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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 30 page 17

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So before long your dad’s got him interested in one of the other bulls that you had picked out for one of your repeat customers. What can you do now, that bull isn’t sold exactly and it goes back to the old bird in the hand is worth two in the bush but you’re trying to do something else that your father always says is important and that is to hang on to what business you’ve already got instead of trying to find new customers all the time.

Then the stranger is asking about having the bull tested and, besides that hurdle of the vet’s assessment, the sale seems to be made. It’s your dad who done it and he’s got that cat that ate the canary look on his face. And what can you do but invite the stranger up to the house for a coffee and to complete the sale, show him the registration and pedigrees on his new herd sire. Your dad of course is going to come along, but then he surprises you by saying he’s going to spend some time here in the pen. It never hurts to keep them used to people, he tells the both of you, but that might not be the reason he’s holding back, it could be that he’s giving you some space here but that’s not like him to give into that subtle notion and wasn’t that something that he should have done before it became an issue between you and your wife at the time.

You’ve got the coffee poured and apologized for the bachelor housekeeping and the stranger is looking at the registration of the bull he’s buying when he brings up how his own son, someone your age, is going through a divorce too and how the whole thing might bring their farm to its knees. Your dad, he tells you, is fortunate if that isn’t happening here and you wonder at the stranger’s balls to be discussing such a personal subject but when you think of calling him up short on his nosiness you remember that he’s just here to buy a bull and you don’t want to scare him off and what can you say to answer him but to steer him off the subject at the same time. So you say you have to hand it to your wife she was pretty reasonable and you bought her a house somewhere and that was all she asked and your difficulties in making the payments on that loan are none of his business so you don’t mention that and if worse comes to worse you have a quarter that is free and clear and you could sell it if you had to. Then you shift the subject to his herd and you find he has a couple hundred cows and this bull he’s buying being only a yearling will be in charge of clean-up while his main bulls that are four and six years old will be doing most of the work.

Then just because it’s been a long time since you had a woman, not since that hitchhiker that eventually you were glad to see the back end of her going down the driveway because it seemed after a while that she was a bit crazy and because the bull’s work is mounting cows and breeding them you suddenly feel a little crazy yourself. What are you doing out here stuck with your old man across the road telling you what to do and spending all your days looking after cattle and even your outings are to cattle shows and auctions and where the hell are you going to meet any women. You wonder what the stranger’s former daughter-in-law looks like and you wonder how you can ask that and get away with it. So you don’t. But you ask if the stranger has any other family except the son who’s in the same boat as you with his divorce and he tells you he’s got an unmarried daughter who is in the real estate business and he whips out her card and says you should keep it, you never know when someone might need a realtor and it’s like the cattle business sometimes word of mouth is the best form of advertising and the whole thing sets off a chain of thoughts in your head like that is the answer although you don’t know if you’d follow through on it but you tuck the card into your pocket and think what the hell you’re going to give her a call ’cuz maybe you’ll talk to her about listing the farm and even if you don’t know if you are serious you might as well explore your options and wouldn’t that set the old man on his heels? Then you say your goodbyes to the stranger with a handshake and maybe he should think about that first bull for use with his mature cows and he says he might just do that and you start your lunch, you bring the card back out and think if nothing else it’s a way to meet women. The notion of selling out, of letting the land go, and having a herd dispersal is just the ticket to you feeling better than you have for months now. Maybe you’ll take up real estate yourself, you think as you grill the other side of your cheese sandwich, and you make a joke: real estate, now there’s a place where knowing how to sell bull would come in handy.