John’s son didn’t sleep well Wednesday night, and neither did he. He stood by the crib for hours watching his son cry. John didn’t know if it was from hunger, or fear, or pain. The noises were all the same.

At work, too, the noises were the same, just louder. Sometimes the prod wouldn’t discharge completely and the calf would cry. He’d prod it again, and sometimes again, until it stopped. The other calfs would cry too, the ones waiting to see him. Were they hungry, maybe? Or scared? It was just noise. And when he prodded it enough, the noise always stopped.

John used the prod on himself once. A small one he brought home, just big enough to stop a calf’s crying. He did it in the garage. It hurt, even on the lowest setting, but he didn’t make a noise. He didn’t sleep well that night.

It was the noise that kept John awake. He heard it all day, he heard it all night. It was all the same.

All he wanted was for it to stop crying.