So I've been digging through my backlog and I found this little story I've done a few years back when I'm still toying with some concepts. Did some editing on it and viola, here it is. The cringe-ass title might be what sucked you in but heck, couldn't think of a more fitting one for this story.
It's a short story set in the universe of Caninstinct (https://www.royalroad.com/fiction/29801/caninstinct-hiatus-until-january-2021). If you like what you've read here, I hope y'all can check that out as well.
Twenty years ago, I was a truck driver. I’ve held the occupation for thirty years and for thirty years I’ve done nothing but drive stuff across borders. It was a job with no compromises and with all the flexibility of a brick wall. Every day was nothing but a diesel engine, cargo to haul, and miles of asphalt.
Quite frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Then some hotshot entrepreneur introduced Automated Cargo Shipments to the world and basically eliminated truck driving as an occupation. Understandably, my colleagues got angry. I would be lying if I claimed I didn't feel the same. They took to the streets and formed unions and protests. Damn near became a riot too. I didn’t join in on the fuss. I already knew this was a losing battle when the news first emerged. With how fast technology was growing, it was inevitable. Us truck drivers are living, breathing people. People that sometimes lose control of the wheel, and sometimes doze off dangerously on the job. People that get careless and have accidents. People who’d make mistakes machines will never make. With the way mankind advanced through the ages, it was a no-brainer. The fact still didn’t make me any less spiteful whenever one passed by. Still feel the sting every once in a while, even twenty years later.
I never thought I was the kind to be sentimental, but spending three decades driving things cross country did something to me on an emotional level. It was then that I decided I should have a formal goodbye to the job I once had. When all my colleagues were busy lashing out onto the heartless, corporate rats, I asked my supervisor if I could have at least one more assignment. He must’ve taken pity on me because the day after I asked he dispatched the last truck in the company to ever be manned by, well, a man.
For a last assignment, it was admittedly simple. It felt like an anticlimactic-end to an epic saga. Yet again, truck driving isn’t exactly an adrenaline-pumping thrill ride of a job. It was like every other assignment I had; an overnight drive from A to B with a tight but probable deadline. I didn’t know what else I expected beyond the usual drive, to be honest.
But I did know what I didn’t expect. That was when I met the Chicken Chicken Farmer.
The job was to ship frozen Feral chicken to a distributor out of the state. The job also entailed on-site loading, which was located on a farm situated on the far side of the state the company depot was in. In other words, I had to drive to pick-up, take a massive U-turn and make a beeline towards drop-off. If this was any other job, I would’ve made my dissatisfaction very audible to my supervisor and grumble my way through the whole ordeal. But considering the circumstances at the time, I wasn’t complaining about having more time in the truck.
The farm was a two-hours’ drive from the depot. It sat upon a hill embedded deep within a light forest, with its only line to civilization being a desolated strip of asphalt stretching a few miles in between. The climb took half an hour, which was heavily due to my slow crawl in fear of oncoming vehicles as the truck already took three quarters of the whole road. If anything wider than a scooter were to come from the opposite direction, it will be another hour or two added to my already tight schedule.
As it turns out, I could’ve saved fifteen minutes, even twenty. The farm was the only thing sitting on the exit of the road. The shoulder opened up abruptly to a wide field of gravel big enough for me to park the truck and still have space for several more. The field was enclosed by the same forestry that followed the road, accented by a rising hillscape of lush greenery, surrounding the place with more vegetation. Sitting on the far side of the gravel was an old, rusty lorry that had seen better days. Its tyres were as flat as the ground it stood on, with its once white paint oxidized into a depressing, crumbling brown. Whoever owned that lorry obviously never saw much use of it.
Looming over the lorry was an old, small farmhouse. It had this sort of rustic charm to it, oozing from its wooden structure and boarded walls with a tiny, smoking brick chimney billowing grey cloud after cloud to further seal the deal. It looked as if it came straight out of a western film, complete with the authentic, antiquated wear that came with its age. I walked up to the mahogany door and gave it a knock. Half a minute later I heard the sound of an open latch, followed by the door opening.
