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In 1990, IBP opened a slaughterhouse in Lexington. A year later, the town, with a population of roughly seven thousand, had the highest crime rate in the state of Nebraska. Lexington became a major distribution center for illegal drugs; gang members appeared in town and committed drive-by shootings; the majority of Lexington’s white inhabitants moved elsewhere; and the proportion of Latino inhabitants increased more than tenfold, climbing to over 50 percent. “Mexington” - as it is now called, affectionately by some, disparagingly by others- is an entirely new kind of American town, one that has transfigured to meet the needs of a modern slaughterhouse.
~ Fast Food Nation
Snowflakes fell softly outside, covering the ground with a dazzling blanket of white. Elizabeth watched from her window seat, mixed feelings contorting inside her as she watched the blue Mazda pull out of town followed by a U-haul truck. She could feel hot tears at the back of her eyes and blinked them away. She wouldn’t let them see her cry. She hardly acknowledged the small teary-eyed face watching her sadly and the gloved hand waving from the truck window. It didn’t matter anymore, they hated her, they had deserted her.
Her breath fogged up the single pained window before her as she stared out onto Main Street, which was quite deserted, for a long while... thinking of nothing as she quietly contemplated this new feeling of abandonment that had filled her. After the numbness left her she pulled away from the cushion seat, donned her new winter clothing, and set out to the garage.
Quietly, so no one would know she was leaving, Elizabeth straddled her bike and nudged the kick stand, causing it to spring back into place as she righted the bike, and slowly pedaled down the short driveway onto the black street below. Turning right, she pedaled across the street and up the slight rise in the road.
Elizabeth pedaled on for the length of five minutes, passing by the modest Victorian homes with their white washed picket fences, large looming shade trees, and the comfy looking chairs on the elaborate front porches. She took it all in wistfully, wondering how long it would all remain like this. Her sleepy little home town had always been there for her. But as with Anna... people all around her were leaving her, and young Elizabeth hardly understood why.
After pedaling past the street length of homes, Elizabeth passed a small dying orchard and stopped. Before her a looming green sign stood, the letters plastered on it in reflective white. Lexington, it read. Below it; pop. 7052 was placed in the same white letters.
Elizabeth sighed as her eyes scanned the trailing road ahead, searching for the familiar blue Mazda. But the truck was long gone. And so was Anna. Elizabeth sighed and blinked back the tears again, refusing to let them fall. Snowflakes continued to tumble earthward as Elizabeth swung her bike around, and crossing the street, headed back towards home.
As Elizabeth pedaled her mind turned over all that had happened in the last few months. Her first thought, was that many people had left while many people had come. Elizabeth had seen groups of these newcomers a few times. They were strange to her, with an odd colored skin and black hair. They had always looked at her mother and her with a reserved weariness like wild animals, and what confused Elizabeth the most, was why she could not understand what they said in their hushed tones and odd voices. It bewildered her how they could understand what they were saying at all.
But the only reason these odd people were here at all, was because of the strange new building that had been built in Lexington. Without thinking, Elizabeth pulled off the street on to a run down side street with potholes. She had only a little ways to go before she pulled on the handle bar brakes and stopped to stare up at the looming windowless building.
Though it was new, the red bricks looked ragged and dirty, as if they had been used from some hand-me-down brick building before them. The building was silent as it stood a massive four stories high, looming over Lexington like the bad omen that it was. Elizabeth sat there for a long while, studying the building, knowing it was this, the slaughterhouse that had been the talk of the town for the past months. It was the reason why Anna’s parents had taken her away. The actual slaughterhouse was only a small representation of what it truly represented to the small town. The slaughter house was a sign of worse things to come, an ominous omen ringing the death toll, the disease that had already infected other small towns.
Late at night Elizabeth had heard her parents discussing the matter. It had happened before, at other towns. A large corporation would build a slaughterhouse and before long the towns crime rate went up drastically as the corporation imported poor immigrants to work for low salary’s at their new slaughter houses. That’s why everyone was leaving here. The people of Lexington feared as much would happen to their own town, so before things got any uglier, they were leaving.
Elizabeth jumped, leaving her thoughts as something stirred in the darkness at the base of the building and she could see a man outlined there. A small red bud by his face told her he was smoking. His dark eyes glittered as he watched her intently, his ratty clothing swaying about him in the bitter winter breeze. Elizabeth realized that he must be terribly cold in the weather with hardly anything to sustain him.
Shivering, Elizabeth swung her bike around and pedaled as fast as she could away from the looming building that had stricken her peaceful town, turning it upside down in turmoil and shattered her young life. She pedaled and pedaled. Her heart racing.
And as she slushed through the icy streets she ignored the friendly waves and the cheerful ‘hello’s’ that were hollered out to her. As she at last neared home and saw the large U-haul van parked in front of her house relief flooded through her and at last she allowed the hot tears to spill across her cheeks with relief and acceptance at what had happened to her finally sunk in. At the unfairness and inconsideration of adults. The people who cared only about money and how fast their business could grow. The people who considered other humans dispensable objects and cared about nothing but their labor and their money.
She knew deep down why the people of Lexington had left her and she knew she would not be left behind. They were at last leaving. Just as before, the same ugly cycle that had stricken other towns. Slaughterhouses had come, the people had left.
As Elizabeth realized this she smiled and last saw her mother motioning to her from the front porch. No doubt she’d been worried about Elizabeth and her whereabouts. The young girl abandoned her bike and rushed to the front door as winter pressed on all around her, and the snow fell.