(1) My mother
pronounces “burrito” like “boh-lee-do” instead of “buh-ree-toe,” her “r” the love child of an “r” and an “l,” somersaulting off the roof of her soft mouth like a toddler on a trampoline. In the relentless heat, it is impossible to forget that the body is a body. I stand beside her, strangling a roll of redwood raffle tickets in the damp clam meat of my fist:
6 TICKETS = 3 BALLS
10 TICKETS = 6 BALLS
ANY COLOR WINS!
(2) The rules of the game are simple.
Any fur-bearing animal or bird is edible. However, laws on harvesting roadkill for consumption vary from state to state. Check this page to see if your state allows the collection of roadkill.
I stopped eating meat last summer because the chicken started looking like a chicken, and the cow started tasting like a cow. In the same way, I avoid the crispy, fat leaves on the sidewalk because they sound too much like a life. At one point my mother felt the need to tell me all serial killers were once quiet children.
“Would it kill you to eat this?”
I am quiet. I over boil my sugar snap peas until they yellow, cube tofu in the utility scoop of my hand and watch the teeth of my knife bite white into the flesh of my palm. I wrestle with the crushed gastropod, the veal, the lamb. I have coffee with ingratitude. But I have not known hunger like hers
—silken strands of slimy, inedible rice, broken English in a middle school play yard, American Dreams crammed in the overhead compartment of a redeye—
and this too, is her story.
(3) With so many delicious meals to choose from, we understand why it’s sometimes hard to settle on just one. That’s why we offer our You Pick Two®. The choices are: a burrito, or a sandwich. Sometimes, a burrito or a burrito.
She refuses the “boh-lee-do,” holds onto her raffle ticket stamp in search of better game. I, ignorant little thing, picture literal, lickable mail stamps with scalloped edges and burelage lines, the smudged remains of postal indicia darkening the whorls of my fingertips. Later, she cashes it in and eagerly awaits her prize.
(4) THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:
An adult human being contains about 32,000 calories in their muscle tissues. Comparatively, deer contain 163,000 calories in their muscle tissues.
Despite their reputation, the American Crow is not specialized to be a carrion-eater. Their large bills can’t break through the skin of even a gray squirrel. They must wait for something else to open the carcass, or for the carcass to decompose and become tender enough to eat.
For further information, please refer to California Senate Bill No. 395, Section 2 (A-F).
(5) I am six and my mother’s shadow,
plastered to her side like wet hair against a soapy temple. She laughs and I like it so much I immediately want to hear it again. We learn to tell our parents jokes, saying them again and again and again and again like a stuck VCR, not understanding why repetition renders the punch line unfunny.
She is teaching me how to hunt. I spend another ten tickets at the toss. It is no longer fun. Three small prizes equals a medium, and three mediums make a large, but the ball won’t stop bouncing and
I am so hungry I no longer remember what hunger feels like.
I am going to run out of money
before I win enough prizes to eat: perhaps our ancestors committed practiced anthropophagy to save themselves
the difficult job of hunting.
6 balls, please.
6 balls, please.
6 balls, please.
(6) The First Law of Thermodynamics
also applies to human metabolism. I walk until my belly is hollow, until my hollow belly aches more than my knees and nothing becomes nausea. I walk until color bleeds into a kind of happiness, until I am more song than self. I walk until I am not alone.
I have only walked alongside a coyote thrice in my life, the two of us ambling leisurely between the Monterey, Spanish, and Tuscan style single-family homes. Sometimes, I think he feels more at home here than I do, with his easy grin and loping gait, the confidence with which he crosses the two-way street.
Wildlife in the state of California belong to the people of the State of California. And vice versa?
(7) When considering edible roadkill, the point of impact determines how much meat is salvageable. If the animal’s eyes are gone, leave it alone. The wiffle ball flies blindly from my hand.
On my walk, I find a dead crow in the gutter. Consider the beak, tucked into its side like a fawn to its mother. Diminished bite force is considered a defining feature of the modern Homo sapiens. I relinquish my second ball for the bird. Beggars can’t be choosers and I am too hungry. In Sepulveda, my mother can only afford a roof and a “boh-ree-do.”
The last ball rolls, indecisive, as I clutch the body
and bring warm feathers to my lips. My mother
plucks an eyeball from the head of a gaping fish. I
consider the craniomandibular mechanics of being
human. In the gritty hot sun, the ball nestles
itself inexpertly into a shameless red circle.
“Winner!” My mouth is too full to speak. Bloody
flesh collapses against the roof of my mouth
and I swallow, beak, feathers, feet, and all.
Tiffany Wu is a writer and harpist from Los Angeles.