PMS was always my excuse to be rude and argumentative, but that excuse worked for only a few days a month. My friend Janice has a theory that could prove to be an excuse useful for a full 365 days a year.

When I said to Janice, “I am feeling downright peckish today,” she replied, “You’re feeling what?”

“Peckish,” I responded. “Cross and irritable.”

“Hmm,” she said, “didn’t you have a steak for lunch today?”

“Yes. What does that have to do with it?”

“Well, that steak probably came from a mean and hateful cow. If you ingest the flesh and blood of an ornery animal, you take on its characteristics for the rest of the day. Haven’t you ever heard that?”

“Can’t say that I have,” I answered, “but that may prove to be useful information.”

The next day I said to my boss, “Remember when you told me to revise that report for the third time and I said you could kiss my fanny and do it yourself? It wasn’t really my fault. It was my lunch of chicken nuggets talking. They came from one mean chicken: the Clint Eastwood of chickens. It wasn’t happy to have its nuggets ripped from its body, but even before that happened it was mean.

That chicken used to saunter around the barnyard with a serape tossed over its shoulder, muttering to the other chickens, “Go ahead; Make my day.” So you see if I was mean, it was not my fault; it was the chicken’s fault. I took on its characteristics.

If only I had had the lamb chops, the tuna fish, or the rabbit stew, I would have been meek, or intelligent (you know, from hanging around in schools all day), or in the mood to multiply.

If Janice’s theory is correct (and personally, I think she is nuts), I guess the only way for a carnivore to avoid taking on the characteristics of a mean and hateful animal would be to either go vegan or to eat only cheerful, even-tempered animals.

That is easier for Janice than the rest of us. Her husband Greg is a hunter. Because he chooses the family’s meat while it is still on the hoof, he has the opportunity to select only animals with pleasant personalities, thus ensuring, after the meat is processed,  a pleasant atmosphere at his own dinner table.

When Greg has a fine buck deer lined up in the crosshairs, he could first judge the deer’s temperament, perhaps by judicious use of the Rorschach test.

“What does this ink blot look like?” he could ask the deer.

If the buck answers, “It looks like Bambi fleeing from the forest fire after the evil hunters murder his mother,” Greg could reject that venison as being too bitter and angry for his dinner table.

On the other hand, if Greg launches into his best hunters’ dirty joke with an animal theme (the punchline of which is, “And he said, ‘OK, but leave the doe on the dresser. Get it? The dough? Ha-ha,” and the deer laughs, Greg should shoot it right between the eyes and grind it into venison burgers, because that is one cheerful deer.

I see at least one problem with Janice’s theory. Already hunters shoot only healthy, handsome specimens because after they process the meat, they want magnificent trophy heads for the walls of their dens.

Nobody wants to make a trophy of a moth-eaten, broken-antlered, cross-eyed nerd of a deer who looks as if he should be wearing a pocket protector full of pencils, a plaid jacket, and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses held together with duct tape.

If the hunters thin the herd of all the healthiest, happiest, most handsome animals, what is civilization left with? An animal kingdom composed entirely of homely, dim-witted, hot-tempered animals just waiting for an opportunity to achieve world dominance.

Just in case Janice is right, instead of seriously in need of therapy, I will start my own meat processing plant. It will work a lot like a pick-it-yourself produce patch. So that customers can judge the temperament of their potential dinner, they will stroll among the herds as I launch into my comedy routine, geared toward a bovine sense of humor.

Here is one of my punchlines:

“So the steer said, “She wasn’t much to look at, but she was udderly divine to dance with.”

If Bessie the cow laughs until milk squirts out her nose, “Blam!”

Fire up the grill! The next show starts at 10. Don’t forget to tip your waitstaff.




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