I wasn’t ready when I saw who it was that stood behind the doorway.
There stood the Chicken Chicken Farmer.
Not just a Feral chicken farmer, mind you. A Feral chicken farmer that is, as his name suggests, a chicken. Looking beyond his title, he had all the looks of a farmer. Ruffled feathers stuffed in a pair of obstinate, dirty denim overalls; a dirt-ridden face laden with accustomed fatigue and a limp comb drooping on the top; a hundred-yard stare from his tiny black pupils; the whole mile. He looked like he was born straight out of a haystack. The thing is, you’d usually see these types in the agricultural business, not the meat industry. You’d think this man spent his days cutting weeds, not cutting…
I didn’t show the Chicken Chicken Farmer my surprise, or at least I think I hid it. I was fully expecting some scary wolf or a one-eyed bear to answer the door. Turns out, it was this scrawny chicken, who looked like his main diet consisted of only beans and grains; nothing red and chunky. My reaction wasn’t a shock but more of a bombshell of a revelation. Still, either way, it was disrespectful for a person like me to judge, much so when done visibly.
“Greetings,” I quickly tipped my cap to hide my face, “Here to pick-up for-”
“I know,” the farmer spoke in coarse yet low clucks. “I made the call.”
“Well then,” I said, “Let’s not waste time. Don’t got a whole day with me.”
“Pardon me, come on in,” the farmer directed a wing into the farmhouse as he stood to the side. As I stepped in, he asked, “Aren’t you guys replaced with robots already?”
The chicken certainly didn’t mean any harm behind his innocent question, but even his tame, gentle tone didn’t make it hurt any less. Still, I had a job to do, so I rolled with it. It’s not like us truckers are free from scrutiny in our daily goings anyway.
“Just doing my last job before the robots take my truck away,” I explained. “So where’s the package?”
“Right there in the slaughterhouse,” the chicken raised a wing to the opposite end of the farmhouse, “But do excuse me for a minute ‘ere, you sort of crashed into my breakfast.”
Just as the chicken mentioned it I caught a whiff of a funky scent radiating from his mouth. I quickly took a step back, “S-Sorry, take your time, please. But do hurry up. I gotta catch the exit before the evening rush.”
The chicken gave me a polite nod and headed down a hallway, leaving me alone within the farmhouse. The yokel allure carried itself inside, decorating the walls with the same furnished wooden planks and a brick-laid fireplace, crackling with fury under the autumn chill. It was obvious no one else lived here. There was only one of everything. Chair, table, sofa; just about anything in the house could only accommodate one at a time.
There were also black-and-white photos hung sporadically around the place. I tracked the frames as I walked, examining them close whenever I passed one. All of them were pictures of either a chicken’s portrait or a flock of them lining up for a group photo. Many of them wore the same attire as the farmer, and nearly all of them, hen or rooster, had posed with a Feral chicken in their arms at least once in the pictures.
I absentmindedly strolled about, trailing the photos without much care until I stumbled into the kitchen unknowingly. It was a small room, barely as big as a cheap motel room. There were no dining tables or chairs; it only had a counter, a stool, a stove, a sink and some cabinets and drawers. The farmer was sitting on the stool, picking through a can of beans with a spork. I didn’t notice his glance from behind as I studied the photos, and I was shameless enough to be informed of it by none other than the bearer of the gaze himself.
“That there’s my pa,” the farmer spoke with a mouthful, catching me completely off guard. “He was the one who handed the business to me.”
I turned around in an instant, my mouth agape, my mind scrambling to find a good excuse as to why I accidentally intruded into someone’s meal in their own home. Then the farmer spoke, “Just give me a second here, I’m already scraping the bottom.”
I quickly changed the topic, “H-How far back does the business go?”
The chicken rose from the stool and went to the sink, “I had all my stories told by my Pa, and he said it was grandpa who gave him the business, or rather that he was handed down the business. Then my Pa told me that grandpa told him before he got handed the farm that it was my great-granduncle who gave the farm to my grandpa. He couldn’t give it to his daughter because he sent her to college and neither did his son because he died prematurely. I heard he was born without a butthole or something.”
