~Meniscus Archives~

Spring 2004
Issue #3

February - April 2004

Sex, Not Just for Teenagers
Mr. Ruggles

Like No Other Time, by Tom Daschle
A review
by Kristi Spurrier

Maintaining Spirituality in the Void We Call America
Mr. Ruggles
Libra Seeking Balance
Melissa Bator
What 2004 Means to Me
The Tonic
Bush's Capitalism: 21st Century Entropy
Jon Heinrich
Don't Think Twice,
It's Alright

Mike Kirkpatrick
Cows in the Road
Dan Berthiaume
Love, at 100
Pete Pidgeon
Summer's Freckles
Wes Ratko
Not a Love Story
Sarah Erdreich
Miami New Years
Team Meniscus
Tuckerman Ravine
Jon Heinrich
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival: Ten tips for a successful Jazzfest
Chrystie Hopkins
Meniscus New Years Picks
Bootyjuice is a Band
Derek Gumuchian
One Double Grande Instrumental, Please (Hold the Flavored Syrup):
A Review of
Self-Titled Debut

Brian Gagné
Show Review:
Vida Blue, 1/3/04
Jackie Gleason Theatre, Miami, FL

Jon Heinrich
CD Review:
Spaceship Integration
Live From Nowhere

CD Review:
The Recipe
All You Can Eat
Love Is...
-Ryan Collins
Traded for Monkeys,
Livid [In Tall Grass]
What a Calamity!

-Brian Gagné
Meniscus Premier Launch Party
Zeitgeist Gallery
Cambridge, Massachusetts
August 14, 2003

Metro Saturdays hosts
Meniscus Portland Launch
Sky Bar @ The Roxy
Portland, Maine
August 30, 2003

State of the Art
Lounge Ten
Boston, Massachussets
October 23, 2003


Cows in the Road

Dan Berthiaume
Published 2/14/04


The winding back road, which Bob had determined was the only kind of road in Jeffries, Massachusetts, was suddenly occupied by a thin, discolored cow. This must be the place, Bob said to himself as he slammed the brakes.

The Nissan sedan shuddered to a halt mere inches from the cow, whose only response was a long-lashed blink. Bob backed the car up about 10 feet to a small clearing on the shoulder of the road and parked. Stepping out of the car with a notebook and camera, he snapped a photo of the cow.

Hesitantly, Bob crept around the cow, moving slowly so as not to spook it. In the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston where he grew up, raccoons had qualified as rare wildlife. Bob therefore decided to be safe rather than sorry in this unfamiliar situation, though he doubted cows posed much threat.

Having made it past the cow without challenge, Bob continued walking along the side of the road. No other people or cars were in sight, although he could hear birds chirping in the deep woods that surrounded the road on both sides. After walking about 100 yards, he noticed the woods started thinning and a few houses began dotting the landscape. A little further up the road on the right hand side, Bob came across what appeared to be the remains of a small farm.

Ramshackle wire fencing surrounded a wide yard full of grass that stood close to a foot high, except in ragged patches that Bob assumed were chewed by a goat he saw pacing back and forth against the fencing. A few hens sat on top of the rusted shell of a Buick Skylark that had apparently been parked in the yard many years earlier. Bob snapped more photos.

The house itself, made of decaying brown wood flecked with red paint, did not look to be in much better shape than the Buick. Noticing a crooked path of cracked flagstones leading from a narrow, ungated opening in the fence to the front porch, Bob carefully approached the house, watching the goat from the corner of his eye. As opposed to cows, he was almost positive goats could be dangerous.

Bob rapped on the front door with his fist, deciding the rusted knocker would not withstand any further usage. A miserable-looking boy of about 16, dressed in an oversized black Harley Davidson T-shirt and jeans faded of all color, answered.

“Hi, I’m Bob McCarthy from the Jeffries Town Crier,” said Bob, extending his right hand. “Is Henry Winston available?”

