The Silence of the Lambs is one of the most iconic, memorable, and shit in your pants every time someone says, “It puts the lotion on the skin” movies of my generation. Hell, I’m going to go out on a limb here and declare it’s a shit your pants movie for ALL generations. For those of you who live beneath a rock and have not seen this psycho-thriller: First, you disgust me. What the Hell is wrong with you? When one is born, they should be given love, shelter, food, and a copy of Silence of the Lambs. Yes, it is probably a little too mature for a baby (babies are really stupid), but just as Jews celebrate coming into “manhood” or “womanhood” by Bar/Bat Mitzvah, so should we celebrate the transition between being a stupid baby and becoming a stupid adult in a coming of age Silence of the Lambs Mitzvah, complete with fava beans and a nice Chianti. Just like sneaking your first beer from your parents’ fridge, getting your first handjob or fingerbang in the backseat of a car that’s way too small, or any other”firsts” that freak you out yet are totally exciting at the same time, Silence of the Lambs encompasses the feelings of all of those first horrors and excitements (your first period, or for a guy – your first stiff sock) wrapped up into one glorious serial killer/cannibal film. Plus, you get to see a dude tuck his penis between his legs so when he stands, proud and naked wearing the scalp and hair of one of his victims, it totally looks like he has a vag. Win-Win.
Now that I have properly educated you on the virtues of this fine piece of American cinema, I can easily say there have been two, yes TWO, Silence of the Lambs moments in my life. Even one Silence of the Lambs moment would be enough to sufficiently fuck you up, and I’ve experienced two. I’m totally fine, though. No, really, I am (somebody please hold me).
When I was nine, my family moved from the thriving metropolis that is Tucson, Arizona, to a large patch of desert 45 minutes east called Vail, Arizona. They said we were moving out into the “country” with acres of land, wide open skies, and none of the staples of a well conducted society – such as a grocery store, or people with all of their teeth. When I think of the country, I think of rolling hills with verdant shaggy trees and grass, cows grazing lazily while a young boy and girl have a picnic in a pastoral paradise. This was not the country. Exchange all of what I just said with poisonous snakes, poisonous lizards, poisonous spiders, poisonous cacti (seriously – there was jumping cactus…cactus that literally jumps and impales you if you even walk near it. Then, it’s like trying to get gum off of you. Really painful, spiked gum. When you pull it out of your arm, it attaches painfully to your hand. When you pull it from your hand, it grasps onto your other hand. It’s the “Stage 5 Clinger” of cacti.) Oh, and dirt. Lots of dirt. Basically, my family loved me enough to move me into a deathtrap. And you think you need to cover the electrical sockets… Ha! I see your electrical sockets and raise you rattlesnakes, gila monsters, and cacti that stalks and attacks you. The perfect place to raise a little girl…
There was one wonderful thing about living in this hazardous and barbaric land… we could have animals! Like REAL animals. Horses, goats, chickens… Hell, we even got some geese at one point (those fuckers are ferocious, so another thing to add to my list of things that will kill you in my childhood yard). But, before we were able to obtain these creatures for ourselves, the neighbor’s sheep would have to do.
Our house was on top of a large hill, then, the spiky, biting land dipped down into a sandy wash (oh, we had flash floods too), then, at the bottom of the hill, across the wash, and through some rusty barbed wire (of course), there was a patch of cleared flat land with pens of sheep. Then, the land swooped back up to the other hill where our neighbor’s blue house sat. Since I was displaced and in one of the seven layers of Hell, my mom asked the neighbors if I could play with their sheep because I was such an animal person. If it had fur, or wool – as it turned out, it was my friend. Plus, it would give me something to do besides complain to her that we lived in Vail. The neighbors said that I could go down and play with the sheep anytime I wanted, and I took them up on that offer. The hill leading down to the wash was steep and full of prickly everything (once again, great parenting at work) so I had to slide and scoot down the hill on my butt, maneuvering around the murderous desert landscape and the murderous desert creatures that lived within it. However, I found my way down the hill, through the wash, between the barbed wire, and lo and behold! Sheep! The only time I had ever seen sheep, they were half dead at morbid little petting zoos, so this was exciting – and well worth the treacherous trip. At first they were afraid of me and wouldn’t let me touch them, but after awhile, they got used to me popping out of the thorny bushes to come and see them. Not only could I pet them and play with them, but I finally got my damn pastoral when one curled up in my lap. Finally, something a nine year old girl could do to entertain herself, and finally, something soft in the middle of an environment full of sharpness.
