Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, May 23, 2014

"The Bull Calf" by Rachel Fenton (2013)

Two days ago I read my first story by the multi-award winning Rachel Fenton, "Ladder to the Moon".   I liked the story so much that I am now posting on a longer story, "The Bull Calf".  In very different ways, both stories are related to miscommunication, one on a personal level and one on a trans-New Zealand matter.   "The Bull Calf" (I will include a link to the story at the close of the post) is a brilliant laugh out loud story about the tragic consequences of poor communication by a Prime Minister of New Zealand.  I found it to be a product of high creative intelligence.  It would make Swift smile and could be the basis for an excellent movie.

Official Bio

Rachel J. Fenton was born in 1976 and grew up in relative poverty in South Yorkshire. She has a BA in English Studies from Sheffield Hallam University, where she studied under the tutelage of E. A. Markham before relocating to Auckland in 2007. Winner of the 7th Annual Short Fiction Competition (University of Plymouth) and the 2013 Flash Frontier Winter Award, she is a Pushcart Prize nominee. Short-listed for the 2013 Fish international Poetry Prize (judged by Paul Durcan), the 2012 Royal Society of New Zealand Manhire Prize, Binnacle Ultra-Short Competition (named honoree), the Fish One Page Prize, the 6th Annual Short Fiction Competition, and the Kathleen Grattan Award, other listings include the Bristol Prize, and the Sean O’ Faolain International Short Story Prize.


Recent publications include the journals The Stinging Fly MagazineShort Fiction #7;JAAM #30, #31; brief #44-45, #47; French Literary Review #18Cordite Poetry Review;Pank; and Metazen; and a comprehensive list can be found at


AKA Rae Joyce, she is an AUT award winning graphic poet, was mentored by Dylan Horrocks, is featured in New Zealand Comics and Graphic Novels (Hicksville Press), Two Thirds North, The Poetry BusFlash FrontierThrush Poetry Journal, and was 2013 Artist in Residence at Counterexample Poetics. Between 2011 and 2012, she wrote, drew and published a page per day of the epic web-comic Escape Behaviours.

As the story opens the Prime Minister of New Zealand intended to announce in a press release that he was starting a new "pest control" policy, instead he made a mistake and said "pet control".  The policy went on to detail how he planned to get rid of all of New Zealand's pets.  Everybody expected the prime minister would acknowledge an error, maybe blame it on an underling. Instead he won't admit he was wrong.  I want to quote a bit from the story so you can get a feel for Fenton's superb prose which perfectly matches her story.

"The way the Prime Minister talked, you’d have thought he was a conservationist, some even suggested comparison to higher posts. Maybe that’s how it got so far; people forgot he was only a politician. He went on.

New Zealand has one of the highest pet to person ratios of any country in the world, far in excess of the United States and the UK. Each year dogs are responsible for the deaths of our national icon.’ He left a dramatic pause, but before any dog owners had a chance to call in, he balanced the scales. ‘Cats are responsible for the extinction of eight species of native birds.’

If someone had tapped the Southern Cross cable, they’d have heard it abuzz with enraged cat and dog owners, some of them scientists and members of parliament from the Prime Minister’s own party. Twitter went down overnight. Facebook followed. Blogs were reignited. Someone put a sound clip of “For the love of birdsong” on YouTube with a bunch of inflammatory photographs that went viral on the internet."

New Zealand is very much a pet loving country, dogs and cats are totally cherished.  People go ballistic thinking the government plans to destroy all their pets. Exceptions are made for working dogs like blind guidance dogs but there are no exceptions for cats who are blamed for bird kills.  The minister seems willing to allow people to keep their existing pets but once these pets pass, they can get no more.  People start going to all kind of extremes.  Sales of puppies and kittens go through the roof.   One sad man even blinds himself so he can try to claim his dog guides him.  

This story is just so much fun to read.  Cat lovers like me will be outraged. It is just so clever.  It is a wonderful satire of political miscommunication.

You can read this story here. 

Rachel Fenton has completed A Question and Answer Session so please look for that soon.

I will be reading and posting on more of her short stories.


1 comment:

Rachel Fenton said...

Thank you so much for reading and reviewing my work, Mel, both "The Bull Calf" and "Ladder to the Moon". I'm thrilled to know you appreciated and enjoyed this one in particular.