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November 7, 2021


Natalie Warther

On the farm we had 20 of them, each as big as a rat terrier. Our yard wasn’t ours, it was theirs, and in it they hunted bugs and ran wide legged and severed worm heads with their beaks. “Chicken” is the wrong word to describe someone who is scared. Visitors came. “We want to see the chickens,” they’d say, and I’d retreat to my room, chew on my hair, and watch from my window as all 20 birds came streaking, screaming.  We heard rumors of genius chickens: chickens who rode bicycles, chickens who solved puzzles, chickens who could add and subtract, chickens who played God Bless America by hitting their skulls on piano keys. “Break its neck,” my older cousin demanded, to prove I wasn’t a chicken. So I did, I twisted its neck like a wet rag until I heard a snap. The other chickens flapped and squawked, memorizing my face. The cousins threw the chicken body into the woods like a tomahawk, its neck spinning around its body into the night. We never saw it land, but we heard it: heavy like a sob. I dreamt of the bird hitting the ground over and over again, the sound of it as crisp as a single word: Fight. In the morning the chickens were positioned under my window, looking up, subtracting.