Elegy                       (R.W.W. June 4, 1998 — July 14, 1998)
Keith Woodruff

Early morning. As he enters the chicken coop, the hens are quiet but for that low steady clucking. Calmly, the boy reaches into the first nest and gently takes the brown egg. He wants to get in and out without rousing the hens. Three eggs in his basket now. His chore each morning before school.

When he was younger, he thought the chickens beautiful. Noted their personalities. Named a few and even considered them pets. He feels nothing but contempt for them now, for the idiot flies that ping into his eyes and mouth, for the smell of chicken shit he carries onto the school bus. He reserves most of his hate for the rooster, though—just another tiny dictator too sure of his claim on the world. The rooster, who has entered the coop now and is watching the boy with its head lowered; the boy, who has one eye on the rooster and is now grabbing up the eggs more quickly as the hens cluck with growing alarm. Finally the rooster charges, a rush of red-orange feathers, and the boy kicks repeatedly at its head, feels the beak strike his shoe. Fuck you, the boy thinks, I am taking your eggs you stupid fuck. Like a boxer that won't stay down, the rooster comes at him again. This time, he kicks it so hard that feathers fly. It lies stunned in the straw for a moment before it's back, hopping up and down at the boy's feet and battering his legs with its wings.

Every morning they do this dance. The rooster is just doing his job. The boy gets that but feels they should have an understanding by now. That the rooster should back off and stop making his shit job of gathering eggs harder than it has to be.

He has gone for the eggs for so many mornings, he does it without thinking or seeing what he's doing. But this morning, he takes an egg that's still wet into his hand and it jars him, makes him pause and forget the rooster, though it will be years before as a father he remembers the moment, years before it truly breaks his heart.

Keith Woodruff has work in or coming from American Literary Review, Quarter After Eight and others. He lives with his wife and son in Akron, Ohio.

Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Mark Robinson.

W i g l e a f               09-29-16                                [home]