for him to do, and he half-believed that perhaps in their youthful innocence, they were just wishing for him to somehow magically make food appear.

His wife, on the other hand, understood the only option they had left, as well, and she knew that the option weighed heavily on her husband's soul. So Marcia didn't say a thing. Her eyes pleaded, though.

Her thinning frame pleaded, as well. It was time to eat. Joseph knew it was true.

Joseph didn't quite run a farm, but at times his business had felt and looked like one. And despite not being a farm, his business provided him with a source of food.

In all his years of owning and operating his petting zoo, he had never brought about the death of one of his animals prematurely. He had never looked at them as sources of direct nourishment. But there had never been times like these, either.

Joseph went out back. It wouldn't be easy, but he knew his animals well and he knew he could do it. The sound of livestock called out from the barn. He thought he might start with one of the sheep first, since he had too many of them already.

Which one, though? He thought it over for a second. The one they called Bradley had always been a bit of a pain, a bit of a nuisance. Never enough of a nuisance to deserve this, Joseph admitted, but again, what other choice did he have?

His family would not starve tonight.


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