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There are places in the world where a woman alone on a street experiences rape just because she is alone on a street. Like a dropped bill or coin, belonging to no-one, free to be pocketed, a woman alone on a street.”

 

Silence.

 

“What’s rape, mommy?”

 

The precocious six-year-old reader in the back seat of the car just picked up your book and opened to a random page. She likes to show off her increasing skills. And she’s good, been reading since age four. You glance at her in the rearview mirror hoping the question goes away. You slow down. Maybe a bird in a tree will distract her. Or a cat on a stone wall. Your foot rides the gas pedal gently.

  

“Mommy, what’s rape?”

   

It’s the season of heartbreak when calves are separated from their mothers. You lie in bed reading, a glass of sage and lemon verbena tea on the table beside you. The cow in the ravine below bellows ’cause her baby’s gone. She can’t understand why and why her bursting udders are being manhandled when she yearns to feel the gentle pink pull of her calf’s mouth.

  

She doesn’t know, and this is good, that her calf is in a village thirty minutes away by truck. That he mews for her as well and has just been fed fresh clover and hay and has solid shelter. He is a fine specimen and the man who bought him has no doubt he’ll become a fine bull. He’ll breed him for a couple of years and then sell him to the butcher, fat and worth a good sum.

  

You close the reading light, put soft foam plugs in your ears, draw a dark silk mask over your eyes, and turn away from the window.

  
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