Parts of a Cow

Second Place in the 2022 Food-Writing Flash Contest


To keep eight-year-old Lucy quiet, her father treated her to a fancy dinner after he taught her to fly his Cessna. Prime rib. He took a bite, closing his eyes. “Sweet Mary Mother of Jesus. Lulu, the only thing missing is that crusty end piece.”


Even in the many crappy rentals with broken blinds, they celebrated special occasions with a roast. No prime rib, but Lucy’s mother browned cheap cuts, roasted on low heat, creating that crunchy end piece. Her father’s competitions determine who won it. “Our limericks are better than Lucy’s,” her younger brothers whined.


The last Christmas before her college degree. Unaffordable prime rib roasting. But Lucy insisted this Christmas be better than last. Her father had never disappeared for this long. While her mother and brothers walked in the crisp December air, she lay down, exhausted. The scholarship helped, but she worked two jobs to assist her family. A noise. She got up. There in the kitchen. Her father. Leaning into the oven, slicing off the coveted end piece. “You son of a bitch,” she said. She grabbed the carving knife. He closed the oven door, holding his hands up. “Lulu?” he said. She touched his chest with the knife. He didn’t defend himself. The only thing that prevented her from stabbing him was a flash of the women’s prison scene from that 40s movie.


The year of the fancy house—three fireplaces, an infinity pool, Sunday prime rib—FBI agents came looking for her father, who’d been away. Her mother and her worried eyes weren’t home. Why couldn’t she be happy they were living high on the hog? The agents were interested in his Cessna. “What kind of work does he do?” “Something with clients,” she answered.


In kindergarten, she learned to diagram a cow, labeling every cut of beef, from chuck and brisket to rump, round, and shank. When her father asked about her favorite cut, she shouted “rump,” giggling; she knew a rib roast was the most tender. “Rump?” he said. “Now really. You know better, Lulu.” And he made a funny face and swung her, merry-go-round fast.


“More red!” shouted her father, as Lucy and her brothers drew on the walls. The third time they’d had to leave home in the middle of the night because of back rent. The first time he’d asked them to art the walls. Lucy felt drowsy after the prime rib goodbye dinner. Her brothers drew monsters; she drew stars. Her mother, who had been quietly crying and packing, her mother whom Lucy had never seen draw, was suddenly standing beside her with colored pencils. “We need a nebula,” said her mother, lifting a blue pencil to the wall. She drew with great skill, with glorious abandon, blending colors, creating a cloud of gas and dust with a sprinkle of silver stars.

“This is a whirlpool nebula,” she said, pointing. “Hydrogen, helium, nitrogen, oxygen.” And the blues, greens, and reds glowed—buoyant, reckless.

Claudia Monpere
Claudia Monpere

Claudia Monpere lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her fiction, CNF, and poetry appear in SmokeLong Quarterly, The Forge, The Kenyon Review, River Teeth, The Cincinnati Review, New Ohio Review, and elsewhere. She’s a recipient of a Hedgebrook residency and the Georgetown Review Fiction Award. She tweets @ClaudiaMonpere.