La Vaca Grande
by Daniel J. Durand
Young Timmy and his grandfather loved to spend time with each other. Grandpa had been kind to Timmy since he was born, and the two had developed quite the special bond. Sadly, Grandpa was nearing the end of his long life, and had to be watched over by Timmy's parents. Grandpa didn't mind too much, as it meant a great deal more time with his only grandson, and the two were inseparable when Timmy wasn't at school.
On a warm day in June, Timmy and Grandpa sat on the shady porch outside of their home. Grandpa, in his wheelchair, sipped ice tea while Timmy bothered a beetle with a long stick. Grandpa watched intently as Timmy bothered, knocking the beetle over. The beetle would right itself, shake a small fist angrily at Timmy, and then be knocked over again. This continued for several hours, until the beetle decided it might do better if it just didn't get back up for a while.
Timmy, instantly bored the moment his insect victim began playing dead, stared off into space. Grandpa did so as well, but more from cataracts than boredom. Both were silent, until Grandpa had an idea.
“Timmy my boy,” he said, “Go freshen up my tea.”
Obediently, Timmy took the empty glass from his aging grandfather and brought it into the house. A moment later, he came back, the glass brimming with refreshing liquid leaves. The beetle had long since taken the opportunity to flee.
Grandpa took a long sip of tea. Timmy sat down, still bored, and rested his head in his hands. Grandpa took another long sip of tea. Silence reigned.
Finally, Timmy spoke up.
“Grandpa,” he asked, “what was it like when you were young?”
The old man set down his glass and sat up a bit straighter.
“Well, there were a lot more trees. Half this town hadn't been developed yet.”
“That's not interesting at all,” said Timmy.
Grandpa rubbed his jaw.
“You're right. It isn't. Don't get old, boy.”
“Yes grandpa,” replied Timmy.
Another long pause followed.
“How about I tell you a story from my youth?” asked Grandpa,
“That might be less than painful!” exclaimed Timmy, excitement not absent from his voice.
“Well, let me see...” mused Grandpa, a look of elderly wisdom about his person. He began to tell his tale...
Many years ago, in small Mexican village not too far from the coast, lived a young man and his family. The man was strong and able, earning his living as a fisherman. His wife kept a clean house and raised their only son, in hopes that he would be as strong and handsome as his father. The family lived in a small home, where they kept a goat and several chickens. They never had much else, but they were happy nonetheless.
The village was beautiful and prosperous. Every morning, the fishermen would go out to sea, bringing back a great harvest every evening. The ocean was always calm and giving, the air always sweet. Life was good, as it had been for many years, and the villagers gave thanks every Sunday for what they knew was a blessing.
Unfortunately, fate would not always be so kind. One morning, the fishermen could not go out to sea; a storm prevented good sailing. The men decided to wait until the next day, hoping for better winds. Their wives worried, fearing this was not just a simple storm; but the fishermen assured them that the sea couldn't always be calm, and that everything would be fine.
The next morning, the storm had only gotten worse. The wives worried, and the fishermen assured. It was only a bad storm, nothing that could last more than a few days.
Two weeks had gone by without the storm subsiding, and now the fishermen began to worry. The village would run out of food soon if they couldn't get out to sea. Some proposed going out into the choppy waters, but the elder, more experienced fishermen knew better. The villagers would simply have to make due, and if things got much worse, they would act accordingly. The villagers gathered and decided to wait a few more days.
Finally, after two-and-a-half weeks of waiting, the storm subsided. The fishermen were ecstatic, and the whole village walked down to the docks to see them off and wish them a successful trip. The young man walked with his wife, carrying his son on his shoulders. Soon, he said to his wife, they would be feasting on the juiciest fishes, and all of their worries would be over. His wife wasn't so sure, and still worried that perhaps the bad weather was a sign of trouble to come.
As the villagers neared the boats, a great cheer let out. What a celebration they would have when the fishermen returned! The men climbed into their boats, carrying the pride of their village with them. The priest led them in a quick prayer, asking for safe waters and hungry fish.
The prayer was interrupted by a scream. One of the villagers stood at the edge of the docks, pointing at the water in the distance. The other villagers followed his gaze, and began to scream at what they saw; there, rising from the water, were two great horns, each the size of several men standing on each others shoulders.
“La Vaca Grande...” whispered the priest.
The villagers panicked, running away from the boats as fast as they could. The young man looked at his wife, and together they ran, their son still atop his father's shoulders. The horns were above the water now, and the head of a beast could be seen attached to them. The villagers kept running, some taking shelter in their homes, while others sought refuge in the forest farther inland.
Before long, the creature was out of the water. La Vaca Grande stood nearly fifty feet tall, a giant cow the likes of which have never been seen on land before or since.
“MOOOOOOOOOO!” it cried, shaking the ground as it walked towards the village.
The young man and his family hid in their small home, hoping the creature would pass them by. He saw the fear in his wife's eyes, and knew that her worrying had been right all along. The young man's son cried softly, too young to be brave.
La Vaca Grande reached the village, tearing the simple huts from the ground with it's powerful jaws. The villagers panicked once more, some running out of the huts to get away from the horrible beast. These villagers were quickly snapped up and eaten alive, the sound of bones snapping emanating from the cow's mouth. The young man held tightly to his wife and son, wishing there was more he could do.
Twenty minutes had passed since the sighting of the cow's horns, and nearly half the village was destroyed. The remaining villagers huddled quietly, struggling mightily not to cry out at the loss of their friends and relatives. The cow stood in what had been the village square, mooing in anger. It stood up on its rear legs, and a flood of milk burst from the beast's udder.
The milk flowed like the very sea the villagers had once depended on, flooding what was left of their homes and destroying the remaining huts. The giant cow, it's anger spent, turned back towards the beach and walked out into the water from whence it came.
The wrath of La Vaca Grande was over.
The young man, who had been knocked out in the flood, awoke to find that his village had been all but erased. Bodies floated in pools of milk, some of whom he recognized. One was his wife, and the other, his son. He wrapped his arms around them, and wept.
A tear ran down Grandpa's cheek.
“Why?” asked Grandpa, “Why, God, did they all have to be lactose intolerant?”
Timmy gazed at his grandfather, horrified at the story he had just heard.
“But Grandpa,” said Timmy, “You've never left Ohio in your whole life.”
Grandpa's tears stopped. A strange look spread over his face, somewhere between confusion and understanding. Raising his eyebrow, he turned to Timmy.
“Grandson, be a dear and help me inside so I can check my prescriptions. I'm either not taking enough of something, or taking far too much.”
The beetle watched from a nearby tree as the boy helped his aging grandfather back into the house. Mounting a nearby bluebird it had tamed, the beetle flew into the sunset to spread the tale of the old man. Eventually, it found the ear of your narrator, who promptly decided to give up drinking.
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