by Jan Stinchcomb


Did you hear the one about the family of cows stranded on a mountaintop in New Zealand right after the earthquake? I saw it on the news. They were standing there, on a little piece of earth that had been spared, the land dropping so sharply around them that there was no way to escape. They had some grass, so it looked like a child’s toy or an abstract painting. An enormous thumbtack sticking out of the earth, on top of which someone had glued a pastoral scene. I wonder if those cows are related. Did they know each other before the catastrophe? Are they talking about the disaster among themselves and what are they saying? This is actually an interesting exercise for us humans right about now. Imagine that you are one of those cows. You could be a benevolent mama cow. You could be a steadfast daddy cow. Or you could be a scared baby cow who can’t stop crying. Now try to come up with a solution to your problem. What do you say to the other cows? Would you like to make a speech or lead a prayer? Is there a cow poem or a bovine folksong that would be appropriate? And who is going to come and save you? Do you still trust humans? Did you ever? Do you know enough not to eat up the grass all at once? Does it matter since there is no water? I like to think of the cows singing together. Mooing. It’s one of the first animal sounds we humans learn to make when we’re little. It’s fun. Anyone can do it but the cows do it best. I think of them up there, exposed to the elements, mooing and trying to carry on a normal life for as long as they can. At least they have each other.



Jan Stinchcomb is the author of the novella, Find the Girl (Main Street Rag, 2015). Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in New South Journal, Gamut Magazine, Jellyfish Review and Paper Darts, among other places. She reviews fairy tale-inspired works in Notes From Rapunzel’s Tower, her column for Luna Station Quarterly. She lives in Southern California with her husband and daughters. Find her at or on Twitter @janstinchcomb