Wednesday, August 09, 2017

HEART OF THE TOFUDEBEEST



This whole thing started because my wife has a friend who is a vegetarian. When she mentioned eating tofu, I immediately thought of and dredged up this great old Far Side cartoon about the “tofudebeest.” From then on, both of them have always referred to tofu as tofudebeest and, as things escalated, the girls decided I needed to write a story about the difficult and dangerous hunt of the legendary tofudebeest.


 After doing a little research, I was surprised to find that this had already been done by none other than that he-man writer, passionate hunter and just plain manly man…you gotta love a guy who takes along his own personal Thompson submachine gun to go shark fishing…Ernest Hemingway. So here, without further ado, is…


Ernest Hemingway’s
Heart of the Tofudebeest



He was an old man who hunted alone on foot across the Great Plains and he had gone eighty four days now without taking a shot. In the first forty days a boy had been with him. But after forty days without a shot the boy’s parents had told him that the old man was now definitely and finally salao, which is the worst form of unlucky, and the boy had gone at their orders.
          But now, on the eighty fifth day, he was close. Closer than he had ever been before. He had followed the spoor, mostly tracks, but now and then a gelatinous blob of festering curd marked where the tofudebeest had relieved itself. The tracks were fresh. Fresher than he had ever seen. The old man paused to kneel by one. The wind carried the first stray grain of dust into the otherwise perfect imprint. The old man knew he was close.
          So he followed the spoor until it grew too dark to see. The tofudebeest would bed down for the night as well. But not before it circled around on its backtrail and sniffed the air. Only then would it find a high, prominent point to bed down warily upon. A point that would offer a clear view of any pursuers. The wily tofudebeest were not considered the most elusive of the North American game animals for no reason. Or the most dangerous.
The old man made a dry camp beneath the bare limbs of a lone, stunted juniper beneath the rimrock. He had no food. Taking the cork from the neck of his big round canteen, the old man tilted it back to his chapped lips. Only the faintest trickle of blood warm water emerged, a few drops.
          The next morning, the sunrise was red as blood as the light spread across the jagged hilltops to the east. He swallowed hard against the dryness of his tongue and the stickiness in his throat. On the ground, he found a small, smooth pebble. He put it into his mouth and summoned the salvia to suck on it. It would, perhaps, distract him from his thirst. He rolled the pebble over with his tongue and clicked it against his teeth.
          The nearness of his quarry, the closeness of it, gave the old man the strength to continue his long pursuit. Today would be the day. The old man could feel it in his gut, he simply knew, he could somehow tell. Today the old man and the tofudebeest would finally meet and find their rendezvous with destiny, and only one could hope to walk away.
          The spoor remained tantalizingly fresh. As the old man followed it up the broken rimrock of the breaks, he heard a soft noise ahead, and glanced up in time to see the last flick of the tofudebeest’s tail as it darted over the ledge above. The old man scrambled over the shelf of weathered sandstone as best he could.
          There, on the very edge of the cliff, crouched low with its belly flat against the ground in the last of the tall grass, lay the tofudebeest. Its ears were laid back, its eyes narrow but alive with fire. The only movement came from the nervous twitch at the very end of its tail. Then a tremor shivered across one half of an upper lip. The eyes narrowed further. It was about to charge, and the old man knew the most dangerous thing in the world was a trapped tofudebeest preparing to charge.
          The only warning was the lips curling back to reveal the deadly set of smooth, slimy gums as the beast sprang into action. One moment it had been perfectly still. The next it was in full charge, coming for the old man hard and fast. Its fearsome cry echoed across the landscape. It was running hard so that the old man could see the pads of its rear feet as it dug in, like a charging grizzly.  
          The old man carried his rifle ready. In an instant he raised it to his shoulder, but he was an old man, and his movements seemed slow, as if he were moving underwater. Perhaps too slow. Tofudebeesties were known for their lightning speed as much as their ferocity. The old man briefly wondered if this would be his last hunt.
          But then the ivory bead of the front sight was aligned on the chest of the charging tofudebeest as if of its own volition. The old man squeezed the trigger. The big Jeffries double roared as loud as the tofudebeest, but in that moment of fast approaching peril the old man noticed neither the blast nor the ferocious recoil.
The old man had taken the advice of another old white hunter, to whit, “Use enough gun.” The .600 Nitro Express was enough gun. The 900-grain solid hit the tofudebeest square and full in the chest. The sound of the impact was watery and mushy, like a ping pong paddle whacking a big blob of jello. The tofudebeest’s front legs became lifeless and the beast skidded to a halt in a cloud of dust. The body came to rest not three inches from the toes of the old man’s boots.
          The smell of coagulating soy milk and mushy bean curds rose into the air. Buzzards that would have hovered over another kill flapped away hastily in the opposite direction. A coyote whined, pawing at his nose and rubbing it in the dirt. A half a mile away, an adult boar grizzly raised his broad, dished face and tested with wind with wet, black nostrils. With a snort, he too made tracks for the nearest horizon as fast as his legs would carry him.
          After taking a moment to reload the Jeffries, the old man began field dressing his kill, removing the innards of rotten milk. If you didn’t open up and start a tofudebeest cooling down immediately, it would go bad quickly. Not that the old man, nor any other human being for that matter, could actually tell when a tofudebeest went bad. Field dressing was not the chore the old man had thought it would be, for he could use a plastic spatula instead of his Nova Scotian Dean Russell belt knife. Later, when he returned to camp, he would cut it up into delicious hams and tenderloins and roasts and backstraps and briskets.
And it would be good for him, too. What, after all, could be better than soybeans? Genetically modified Monsanto Roundup Ready Soybeans®? With both water and a coagulant, the tofudebeest flesh would provide a tiny fraction of the protein his body needed, as well as a passel of anti-nutrients like lectins and saponins, oxalates, protease inhibitors and Phytates.
And the flatulence. Ah, sweet flatulence.
          He could not wait. Knowing that the natives who had originally inhabited this land often ate the heart of their kill to give thanks to the animal’s spirit and to gain its strength and bravery, he searched through the festering sea of curds until he found the heart of the tofudebeest.
The old man raised his lined face to the sun, bit off a piece of his long-sought prize, and savored it on his tongue. It was white and mushy, almost gelatinous, like snot, and apparently had no actual taste of its own whatsoever.
          “BLECH!”
The old man spat it out. For a moment, he thought of his old hunting dog, Macomber, now dead and gone these long five seasons past. Now, at last, he finally understood Macomber. The dog could lick his own asshole, and probably did so to get such tastes out of his mouth. No wonder Macomber never liked to hunt tofudebeest with him. And to think, the old man had intended to go on a hummuslope hunt next.
“Fuck that,” said the old man. “I’m going to go get a bacon double cheeseburger.”

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