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I just read "A Mother's Tale" in one of those "50 Best Short Story" collections, and it might have blown my mind, although I'm not sure about that just yet. The person who posted the story in the link said the story was "the seed that began to shape my views on the ethics of vegetarianism." Now, I wouldn't deny that's in the story, but there's a lot more going on; it's kind of like saying The Scarlet Letter is an abstinence tract, in my view. Basically, the story is about a mother cow who tells some calves the story of what happens when they get rounded up in the pasture and "get on the train." She relates the account of "The One Who Came Back," the only cow to ever take the train ride

to the slaughterhouse, escape, [\spoiler] and live to tell about it.

At first I was kind of disappointed that a writer with such a sharp eye for everyday human life (as in his novel A Death in the Family) was telling an animal fable, but the story kept getting deeper and more mysterious as I read. I thought it was an anti-religious allegory for a while, until it brought in a heroic Christ figure, and another character who's either a metaphor for God or the devil (it's hard to decide which), and a final sentence that casts a new perspective on the entire story.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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