Wrangling myself not to snort, I asked, “So your great-granduncle started the Feral chicken business?”
“Who knows?” the farmer said, “I might be the fourth or twenty-fourth generation for all I’m told to know about.”
Then, with great courage, I decided to check with my initial suspicions from the photos I’ve seen, “So of all the generations, hypothetical and all, in this Feral chicken business, are all of them-”
Before I could finish my question, the farmer answered it, “If there’s one thing I know for sure, yes, the family business has always been run by us chickens, without fail, for as long as it went.
“Ah right,” the farmer realized, “where are my manners? Would you like something to sharpen those coyote canines of yours? I make a mean chicken pie if I’d say so myself.”
I was taken aback, not by the classic southern hospitality, that I’ve taken advantage of before without much remorse, but the way the Chicken Chicken Farmer spoke his words. He uttered each syllable with such a nonchalant, laid-back attitude that I instantly assumed he was oblivious to his own words and stayed silent for a moment. As I left the farmer hanging on a pause, it was getting more obvious by the moment that that wasn’t the case. The farmer meant every word he said. He had a wide-eyed expression of anticipation hanging over his face, waiting for a response on my part.
“I-I’m fine,” I muttered, “I’m vegetarian.”
This time, it was the Chicken Chicken Farmer’s turn to be surprised. Admittedly, I gained a childish sense of retribution poking in my heart. It wasn’t every day you’d find a chicken farming Feral chicken, but neither would you find a herbivorous coyote on the same interval. If specifics were to be brought up, the latter is certainly more common than the former but that didn’t make the expression on the farmer’s face any less satisfying.
The farmer was slightly stunned for a moment before he eventually asked, “Was it out of pity?”
It took me a moment to register his words. They sounded out of place and sudden. I inquired further. “Pardon?”
“Are you a vegetarian out of pity?”
Even when further elaborated, I still couldn’t comprehend what sort of answer he was looking for. I opted to reply honestly instead, “I’ve been a vegetarian since birth. Family couldn’t afford meat so I never tried it before. Don’t plan to change that anytime soon, either.”
For a split second, I could see a slight twitch in the farmer’s eyes. For the initial few moments I
“Well, suit yourself. Follow me, the shipment’s in the slaughterhouse behind the farm grounds. I can feed the stock on the way too while we’re at it.”
The farmer led me to the back of the kitchen where a filtered screen door sat. He slid it open and there the farm sat right behind the house. I was about to refute in fear of running too tight on time but as soon as the farm came into sight I realized I had nothing to worry about.
Here I was expecting several acres of cleared, flat land with giant sheds and columns after columns of chicken coops propped to the side, surrounding a giant field littered with trays of poultry feed, populated on every square inch by mindless livestock droning about, letting out spurts and coughs of clucks into the air. I held my nose and squinted my eyes, just waiting to be hit by the concentrated stench of unwashed poultry one would come to anticipate from a chicken farm.
It was nothing like that at all. It looked less like a farm and more like a backyard project. The entirety of the ‘farm’ is barely a dingy spread of dirt caked with dry mud no bigger than a football field. It was still packed with strutting Feral chickens but not to a degree one would expect from a full-scale industry. You could probably tally them all with two digits. This looked more akin to a business you’d find in a private stall in the morning market, not one in need for a distributor. The chicken coops were just rows of tin roofs surrounded by wire gauze with open wooden frames cut in a regular interval. There weren't any large trays of feed to be seen, save for a giant trough filled with water sitting in the middle of the field. The smell was still there, just not as powerful as I initially expected.
It was also unusually peaceful. There was no deathly silence, but as a person who had been in chicken farms before the livestock seemed to be at complete ease. It wasn’t that these creatures had any form of higher understanding or consciousness but you could see a degree of alertness within their eyes. You could spot their pupils darting about, searching for both food and any danger that lay in waiting. These chickens had none of that sense. They strolled around the field like it was their impenetrable sanctuary, as ironic as it sounded. They walked with not even a discernable sense of self-preservation as if a great part of their frontal lobe had simply been scooped out of their heads. If a Feral wolf were to ever break into their fortress they’d happily waltz into its cavernous jaws, no questions asked.
