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Oxen Cry
by Darby Larson
The strange thing about the world Ox lived in was that every year on a particular day, everyone would cry for an unpredictable length of time, for an unpredictable reason. Scientists couldn't explain it. It was deemed Crying Day.

It was a day of sadness. It was a day of happiness. It was a day of anger. And jealousy. And love. And forgiveness.

* * *

Ox was a large man. Bones packed in muscle packed in skin. Everyone called him Ox, on account of him being so Ox-like.

He mowed wealthy lawns around the city. Every night he sat on a leather sofa with a glass of bourbon under his palm, gripped with splayed fingertips. He took long walks at night down by the stream that ran near his house, puffing a cigar and listening to the amphibians.

On Crying Day, everyone wondered when and why they would cry, including Ox. "What could possibly make me cry?" Ox asked himself. Other people asked themselves the same thing.

Many people finished their crying episodes early in the day. Such as babies. Mothers everywhere held and rocked their babies and said, "Let out your Crying Day cry, little bumblebee."

After each resident of the city cried, they felt relieved. A woman who had just lost her son in a car accident four months ago found an old picture of him in the basement flying a kite outside in a rainstorm. She held the picture and blotted her eyes. Then she sat back and felt relieved. "So that was my Crying Day cry," she said. And it happened like that all over the city.

* * *

Ox's lawn-mowing route on Crying Day consisted of three residents. The first was old Mrs. Beatrice out on highway 68.

"Hello Mrs. Beatrice!" Ox shouted as he drove his dirty pick-up into her driveway. She was standing on the porch. "Lovely day!"

Mrs. Beatrice looked at the sky and paused a moment. "I suppose."

"Suppose? Just look at that beautiful sky! The air is perfect. Not a floating ball of pollen for miles."

"Yes, Ox. It is a nice day today. Would you care for anything before you get started?"

"No ma'am. I'll just clip this yard and be on my way."

"Okay son, you have a nice day."

"Same to you, ma'am."

While Ox lifted is lawnmower from his truck, he watched Mrs. Beatrice stop in the doorframe of her house and stand there. She put a hand on the doorframe and leaned against it, her back toward the outside. Then she went in and closed the door.

"Poor Mrs. Beatrice," said Ox, "Poor little bumblebee."

* * *

His next client that day was Mr. Parker. An ex-NFL star. He liked to play with big engines. Cars and trucks and tractors. He loved Fords and hated Chevys.

"You know Ox, I'm going to be dead one of these days," said Mr. Parker.

"I suppose we all will be, sir."

"Suppose? You know something I don't, Ox?"

"No, sir."

"Know what I want them to do when I'm gone, Ox?"

"What's that, sir?"

"I want them to take my ashes and pour them slowly into the fuel tank of old Sally in the garage. And somebody'll start her up and I'll make my way through the filter and into the injectors. And then I'll be combusted by those pistons. I mean, I'll really feel those fucking pistons, man. Those pistons I machined with my own hands. And then I'll be blown into the manifold and out the exhaust. That's the way I'm going."

After a silence, Ox resumed getting his mower ready.

"You have a good day, there, Ox," Mr. Parker said. He walked back to his porch and sat in his rocking chair.

Ox finished half the lawn, turned off his motor, and wiped sweat from his eyebrows. Just then, an old custom Ford truck with fire painted around the fender came roaring by on the road, louder and faster than a jet. Ox watched Mr. Parker lift his glasses and rub his eyes.

* * *

Suzanne's was a magnificent lawn. A landscaping job beyond the likes Ox could fathom. His job was to just mow and yank occasional weeds. Other landscapers came weekly to polish the fountains and give exotic flowers strange combinations of food and fertilizer.

Strikingly beautiful at 24, Suzanne married rich. Her husband died of prostate cancer when she was 29, and now at 34 she was hungry for something else.

Ox usually tried to get the lawn done without her noticing. On Crying Day, his third and final mowing, he had almost gotten away with it. After he finished, while he was packing everything up, she came out of the house with two opened bottles of German imported beer, wearing nothing.

"Well hi there, Suza… Now Suzanne, you know darn well you ought to be wearing clothes outside."

"Well, come on inside and help me pick something out."

"Suzanne, I've really gotta get going. You go on inside and put some clothes on now. Geez."

"I'm going to stay out here until you say you'll come inside."


Ox followed her, trying desperately not to watch her perfect figure sway with her strut. Inside, she closed the door and jumped on him, crushing him against the wall. Beer bottles exploded on the marble floor. He held her buttocks and felt its firmness. A warm-blooded urge swam through his veins. He fought it and forced it cold again. He threw her on the couch, opened the door, and left. Walking quickly back to his truck, he heard her scream from inside the house.

* * *

That night, sitting on his leather sofa, glass of bourbon, cigar burning, he wondered what he would cry about. He could feel it coming, even though he couldn't understand it. Like death.

He got up and walked outside. He made his way along the fence and down to the southern edge of his property where the stream ran. A vast portion of the stream was his property, as well as the surrounding forest and wildlife. He took the path he always took. He found the boulder he sometimes sits on when there's a full moon out. The view of the stream from there is relaxing in the way the moonlight hits the array of trees. He once fell asleep on that rock and woke up with a frog on his hand.

It was a new moon on Crying Night. The air was quieter and darker than he could remember it being in a long time. But he sat down anyway, determined to get it over with.

"What?" he asked himself. He looked at his watch. 11:48 p.m. "When's it going to happen?" He couldn't imagine anything. Nothing had occurred today to make him extremely happy or sad or angry or anything. "What!?" he shouted at the absent moon. "Do it already!"

His mind was blank. He kept his eyes closed for ten minutes. He meditated and nearly fell asleep.

Seconds before midnight, Ox suddenly leapt high off the boulder and landed hard on jagged rocks in the shallow stream. He dropped to his knees and ducked his face under the water. Submerged, cold water stinging his face, he called for his mother.

Darby Larson has had literature published online at Mcsweeney's Internet Tendency, Eclectica, Bullfight Review, Opium, Hobart, and Pindeldyboz. Visit his website at

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