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