I am a boy. I am John Walgreens, and when I was eight years old, a strong mama cow wandered onto my family’s property. I can remember being in my backyard when she first arrived. It was mid-August in Illinois and the sun was setting. I was tearing around the hillier portions of the yard, chasing bats and screaming to them that they were bats and that I was John Walgreens.
Having grown accustomed to the screeching -even beginning to crave it in some way- it was horribly alarming to hear amid the usual clatter, the sudden, questioning tones of a matronly cow lowing. I stopped moving and gaped at the cow. To my surprise, my body was already moving closer toward her. The final shade of night having already lowered, the bats soon dispersed, leaving just the cow and I to revel in twilight.
“I am John Walgreens,” I told her truthfully, “I am a boy.”
For the next three months, I camped in my backyard, using the cow’s impressively stable structure as protection from the elements. Lying beneath her on the cool summer grass, I was a boy, and I was alive.
But the world is too rank a place to allow too long an enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures. When my father discovered me innocently using the cow’s udder sac as a pillow for my face, it was the end of an era- perhaps the greatest era of my life. As John Walgreens.
It was in the brutish tradition of simple, hard-working people that he sent her away from me. Of course he suspected foul play- bestiality, the plague of our forefathers and dark secret of his homespun heart. And so, by year’s end, my father had sold my childhood home, the land it lay upon, and the cow.
Many a night, I toss and turn in my perfectly comfortable bed. No matter the combination of opiates and elixers, my mind falls short of the balmy, restful sleep that swept over me when I lay beneath my bovine tent. With my face against her puckered, musty skin, I stared straight into an endless black sky. In the late night hours, stars would appear, stray white droplets speckling a dark stretch of canvas. Lying still, lightheaded between earth and cow, I drank in the night and breathed a slow sigh.
I am a boy. I am John Walgreens, and I miss my cow.