I thought I might’ve whispered something under my breath a little louder than I intended because the farmer appeared next to me and said, “Yes, this is all. Nothing more than what you can see from here.”
Whether the farmer heard my words or discerned from my expression, I never knew. I quickly apologized, “Sorry. Thought you were running a full-scale operation here.”
The Chicken Chicken Farmer strolled to the side and grabbed a bucket from a shed sitting right beside the back of the farmhouse. I didn’t need to look to know what it is. As the farmer lifted the bucket I caught the whiff of a dry, funky scent overpowering even the stench from the poultry. My throat dried from the mere smell of it. I looked over the farmer’s shoulder to double-check and sure enough, I was right on the money - poultry feed, by the kilos.
The farmer started to stroll towards the clucking livestock as I trailed behind. He scooped up the grains by the wingful and tossed it across the place, left and right. The Feral chickens flocked towards the seeds, pecking pleasantly into the dirt. As he flung more seeds, he spoke, “Our family always sold our chickens at a premium. You could say that our products are of brand quality. We take orders with limited stock. Sometimes I get people coming down handpicking products.”
“I assume they’re somewhat special,” I said.
“I wouldn’t know myself,” the farmer joked, “But I’ve asked my customers before.”
I asked, “What did they say?”
“They said it tasted thankful.”
I didn’t understand what he meant but at the same time, I didn’t feel like prying too much. I wasn’t going to have meat in my teeth anytime soon anyway; thinking then, at least. I had more pressing questions anyway, things that were a tad hard to be comfortably put into words.
I tried to thaw the proverbial ice with a small question first. “So how long have you been doing this?”
“Well, as I said, my Pa handed me the business-”
I quickly explained myself, “I meant you, Mister Chicken Farm-”
“Chicken Chicken Farmer.” The farmer corrected me just as fast.
“Call me as it is; a Chicken Chicken Farmer,” the farmer said, “You wouldn’t personally refer to a Horse Paddy Farmer just as ‘paddy farmer’. You either call him Horse Paddy Farmer or just farmer. Don’t shy away from parts of the truth. You either face it entirely or ignore it completely.”
I couldn’t see the reasoning behind such an eccentric train of thought but I went along with it anyway and opted with a simple farmer, partly out of courtesy, mostly because it was less of a mouthful.
“Alright Mister Farmer, how long have you been doing this.”
The farmer took a deep sigh before he answered. For a moment I could see his pupils dilate and swirl into a darker shade. He seemed to be looking into his mind, swallowing his past in one emotional capsule before answering, “Fifty years for now.”
I realized how big of a risk it was to ask this. I might push a button I would’ve wished I never pushed, or drive a sour deal and potentially terminate business right then and there. But then, I figured at this point, any reprimands coming my way would’ve been inconsequential. Going all in, I asked the Chicken Chicken Farmer.
“How did you feel about that half a decade?”
The farmer answered, “It was a means to an end, I suppose.”
“No, no,” I quickly reaffirmed my question, trying to surpass the climbing suspense coiling around my throat with every syllable I mustered from my lungs, “I meant as in-”
“I know what you mean,” the farmer said, “I’ve got inquisitive truckers in my farm more times than I could count with my feathers. I appreciate your sensitivity; some were very frank with their questions.”
I felt relief sloughing that load off my chest. “Well, if it bothers you…”
The farmer simply beamed a smile and went on with throwing grains to the pecking birds on the ground. I didn’t press on further and the farmer never mentioned it again. As we ambled across the field the aforementioned slaughterhouse rose ominously against the horizon. Standing alone on the other side of the farm was a small wooden shack that seemed no bigger than a common tool shed. It sat on a space in the corner of the dirt ground, fenced off by shoddily constructed wooden stilts and wire gauze. There it loomed, silently watching as we approached.
Then the Chicken Chicken Farmer asked me, “What do you think of my chickens?”