After a few months, I had worn a perfect little dirt trail with my butt down the hill. Each time I came back with less cuts, scratches, or pieces of the desert stuck in me. I was getting the hang of this Vail living and I had the sheep to thank for that. They were my only soft happy place and I visited them every day.
Then, on a day like any other day, I scooted down my butt-made path, excited as all get out to see my woolly friends, crossed the wash, executed the perfect ninja moves through the barbed wire, popped out of the bushes and EVERY SINGLE SHEEP had been slaughtered. And by “slaughtered” I mean piles of guts, skinned bodies hanging from the trees still dripping with bright red blood, and their dismembered heads staring at me in a state of agony, the last look on their faces, spread across tables next to the very instruments of their destruction. Bloody knives, hooks, and other metal death devices were strewn about covered in thick, almost syrupy, red and brown liquid. I stood frozen. My nine year old mind buzzed and skipped trying to process what was before me. It was a massacre. I stared in shock at the bodies hanging from the trees, then the pile of guts and skin, the pools and splatters of blood that replaced the spot I used to sit, and then their heads, which were mimicking the same expression I wore on my face. If only I could have been lucky enough, like whiny Clarice, to hear the “lambs” screaming, at least I would have known NOT TO GO DOWN THERE. A little heads up, no pun intended, would have been nice and saved me the horror of seeing my once playful friends, torn apart and covered in flies, like a Chinese market. (No, I have never been to a Chinese market, but I have seen them on the “Amazing Race” so I’m an expert.)
Once I could move again, I screamed, enough for all of my fallen soldiers, and scrambled back up the hill, crying, catching my arms and legs on every brutal thorn. By the time I reached the top of our hill, I stood outside covered in my own blood from scrapes and scratches from the monstrous plant life I was used to carefully avoiding, bloody hands from tearing into the hillside to climb faster, and wet dirt that had stuck to my tears and streaked down my face. If anything, I looked like I had barely escaped the massacre and this tyrannical murderous beast had been hot on my heels. My mom heard me first, hysterical and gasping, and when she ran out and saw the state I was in, grabbed me up and kept asking me what happened… my mouth unable to form words, just fish-like gasps as they’re pulled from the water. She cleaned me up, and finally, I was able to tell her what happened. She gawked at me, and I could just tell she was thinking, This is going to fuck my kid up forever. We had such high hopes… except I was nine, so I just knew she was looking at me like I was the scary one mixed with questioning. Like she was trying to look inside my mind to answer the question: Is this going to make my child a serial killer?
It turned out that the neighbors had completely forgotten that I was a daily visitor because the sheep were down the hill from their house. They had no idea the bloody scene they created was to be seen by a little girl and possibly, put her in an institution. But, I wasn’t put into an institution. Shortly after, we got animals of our own that I could visit any time and know I wasn’t going to walk into puddles of their blood. Well, for the most part, at any rate… but that’s another story. At least I had the comfort of knowing that our animals weren’t food, and that was good enough for me.
Now, the question that Hannibal asked Clarice: “You still wake up sometimes, don’t you? You wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs.” Well, the answer is no. I’ve never had the luxury of hearing the lambs scream, Clarice. So stop bitching about that one lamb you tried to run away with, but they killed it anyway. At least you knew. And who tries to go running holding a freaking lamb? They’re big and they really don’t like being picked up. And the hooves are all kicky. If you knew and loved these lambs so much, Clarice, you would have known this and you would have just stayed in your room and covered your head with a pillow. As you can see, my story is way more upsetting than the one life changing moment Clarice experienced which showed her that the world was cruel and continued to haunt her… even more so than her father getting shot and killed by a burglar. By Silence of the Lambs rules, I experienced something more damaging than having the one person I loved most in the world be gunned down. And to think…there’s a second Silence of the Lambs moment to come! So, when I share this story and people look at me with that same look my mother gave me that day, that mixture of suspicion and “is everything okay in there?“, I can assure you, that it is. I do have some bloody dreams and crazy nightmares, but those could really be linked to a number of things in my life. On the whole, I’m fine, and it’s actually kind of funny looking back at it because it’s just so ridiculous and outrageous. To answer your question: No, Dr. Lecter, the lambs aren’t screaming. But don’t piss me off, just to be safe…
By: Jennifer Kinkade