Claire sat in the coop looking at Henrietta.
“I just can’t imagine what I want to be doing in three to five years!” she said as Henrietta scratched at some scratch.
“I guess I should have said I wanted to still be working for his company in three to five years.”
“Doesn’t matter, cluck,” said Henrietta.
Claire, normally a pleasant person, was in a foul mood. She petted Henrietta. Henrietta stooped her body to flatten her soft feathery back. It felt better that way when someone petted her.
“What a jerk. As if I would want to be scoring psychological profiles for the next five years. Myers-Briggs my ass,” said Claire.
She picked up some scratch and let Henrietta eat out of her hand. Claire dug her toes into the straw, dirt, wood shavings and chicken shit that covered the floor of the coop. She kicked it about here and there, drawing shapes unconsciously. Henrietta finished the scratch in Claire’s hand and moved to the corner of the coop to scratch and peck a little more.
“Are you moving, (peck) out here (peck) with me?” asked Henrietta.
“Henrietta, you have such a nice house. You got a bed, food, a ladder and most important of all, it isn’t my parents’ house.”
“Yes, (peck) but I don’t think (peck) that you would want (peck) to go to the bathroom (peck) on your floor (peck). Besides (peck) it is in (scratch) your parent’s (peck) backyard.”
“I suppose it does get a little crowded with the six other chickens,” said Claire as the rest of the brood came bounding in the door.
“Brrrrrrrrk,” said Henrietta in a soft low voice so the other chickens couldn’t hear her.
Feathers flew everywhere. Wings flapped and bodies hopped as the chickens jockeyed for position. “I want to roost.” “No it’s my turn.” “Is there any food?” the other chickens squawked at each other.
“Oh bother,” said Henrietta.
“What am I going to do?” asked Claire as she picked some feathers out of her hair.
“Doesn’t matter (peck). “Done enough already,” said Henrietta.
“This world sucks,” both Henrietta and Claire said at the same time.
Claire leaned her head against the wall of the coop and sighed. And then coughed as some dust caught in her throat. She reached down to pick up Henrietta and hold her in her lap. She pinned Henrietta’s wings against her body. Henrietta did not like this and kicked until Claire put her back down. Henrietta ran to the other side of the coop.
“Fine, be that way! Don’t help me out,” said Claire.
“Help you out (peck)? You’ve screwed everything up (peck).”
Claire looked out the small window at her parents’ house. Evening was setting in. She could see the exterior of the house as well as the interior rooms lit up. She saw the dark window of her room — the room she grew up in. She didn’t need to see it. She knew every wall, every shelf, every doll, every poster, and every piece of clothing in the closet. Except for one year of living on campus during college, she had been staring at the walls of that room for twenty-two years. People say that as you get older the years seem shorter. To Claire they seemed to be getting longer.
“If only I could do something right,” she sighed.
“Can’t (scratch). Ruined the world,” said Henrietta.
The chickens exploded in a frenzy of screeches and feathers as Claire screamed, stomped her feet and repeatedly bashed the walls with her fists. The coop looked like a chaotic, spastic snowglobe with chickens and feathery snow falling upward, sideways and downward all at once. By the time the last flake fell, Claire was covered with feathers and began to chuckle. The chickens hovered nervously as far from her as possible.
“Well, I guess I’ll survive. Everybody does. So what if I can’t get a job in my field. I can make things work. So what if I still live in my parent’s house. I’ll be in my own place someday soon. So what if no guys are interested in me. I’ll….” Claire stopped. She wasn’t sure if she stopped because she knew what she was going to say was a lie or because saying it might make it come true.
“You (peck)! Always about you (peck)!”
“Fuck this world. They’re all too stupid to know anything,” said Claire
“Too stupid. True, true,” said Henrietta.
“They’re so stupid they don’t know what’s good for them,” Claire reassured herself.
“True, true,” said Henrietta. “Killed the world (cluck).”
“They’re so stupid they’ll all probably die from stupidity.”
“True, true. They killed themselves (scratch).”
Henrietta came closer to Claire and pecked at her shoelace thinking it was a piece of spaghetti. Henrietta liked spaghetti.
“They’re so stupid I’m surprised this world even exists anymore.”
“Not much longer (scratch), brrrrrk (cluck).”
Claire got up. Hunched over under the low ceiling of the coop, she made her way to the door while a sea of small feathery bodies parted for her. Her seat was immediately taken by a silver-laced Wyandotte.
“Thanks for the chat, Henrietta,” Claire said turning to face the buff colored chicken. “Everything will be fine. I’ll survive and tomorrow will be a new day.” Claire turned and walked out the door.
“(peck) Not many more days (peck). Won’t survive, brrrrrrrrk. Killed the world (peck). Doomed us all (scratch).”
Mark Granlund is an artist and writer from Saint Paul, MN. Throughout his adult life, Mark has been painting and writing, often developing projects that involve collaboration with other artists. His current work looks at food and what it means to eat healthy. The story above is from The Book of Bartholomew.
Image: Mark Granlund