“What would make a man massacre a herd of cattle?” Marko thinks to himself as he walks around the crater, screwing his narrow eyes to make out bits of flesh and bone in dispersed puddles of blood. Tears flow down his sunken cheeks. He wipes them and blames the wind for making his eyes burn and his skin red.
“I was a little boy, still mute and grimy, when our friendship started. A proud shepherd from Javor, but a grain of salt compared to the majestic flowers of God I was. They looked after me more than I looked after them. I talked and they listened; they gave and I took from them. We socialized like that for seventy long years. There is not a single memory in my faded brow that doesn’t have one of them mooing in the middle of it.”
Marko reaches down and picks up a dented cowbell. Sweet Wandering Milava wore it around her neck. With his thumbs he picks out the maroon dirt lodged inside it and then gently places the bell in his pocket. He sighs, cracks his knuckles to steady the hand tremors, stabilizes his footing and tries to take a proper breath.
“I remember father telling me that two of ours were struck by lightning on the day of my birth, and I remember when three in the neighboring village broke their legs and drowned in Uvac; from time to time a starved beast has tried his luck with my dogs… . But massacring helpless cattle? Only a two-legged beast is capable of such wickedness.”
“They are buzzing in the skies again Marko!” Marko’s wife Jelena yells out, leaning out of the window on the second floor of their stone house built up out of river rock.
“Let them!” Marko shouts back. His voice is husky and cracked. “If the wind blows right, they’ll buzz straight to hell.”
He kneels, picks up a bronze clapper of another bell, a split hoof and a patch of skin. Jelena approaches her husband in tentative steps and informs him that boiled potatoes are waiting for him on the table.
“When you are with them your whole life,” whispers Marko, “you start to love them. It’s different with them than it is with people. Sometimes you shake a man’s hand and you already know he is a rascal. Observe a priest when he is not performing and you’ll find out that he, too, is a crook. I have seen a stubborn cow or two in my day, but I dare anyone to find a single scoundrel among them.”