Tag Archives: Paula Mortensen

Bright Angels & Familiars: “Woman Talking to a Cow” by Pauline Mortensen

1.15.13 | | 3 comments

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This series has been on hiatus for a while, so, for those who do not recall, Signature Books has made this seminal collection of stories available free online. I have been reading the stories and posting about them. Together we share our thoughts and opinions.

Today’s tale was also collected in Mortensen’s Back Before the World Turned Nasty which I read is at is best in describing place. This particular tale is quite short (enough to be included on Everyday Mormon Writer).

Go read it then return.

The story is exactly what it claims in the title—a woman talking to a cow. About the problems in her life, each of which is desperately symbolic. The fork she uses to serve hay is missing a tine. Which makes the hay fall through but also makes it loaded in other ways as well. Then her husband enacts Christ (and she draws our attention to it), her children destroy symbols of comfort and heritage, the sheep are black and steadily decrease in number while jumping up and down in perceived value, and finally we learn they must decide to feed the sheep (possibly at the expense of all else) or treat their little ones not so well. All while the narrator is revealing herself an absolute Martha (however unfair the Martha/Mary dichotomy may be). more