1 The constraints: 1) No more than
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The result ? Genius or Not.

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8th September 2010

By Cassandra Moss | 2010 September 08

There was a whole dead cow washed up on the shore. This was maybe thirteen or fourteen years ago on a beach in southern Spain. Thinking about it, I can't remember a lot of detail: the body was big, lifeless, the shallow water came halfway up its legs. My dad said it must've come from one of the big liners we often saw on the horizon. There isn't much of a story to tell. If I try to do so it falls flat: after the revelation of the body it's 'And...?'. Well, nothing really. Yet it persists as a curio for me: just an image of a dead cow on a beach, not much context, hardly any relevance to anything that's followed it. Somewhere, in a separate menu selection of extras I can't access, there's an option for the scene of the beach with the people in and out of the sea, the weather (hot, probably sunny), the sounds of the waves and words competing for clarity. These details wouldn't contribute anything vital to the memory, though. They'd attempt to make it into a story when it isn't that. It is an image, an incident, a dead cow on a beach. The incongruity of the corpse and the beach obviate explanation. Supposing I had information about how and why the body had ended up on the shore and supposing that some children had desecrated it or a family had decided to take it and use it for a week's food supply. What would be the use of those things other than to fabricate a palatable meaning and turn it into a form of entertainment? Now it's an anecdote that exists in its own neat reality, a sensible place of cause and effect, purpose, direction. But it's just a dead cow on a beach. It doesn't represent the prosaic materiality of death, for, despite an obvious connection, it hasn't fundamentally shaped my understanding of the loss of life. It has had some influence on me because it's here, wedged in between other layers of memory, and I'm thinking about it, but I want to resist it being hijacked by explanation and meaning. It is a dead cow on a beach and nothing more.

Memory, Story

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