“Minister / Maneater”

When I left home via Greyhound bus, determined to eat the flesh of another man, I did not attempt to justify my intentions by claiming them to be God’s will. I did not invoke the doctrine of predestination. No, I own my bloodthirst. My desire for revenge is my heart’s concoction, to devour the meaty flank of the man who deceived me into eating the body of my father.

I don’t curse the conditions in the Yukon that caused my father’s death. We knew the dangers of the Arctic. Rather, my hatred stems from deception. When my father succumbed to frigid Mother Nature, the Guide took his body from our tent – ostensibly for burial – and returned with a bounty of raw meat. Pheasant he’d wrestled to the death, he said.

My own ignorance is partly to blame. Who would believe pheasant thrive in the Yukon? But hunger and weakness overcame common sense. The Guide and I consumed the remains of the good man who’d raised me with diligence; the man whose example led me to the ministry. The flesh of his rump passed through my body as if it were a common Big Mac.

I enjoyed the taste. The welcome tang of the meat was not simply born of desperation, but the preference of my taste buds (astoundingly, they hadn’t frozen). The sustenance tasted delicious on its own merit, without the added juiciness of urgency. 

After our eventual rescue and my return home, I found a restaurant that served pheasant. To my horror, the pheasant on my plate tasted nothing like what I’d consumed in the Yukon. I tried to reason that a change in climate and temperature had caused the difference in taste. But I couldn’t fool myself. The pheasant that had saved my life had been no pheasant.

Now, as I travel cross-country to take revenge on the Guide who deceived me, terrible intentions hidden in my breast pocket, I wonder how I’ll go about making a meal of this wretch. Should I make him watch? Amputate a hand and cook it before his eyes? Oh, to eat the hand that cooked paternal flesh!

I’ve studied cannibalism found in the history of our conscienceless world. I’ve kept away, however, from American cannibals – mere sociopaths who snatch hitchhikers and cram their innards into a blender. I’ve preferred to learn from the domines of human consumption.

Roundabout 2000 B.C. the inhabitants of Crete sacrificed humans to Liparós, the god of nutrition. These culinary Cretans would throw the live sacrifice into the fire, remove the body when it was adequately cooked, and devour the corpse, innards and all. They would not take turns, but simply took what they wanted; almost the way pizza is served at a child’s birthday pizza party.

An incident recorded during the invasion of England by Harald Hardrada is particularly chilling: soldiers captured a group of tanners and flayed them alive. After eating the tanners’ rumps, the soldiers turned the poor men’s flesh into satchels.

Perhaps I’ll turn the Guide’s flesh into something useful so nothing goes to waste. I’ve always despised the practice of hanging a deer head above the mantle and discarding precious meat.

There was once a dictator of Uganda named Idi Amin. Merciless, bloodthirsty. I’ve no room to condemn, but these words describe him no less. What set Amin apart from his contemporaries was his taste for human flesh. This corpulent tyrant was rumored to enjoy eating the meat of his enemies. Among the reasons Idi Amin was able to torment Uganda was that the Western media depicted him as a mere cartoonish, eccentric buffoon. Meanwhile, what calculated, hideous things he did!

I cannot point out the speck in Amin’s eye, as a plank is lodged in my own. I’ve never massacred my own citizens, but he and I are similar – we’ve both been portrayed as harmless, even stupid. No one knows my dreams ridden with death. I’m the meek Baptist preacher who became so timid and tongue-tied when handing out tracts to my fellow Greyhound passengers. But oh, the dreams that ooze in my brain!

I don’t revel in this fact. I wanted to be like Billy Graham, not Hannibal Lecter. I’ve allowed my lust for revenge to replace the love of Jesus in my heart. 

Hannibal Lecter…“Hannibal the Cannibal.” Should my deeds be discovered, maybe the media will give me a nickname; “the Sinister Minister,” or some such corny moniker. “He didn’t seem sinister,” my congregation would say. As they always say when someone’s caught in the throes of killing.  

I’ve tried to find the good in cannibalism. A tribe in ancient Papua New Guinea observed the ritual of eating their dead loved ones. They reasoned this was more dignified than being consumed by worms. I look at this with a mix of revulsion and admiration. Having eaten my own father, and being mortified by it, I can’t fathom willingly, wittingly eating a loved one’s remains. By the same token, there’s a strange nobility in saving the body of a loved one from maggots.

But I cannot rest in this. My father ought to have returned to the earth, not the acids of my belly. 

In any event, no matter which of our world’s maneaters from whom I borrow my method, no matter how many Bible verses I must shake from my memory to allow my jaws to chew and my teeth to crunch, I vow to devour the mortal coil of my enemy. Even if the lies and deception in his character cause his organs to be bitter to the taste, I will enjoy my morbid meal.

I won’t post a picture of my plate on Instagram. I won’t say grace – God wants nothing to do with this abominable delicacy. It’s not Him who will provide it: this meal will be a blessing brought by the providence of revenge: sweet and salty as the elusive, exotic Yukon pheasant.

Bud Sturguess was born in 1986 in the small cotton-and-oil town of Seminole, Texas. He now lives in his “adopted hometown,” Amarillo. Sturguess has self-published several books, his latest being the novel Sick Things. His work appears online at New Pop Lit and The Agape Review, and in the print anthologies Mid/South from Belle Point Press, and The Daily Drunk’s From Parts Unknown. He lives on disability benefits and collects neckties.

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