“Senior or Junior?” asked the boy, avoiding eye contact.

“Probably Senior,” said Bob, casually lowering his untouched hand.

The boy opened the door a crack and motioned with one finger. Bob slipped through into a sparsely decorated living room. A sickly man who looked to be in his mid-fifties lay on a dilapidated couch, wrapped in a filthy blanket. The man squinted at Bob, stretching the taut, weathered skin around his eyes and on his forehead even tighter.

“Are you Henry Winston Senior?” asked Bob after a momentary silence. He took the man’s lack of reply as affirmation. “My name is Bob McCarthy, I’m the lead reporter for the Jeffries Town Crier. Do you have a moment?”

“What do you want?” growled Henry in a voice that sounded too strong to come from his shriveled body. Bob suddenly had a much easier time believing the stories he had heard about Henry Winston threatening a previous visitor from the Crier with a double-barreled shotgun.

“I just wanted to ask you a few questions about your animals,” said Bob.

“What about my goddamned animals?” said Henry. “Do you want to buy one?”

“No, sir,” said Bob, “it’s just that some of your neighbors have complained to the Board of Selectmen about them repeatedly getting loose and into the road and other yards.”

“I don’t give a damn about my neighbors, the selectmen, or you!” shouted Henry. “Get the hell out of my house!”

Bob glanced to the kitchen doorway in the corner of the room. The boy stood there, staring at his feet, looking even more despondent than when he had opened the door.

“I’m very sorry to have bothered you or your family, sir,” said Bob and he turned to leave. As he exited, he heard Henry yell a few insults about nosy reporters. The goat snorted and pawed the ground menacingly, as if it were preparing to charge, hurrying Bob’s exit from the yard.

Returning to his car, Bob saw that the cow had not moved from its previous post and was displaying no apparent interest in him or anything else in its surroundings. Yet Bob somehow had the sense the cow was intently observing him as he got in his car, made a U-turn, and began driving back to town.

Passing through Jeffries’ small downtown area, Bob drove by the volunteer fire department barn, schoolhouse-turned-police station, and shopping plaza that offered a pizza shop, hardware store, and three empty storefronts. He parked in the small lot for Kendall’s Sockhop Café, a 1950s-themed eatery that stood next to the plaza.

Entering the café, Bob observed the checkered tile had been freshly mopped and a new tin sign with a picture of Ted Williams urging everyone to drink Moxie had been hung next to the Elvis clock on the wall. He walked past the café’s two booths and three tables, and sat on a stool at the formica soda counter.

“How goes the battle, Bobby?” asked Sue Kendall, leaning her thick arms on the countertop, her broad face pushed even wider by her lopsided smile. The bright, unstained whiteness of Sue’s faux poodle skirt apron indicated few customers had come in since the 5:30 AM early bird shift. She began pouring a cup of coffee for her lone patron.

“Just coming back from Henry Winston’s place,” said Bob. “Do you know him?”

“Everyone knows Henry.”

“I’m not surprised. What’s his deal?”

“Cancer, poverty, nothing special.” Sue’s smile quickly vanished.

“I kind of figured he wasn’t feeling so hot and not exactly rolling in dough,” said Bob. “But what’s up with the cows and goats running loose?”

“Henry’s wife died about five years ago,” said Sue. “Then he came down with lung cancer a few years later. His son had to drop out of school to take care of him. The boy is so busy looking after his dad, I don’t think he has a lot of time to watch the animals.”

“I met Henry Junior,” said Bob. “I felt awful sorry for him.”

“Very considerate of you.” Sue’s smile had still not returned.

Bob poured a container of half-and-half and two packets of sugar into his coffee, and carefully stirred the contents. “What was Henry like before all this happened?” he asked. “I heard he pulled a gun on a reporter once.”

Sue’s smile reappeared for a glimmering moment. “Henry was never exactly a saint,” she said,” but he tended his farm OK when he was healthy. He did once have a dog who had to be put down for biting somebody, as I recall.”