“The chickens?” I was caught off guard a little by the question. “They’re just chickens, I guess. Feral animals to me. Food for others, I think.”
“Do you think they’re the same as you?”
Just like all his other questions, I didn’t know how to answer this one. Coming up with a patronizing answer was harder, so all I could do is tell the truth.
“They’re Feral animals, that’s what I think of them.”
“They’re food to you, aren’t they?”
I turned to the farmer, “I told you, I’m vegetarian-”
“Out of purpose, Mister Truck Driver,” the farmer said, “Let’s say if your parents had all the money in the world. They wouldn’t feed you vegetables. They’d feed you chickens. They’d feed you beef. They’d feed you pork. They’d feed you what other coyotes feed their cubs. Meat. You were born and shaped by dear Mother Nature to eat meat, and you can’t deny it. If God wanted you to eat carrots he would’ve made you a horse. But here you are, with a nose built to smell blood and teeth used to bite through bones. Your eyes are meant to grab my stock by the neck and chew through their heads. You’re a Carnivore, through and through. They’re nothing but food to you.”
Whether he was correct or not, I couldn’t know. I knew for a fact that I can stand testimony against everything the farmer had said about me but yet, if things were different back then, who knew what my parents would’ve fed me? They could’ve made me a vegetarian just as they did with me now, but who’s to say they wouldn’t follow with what every other Carnivore did to their children? I wasn’t going to try meat anytime soon, but I also didn’t know what I’d be if I had before. What thoughts would I be having about this farm had I tasted blood before?
It was a strange feeling, to see a possibly different self manifest right before your eyes while watching these clucking poultry stabbing their blunt beaks into dry mud, searching for more grains to fill their mouths. These Feral chickens meant nothing to me then and there. They were empty-headed beings just living by the days, thinking this farm was the whole world, having their destinies handled by another giant, benevolent chicken God in denim overalls tossing food to them every morning until they mature enough to meet their true maker.
“So how about you?” I shot the farmer the same question. Emotions were off the table at this point, as shown by the farmer himself. The gloves were off and the first hit was shot. I was expecting another one to be returned. “How do you feel about your chickens?”
The farmer tossed another wingful at the ground, this time right beneath his feet. The Feral chickens all crowded around, picking off little yellow pieces between his boots, sometimes looking back up with their little marble eyes, expecting their Holy Deity to grant them another golden shower.
“I’m above them.”
His reply had me mildly startled. There was no sense of arrogance in his words. He spoke like it was a true statement, as sure as eggs is eggs. It sounded like he was reciting a quote from a science textbook in high school without a hint of self-awareness, regardless of whether he knew and understood what he said or not.
“I’m born as who I am with privilege,” he continued, “I never have to worry about tomorrow because I was born on top of the food chain. It also just happened that I was born into this family. A generation of Chicken Chicken Farmers. Chickens who farm Feral chickens; feed Feral chickens; cleave Feral chickens. I could’ve gone for another job but family trade kept me where I was. In hindsight, I wouldn’t have it any other way. We are called chickens all the same but that’s the only similarity between them and me. I am a farmer. I am a Chicken Chicken Farmer. I’m the one who feeds and cleaves and my chickens are the ones I cleave.”
His words were like hearing the ocean waves crackle like flames. It was akin to a fever dream you could feel through every strand of fur on your body. The disorientation that came with the surrealism of his words felt almost solid to me. It was absurd but it wasn’t completely ridiculous. It sounded like lunacy yet resonated like a revelation.
As I hung onto the last of my soundness from the farmer’s oration, I asked him again, “So you always thought like this your whole career? Never felt guilty? Not even once?”
The farmer didn’t answer for a while. He dropped the bucket beside his hips and watched his chickens mill about around him, full and content as they went back to their daily routine of strutting about and looking into an empty distance.
“There was this one time,” he said.
For this, I felt surprised, considering the farmer’s words moments ago, “Really?”
“The first chicken I had to chop.” he said, “As part of training for the family business, I had to make a clean cut across the neck. One day after school Pa just handed me a cleaver and held the chicken on the chopping board. Then he told me dinner was off until I got this done.
