The Slaughter House of Long Valley
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By Chris Wood
I don’t know why, but it was a unanimous decision. That is to say we all agreed upon it. Whether each had a feeling in the pit of their stomach that it was not a good idea, was never spoken of, but verbally, it was the plan.
The Flanders shopping center parking lot is not very crowded on a Friday night. The shopping in this area is dedicated to food, mostly. And we, children of the age 16-18, congregated the area surrounding the McDonalds. I, not yet a licensed driver, sat on the curb near the parked cars with the rest of my classmates and friends who joined me on that night. School had started and release was needed. It was not yet fall, but the evening did cool off the usually hot sidewalks and blacktop streets. We were all bored. None of the upper class girls we all enjoyed pining over had shown up, so those licensed decided that we needed a change of scenery. I piled in the car Keith was driving. Jeff rode shotgun, while Paddy and Scott were on opposite sides of me in the back seat.
In all, about 20 total kids were squished together in four cars. We sat idled for a minute, then Greg, a junior, came up to Keith’s driver side window.
“Hey, I know where we can go,” Greg said to Keith.
“That place in Long Valley?” Keith asked back, knowing the answer.
“Um, what place?” I asked.
“It’s this slaughter house in Long Valley. The dirt road goes back in the woods for like two miles, then, there’s this huge warehouse and there are all these dead cow caucuses inside.” Greg proudly boasted.
“I can smell it from here!” Paddy sarcastically stated.
“You got any better ideas?” Greg said back.
None of us did. We nodded and agreed to drive two miles into the woods to a slaughter house.
It was dark now. The moon wasn’t full, nothing eerie like that, but the sky was clear. Keith drove with the windows down and all of us smoked our cigarettes. Once we got off the main road – route 206 – and onto Bartley Road, I noticed there were no more street lights. Only the taillights of the car in front and the headlights of the car behind us provided illumination. Our dim witted minds, soaked with alcohol and tobacco, certainly weren’t doing the job, otherwise me might have thought of a better way to spend our time.
There was no street sign, or a real road, when the first car’s– the one ahead of us – break lights flickered on and turned right. In fact there was no sign at all indicating that this was a business we were entering. The road was rough and the trees above made a tunnel above our heads, blocking out the stars. The headlights reflected off the backs of the leaves, which were being pushed by an occasional breeze. This was the only time I didn’t mind riding in the middle of the backseat of the car. It was so quite. I couldn’t really hear the other cars. Our conversation was minimal.
“You see Heather at lunch today?” Scott asked me.
“Wow! Boy did she look good,” I exclaimed back.
Then silence again. I turned from looking at Scott to the road in front of me. I lit another cigarette, and like dominos, the rest of the party did the same.
“Where the hell is this place,” Paddy, who looked quite edgy, questioned.
“Yea,” Jeff said, looking in Keith’s direction.
“Relax guys. It’s up here. No one’s here on a Friday.” Keith said, with little reassurance to the rest, and not much confidence in his tome.
Then finally, the road opened up. I really had no bearings on where we were or what was near us. Civilization seemed ions away. We might as well have been stranded on an island, for all intensive purposes. That’s how vacant this area seemed.
What more, and more importantly, I thought, was that I didn’t hear or see any cows. I guess they were already dead when they were carted in here. Unfortunately, I figured that these questions would be answered once we entered.
As we got closer to the structure, the caravan’s pace slowed. Now I couldn’t actually remember which car was in front of us; be it Dan’s or Billy’s, but I do recall that the first time I saw someone marching towards us with a gun, I froze and stared like a doe caught in headlights.
It was too movie like. But yet, there he was: A tall slender outline of a man with a large rifle, parading towards us. The first car’s break lights immediately lit up and I could see the driver’s head flip around, looking back at us. Then came his reverse lights. The man kept coming.
“Is that a gun?” Scott, who had the worst view from behind Jeff’s head, asked.
“Holy, God!” Paddy yelled.
“Get us out of here! Let’s go, let’s go!” Jeff, who had the best view, screamed. He began punching the passenger side dashboard as he shrieked.
I was mesmerized. The first car, which was now backing up, struck us. Bam! All five of our heads whipped back. Despite being disoriented and scared to the point of soiling myself, I noticed from the point of view from Keith’s rearview mirror, that the three cars behind us were K-turning like it was a test. Each driver was going hand over hand on the steering wheel as if they were a ship captain avoiding a rogue whitecap.
“My car!” Keith called out.
The car in front of us now tried to go forward again. Its tires spun and the driver veered to the left. This gave us a front row seat to the man, still approaching from the slaughter house. I could see Craig, in the car in front of us, punching the roof of the car. They were all screaming. My heart was pounding so loudly that all other noise had vanished.
He was nearly upon them now. The other cars behind us had fled. Keith was now in reverse and backing up. The two remaining cars were now parallel. The man’s pace quickened. Keith had a manual transmission car, and because of the fear, he forgot to press the clutch…and we stalled. The remaining car managed to make the full turn and was now passing us. Everyone in the car was screaming. I thought of jumping out of the car and running up the path to the road – all two miles worth. But I stayed. Not because I was brave, or was a true friend, no, it had to do with our animal instincts. Don’t stray from the pack. But our pack was nearly gone, and Keith was like a first time driver – not being able to get the car started.
The man had the gun in both hands now, pointed in our direction. He had not spoken. Not called for us to get off the property, or threaten to call the police. This was the usual language teenagers could identify with as to how much trouble we were in. No words and a big damn gun was, like a big question mark for us.
Jeff was panicking something awful and screaming at Keith to get us out. Keith was just staring at the man coming towards us. Jeff started grabbing at the keys in the ignition and yelled for Keith to put his foot on the clutch. Jeff turned the ignition and the car sparked into action. Jeff threw it into first.
“Go, go, go!” Jeff screamed.
Keith turned the steering wheel, released the clutch and pressed the gas. The car bucked three times, then the wheels spun, then we were off. I looked through the back windshield and saw the man still coming. Jeff grabbed the stick and yelled for Keith to press the clutch again. He did and Jeff shifted into second.
“Hit it again!” Jeff shouted.
Keith did as instructed and the car sped up to 35 miles per hour. Blam! It sounded like someone dropped a metal drum into a dumpster from 20 feet up. Blam! The second one took off Keith’s side view mirror.
The three of us in the back seat were kissing the floor of the car. My eyes were closed. All I could hear was the acceleration of the car.
When we arrived at the main road, I sat up. I lit a cigarette, and so did the others. We did not speak. We drove back to McDonalds. We did not speak. We all left in a hurry to our homes. We did not speak. The Monday at school, I saw Scott in the hallway. He nodded. I nodded back.
About a week later, I saw an article in the paper about this slaughter house in Long Valley that was to be shut down in the beginning of the next year. A man named Cornell Donovan was the owner operator of the facility. His picture was in the paper. He was tall, slender and was holding a large rifle…