“Why doesn’t he get some help?” asked Bob. “I’m sure the state would give him something.”

“Don’t be so sure,” said Sue. “To the Beacon Hill crowd, western Massachusetts is suburban Worcester. They don’t even know we exist, or at least prefer not to think about us. Henry wouldn’t take help, anyway. His family has owned that land for 100 years. People around here mind their own.”

“I’ve noticed,” said Bob. He slurped down his coffee and placed $1.25 plus 50 cents tip on the counter. Sue nodded, picked up his cup, and turned toward the kitchen. Bob tapped the counter and left.

Bob had gone to Boston University on a journalism scholarship after serving as sports editor for the student paper at Boston Latin High. As a bona fide townie, he had been an exotic species at BU, his Celtics hats, cardigan sweaters, and gold cross necklaces sticking out almost as much on campus as the turbans and long, thick beards of the Muslim graduate students from the Middle East. These, of course, were also scholarship students from working families. The sons of sheiks and oil billionaires preferred to be clean-shaven and dressed like models from a J. Crew catalog.

Bob had done all the right things at BU, devoting countless hours to the Daily Free Press during the school year. In the summers, he freelanced for a Dorchester-based publication aimed at Irish immigrants. Upon graduating, he received no job offers, despite sending resumes to every daily and weekly newspaper within 20 miles of Boston. As the months went by, Bob continued widening the arc of his application zone, until he landed a job in Jeffries, about 120 miles west of Boston in the foothills of the Berkshire mountain range.

In the six months since, Bob had been slowly adapting, trading his cardigan sweaters for flannel hunting shirts and suede tennis shoes for steeltoe workboots. But events like screeching to a halt for a cow in the road still threw him a bit.

After leaving the café, Bob drove the short distance to the two-story building that housed the Crier office on the second floor, as well as a laundromat and a used book store below. He parked in back, climbed the fire escape stairs to the rear sliding glass door that was hardly ever locked, day or night, and entered the newsroom.

“Jesus Christ, Bob, I keep telling you, use the front door!” exclaimed Tom Hunter, owner and editor of the Crier, as well as two other weeklies that covered news and events in neighboring small towns. Tom glared at Bob from behind a stack of yellowing newspapers that almost completely encircled his workstation.

“Sorry, Tom.” Bob cleared a pile of sticky notes and 3x5 filing cards from his desktop and sat down. He dumped his notebook and camera in a drawer and slouched back in his chair.

“Sit up straight,” commanded Tom. “You’re too young to look that defeated. How did it go at the Winston estate?”

“Well, it didn’t go, really,” said Bob as he slowly straightened his posture. “The tip about the cow blocking the road was valid, but nobody was home.”

“That’s odd.” Tom removed his thick glasses. “I heard Henry Winston has cancer so bad he can hardly stand up straight. I also heard his only car is on the front lawn.”

“Maybe he’s at the hospital, or asleep,” said Bob. “But nobody came to the door. I knocked for a wicked long time.”

Tom shrugged. “Go back tomorrow. And stop saying ‘wicked.’ It’s worse than hearing you try to say the letter ‘r.’ “

“Whatever you say, boss.” Bob clipped the ‘r’ at the end of ‘whatever’ in exaggerated fashion, but Tom seemed not to notice. “Although tomorrow I’m supposed to talk to Chief Stanton about the burglary last week, and then the garden club is having its show.”

“Well, that’s certainly exciting,” said Tom. “You’ll get back to Henry Winston eventually. Besides, it’s not all that big of a deal. How much difference does a cow in the road really make in the grand scheme of things?”

Bob paused to think about Tom’s question, imagining the cow still out there standing in the road, impassively blinking at passers-by while secretly taking note of everyone and everything it saw. “I don’t know,” he finally answered. “Not very much, I guess.”

Daniel Berthiaume


Meniscus Magazine © 2004. All material is property of respective artists.