“I held that knife in my hand and watched that hen’s eye stare at me with nothing. It felt no emotion whatsoever. It was just another day for the chicken, only today was a bit weird because it somehow ended up on a chopping board instead of the field. From there I felt guilty. I was taking advantage of an animal that couldn’t do anything. Then I felt something else.”
I asked, “Something else?”
“I felt dirty,” he said, “I felt like poultry trash and that I didn’t deserve to be born as a chicken, that I was lesser to even sleep in the coops with the other chickens. I pitied the chicken. It felt nothing. It felt nothing because it understood what it was. That was the family trade. The farmers understand that they’re farmers and the livestock understand that they’re livestock. They willingly give their life for our jobs. They gave themselves for nature to take course, as it should.
“And there I stood, feeling like the dirtiest garbage because I actually thought I had the power to change nature. I was an arrogant fool, thinking I could put down my position just to bestow my holy sympathy towards them like I’m playing God. I was mocking them by feeling guilty for their purpose. I’d insulted them.”
I didn’t let the words simmer in my head anymore. I simply listened.
I asked, “What’d you do next?”
The farmer reached in for the bucket again and tossed the grains sideways. Like drones, the Feral chickens clamoured over the scattered pile, opening a path towards the slaughterhouse.
“I had dinner that night.”
I thought about the farmer’s words as he tossed another wingful towards the poultry, this time further to the side where more of them started to crowd.
“That’s one way to think about it,” I commented.
“How about this,” the farmer said, “May I phrase it in a way that you could surely understand?”
I was intrigued, “Sure.”
“What if those machines stopped delivering for one day every week just so you drivers can do your job for one day? How would you feel?”
The farmer strolled down towards the slaughterhouse, leaving me and his words behind. I promptly caught up to him, putting his words on the back burner for another day’s thought.
As the Chicken Chicken Farmer pried open the wooden doors I was already on edge. I felt my brain being eroded from the metallic stench exuding from the tiny seams between the planks of the wooden walls. The smell must’ve done something to me because I was also hearing clucking from within the shed. I was not one to believe in the supernatural, but the concept of being haunted by generations of Feral chickens with unbridled vengeance didn’t seem to stray too far from a rational standpoint, considering the farmer and his job.
Then it turned out the smell wasn’t too bad for me, because there indeed was a brood of hens sitting in the shed, locked in a small coop fixed onto the side of the wall. On the opposite side were polystyrene coolers boxed, tied, marked and stacked on top of each other. There were so many of them that it made the shed itself look bigger than it is from the outside, but they weren’t so many that it made the job hard; just tedious, something a truck driver would have every day before breakfast. I went up to the boxes and took the count. There was a missing box. I told the Chicken Chicken Farmer about it. As a response, he pointed to the hens in the cages.
“I’ll be done by the time you’re finished with those,” he said.
At first, I thought it was nothing. There was certainly plenty of time for the farmer to be done before the last box of the pile. The customer would get it fresh on the spot too. Then I realized something else.
As I nodded, I went on my knees and picked out a box, but my eyes were looking at the farmer. He went up to the hens in the coop and unlocked the door. One by one they stepped out, shaking themselves with vigour as they looked around the place with mild curiosity, oblivious to the situation they were in.
With one scoop, the Chicken Chicken Farmer picked one up and brought it to a metal table sitting on the far end of the shed. From underneath the table, he pulled out a chopping board, its sides adorned with deep cuts and its surface decorated with many incisions. He laid the hen sideways and started to smooth its feathers, blowing a low whistle as he reached out to the side of the table. Under his wing, the hen was looking around the place, its eyes showing only relative interest to its current position, looking more concerned about its sideways position rather than its current predicament.
He grabbed onto a cleaver, its head scratched and bruised from long-term use. Even if it was freshly cleaned, anyone could still discern the spots of red imprinted onto the edges of the blade.
