One of my favorite books growing up was about a farm family. It featured photographs of a woman milking cows and a redheaded boy feeding a cluster of chickens. When I was seven, my dad took me to a feed store where baby chickens squeaked and ran around on cedar chips. I touched their fuzzy bodies, warm from the red heat lamps and begged my dad to buy me one, and he had to drag me out of the store while I cried hysterically. I continued crying for hours after we left and became consumed with the idea of having a pet chicken, one that I could housetrain and teach how to speak. That day I noticed that on my right palm, my veins resembled the beak and head of a bird. For the next two years, I hoped this meant that having pet chickens was in my future.
For months before our baby chickens’ arrival, I read books about raising chickens. Despite having educated myself about the intellectual capabilities (and shortcomings) of the birds, I was still naive. I turned a shoe box into a bed big enough for a baby hen. I intended to pick my favorite chick and keep her in my bedroom, and I still stubbornly believed that if I tried hard enough, I could not only housetrain the bird, but teach her to speak English.
"There's no way in hell we are keeping a chicken in the house, Gina,” my mom attempted to reason with me. You can't train a chicken to do anything. Their brains are the size of peas."
All six chicks were supposed to be female, but I kept hoping that one of them would grow up to be a rooster. My premonition was correct. Big Red matured into a vicious beast with a shiny red coat and floppy comb. He would rape the hens and use his talons to attack my brother and I as we returned from schools; often we’d drop our backpacks and run into the house as we entered our property. Neighbors and friends were also met with Big Red’s rage.
After numerous incidents of numerous people being attacked my parents tried unsuccessfully to sell him at a farm show. There, he tried to attack a Rottweiler from the cardboard box, perforated with many holes, he was in. My dad’s farmer coworker ultimately decided to take him in.
The roosters there, all 12 of them, weren’t impressed with Big Red’s attitude upon his arrival. As we let him out of the cardboard box, they waddled up to meet him. He, in turn, tried to peck the face of one of them. They then collectively chased him off, ostracizing him. Big Red slept the rest of his angry, lonely life in the cow barn until coyotes ultimately killed him.
Portions of this micro memoir are from "Suspect," a memoir to be released by Vegetarian Alcohol Press in 2023.
Gina Tron is the author of multiple books, including the memoir "You're Fine.", absurdist short story collection "Eggolio and Other Fables," and poetry collections "Star 67," "Employment," and "A Blurry Photograph of Home." Forthcoming memoirs "Eat, Fuck, (Write About) Murder" and "Suspect" will be released by Vegetarian Alcoholic Press in 2023. Gina is currently eating crab eggs.
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