Deep in the dense and sleepy woods sits a red-brick cottage with a thatched roof of brown fronds. This is the home of young Leviathan. Around the back of the cottage is a fire pit, wreathed with granite stones baked black as iniquitous souls by the flame’s lash. Above the hot coals turns an iron roasting spit. Dinner spins skewered and golden brown. It is freshly dead.
Levi steps out of the back door, crouching low, cautious not to knock his sore head against the frame. The groan of rusty hinges thrums in the air as the planked door swings ajar. On a silver platter he carries flavors of the forest: sage and pepper, garlic and cilantro. When his mother left, Levi inherited the cooking. He goes about it with honest effort, though he lacks confidence. Cooking is a craft of delicate subtlety and nuance and improvisation, of knowing when to lend a pinch more basil or how to blend the individual dishes into a culinary crescendo of bravura. His fingers fumble in fear of imperfection, moving hesitantly like a child’s first plucking of a harp. When the results are palatable, his father reclines and lights his pipe. When it was thought indigestible, it is a box to the head, like his mother received the night she died.
Levi approaches the suckling carcass and spritzes it with olive oil, then tumbles flaky cloves and grains of seasoning upon its tawny flanks. The left eye socket is hollow and vacant as his father’s expressions. Leviathan sets aside the platter with the slightest of tinkling, like a fairy’s laughter, as it scrapes against the stone hearth. He hoists a sharp cleaver, its ivory haft as white as clean bone, and flays slivers of the velvety meat, stagger stacking each of the cuts neatly beside the spices.
The remainder of the carcass is too gamy and inedible for his father’s predilections, but there is use still. He chops it into segments, splitting joints and flesh and bone, fragments small enough to drop into the black kettle of boiling water amid the red embers. The other eye falls errant into the fire and hisses as it melts like crumbly cheese. Levi scrapes the bits into the boil along with chopped carrots and minced onions, giving it a couple of stirs with a large wooden spoon. Father likes a meaty bouillon with dinner, he thinks.
A whimper disrupts his mental drift. The weak whine came from behind a high cairn erected upon his mother’s grave. He steps around the rocks and looks through the bars into game cage. A little girl in a flower print frock and pigtails stares up at him with dopey eyes, wet and red-rimmed. Poor witless creature, Levi thinks. She’s crying out for her littermate.
Serpentine trails of tears slip down the girl’s ruddy cheeks and fleck the dusty earth about her feet. A notion set loose the fragile thing flits through Levi’s mind. He strokes his coarse chin hair before massaging his forehead just below his twisted brown horns. In the far reaches of the forest a shrill roar peals the air like the crash of a thousand shattering china dishes. All thought of clemency wafts away when he hears his father’s shriek. Father is angry, he thinks, grabbing a roasting spit and loosing the cage’s latch. He will want second helpings this night.