He softly gripped the hen’s neck and brought up the cleaver, and that’s when the hen made its futile connection. Feathers fluttered around as it broke into a frenzy, realizing the grip on its neck was anything but friendly. It threw a fit, shouting out cries of help and clucks of mercy as it struggled to flap away from the Chicken Chicken Farmer’s grasp.
I admittedly felt a sharp pang in my heart as I watched the scene.
Then the farmer slammed the cleaver down.
It landed just an inch above the hen’s head, its giant shiny head gleaming the chicken's reflection back to it with a glint on the edge.
The hen saw its reflection and, like a drug, captivated its senses as it paused in its frenzy. The farmer brought down his head, putting it right next to the hen as he stared into his reflection on the cleaver as well. Both chickens, Feral and farmer, stared unblinkingly at two of the same yet vastly different creations of Mother Nature off the cleaver’s steel head. The hen kept a considerable amount of time looking at itself, then at the farmer, then back at itself.
As if under a spell, the hen calmed back down. It completely laid on the chopping board, no indication of panic whatsoever. Any hint of emotion it had in its eyes were gone, replaced with total acceptance. You could tell signs of desolation and hopelessness in anyone, Feral or not. Slack limbs, visible loss of energy, and the lifelessness that showed itself in their eyes. The hen had none of those signs. Its eyes showed mostly, if not complete, commitment and acceptance in its marble gaze. It had the look of a soldier trudging down a battlefield or a boxer entering the ring for the final round.
The farmer brought the blade upwards once again and this time, he didn’t miss. It was clean. It was done with a single, audible thunk in the end.
There was blood, but it didn’t spew. It was calm like a river. The limbs didn’t spasm from the sudden loss of nerves. It simply laid limp on its side. With one brush the farmer tossed the head aside and dropped it onto the ground. As he dealt with the body I spotted a look on his face when he turned around a bit.
He seemed content and very much grateful.
I didn’t stay to watch the rest of it. I simply held the box in my hand and went away to the truck.
By the time I was onto the twentieth box or so the farmer was already done. He helped me load the last of them and by the time we were done the sun was well-over our heads, intent on burning a dome off my crown. I was already running tight on time by then, so I left with a quick farewell and took off to the highway.
The last time I ever saw the Chicken Chicken Farmer was right then and there, dressed in a bloodied pair of overalls, his wings caked with matte red, beaming with satisfied glee as he waved me off the gravel field.
The trip was as simple as it was. The only thing worthy of note throughout the whole journey was the drop-off (It was some undisclosed tunnel in the back alleyway of a city block. I had to double-check with my supervisor to see if I was in the wrong place. I had a zebra in a chauffeur uniform show up moments later, taking the truck along with the keys from me before driving through the tunnel with the lights off.) Other than that, that was it. My last job as a truck driver. Simple as.
Then came the first time I had meat.
Unemployment prompted me to try many new things over the years. While my colleagues were still trying to keep the Union afloat, I started freelancing as a chauffeur myself, inspired by my last drop-off. I also helped dig swimming pools for rich folks in the suburbs, and some other odd jobs. It was only a matter of time before I would finally live up to the name of my species.
It was somewhere around March, a few years after I first and last met the Chicken Chicken Farmer. I stopped by a local diner for lunch after a long afternoon’s job of roofing for some contractor in the big city. On the way, I passed by an Auto Cargo. I met it on an exit of the highway and for some reason, I felt nothing at all. All I had was this melancholic swirl pulsing in my gut as I switched lanes and gave way. I still felt the little tick in my head, but it felt more like a sense of sorrow than anger.
I didn’t know what came over me when I reached the diner. Maybe it was the smell emitting from the kitchen that finally ignited my subconscious, carnal desires. For once in my life, I ordered meat. It was as anticlimactic as ordering food would get. Back then I expected it to be a great decision. One that would require me to recontextualize my life and principals. Turns out all I had to do was order a simple chicken pie and a salad for a side. When the food came I was more intrigued by how unceremonious I was to a comparatively big change in my life rather than the actual food itself. Tossing all precognition aside, I dug in and after forty years of my life, I finally knew what chicken tasted like.
It tasted like gratitude.