The following Saturday, I walk in the front door of our A-Frame after working all day, wearing a tired but genuine smile.
Mom says, “Ishta! What in the world is that horrible smell?”
I reply, “It’s probably me. Those stinkin’ dead chickens infect me with their grossness but it’s worth it on payday. I’m gonna ride my motorcycle.”
“Not until you clean up and wash that smell off. Oofta Mae!”
Nina walks down the stairs and into the kitchen where I am talking to Mom. She says, “Ooh. I smell…something!” She looks at Mom and asks, “Are you boiling cabbage?”
I’m indignant. “Never mind, Neen, the teen string bean queen!”
“Well, excuse me for living, Mr. Crabby Appleton!”
I know the best way to annoy her is to repeat what she says so I say, “Well, excuse me for living, Mr. Crabby Appleton!”
“Stop mocking me Dane!”
“Stop mocking me Dane!”
She becomes angrier. “Mom! Tell Dana to stop mocking me!”
“Mom! Tell Dana to stop mocking me!”
Mom is stern but still loving when she responds. “Dane, you know we don’t allow any mocking in this house. Never have, never will!”
“She started it by telling me that I smell like cabbage!”
“No excuses. And you really need to take a shower sweetie. You smell like dead chickens!”
“Ok. Ok. Fine.”
Erik walks over to the side of the mountain, next to a small bush and grabs a grouse that he shot. I walk over to get a closer look.
“Hey, you got one! How’d you do that? I thought you were out of bb’s.”
“I am. I shot it with this.” He reaches down and pulls a nail out of the ruffed grouse’s head.
“Wow! Good shot. You hit head cheese!”
Chickens are strange creatures. The roosters crow all times of the day and even when it’s dark out. They run in a straight line when you chase them. They also run like crazy when their heads are chopped off, often in a straight line as well. Chickens think the sky is falling when you pelt them in the head with plums and when one dies, the others peck the dead one until it becomes a stinky heap of flesh. I’m mystified as to why they do this. I mean, they aren’t carnivores. Did they peck their dead friend into mush to try and revive her? My best guess is that they peck because they’re too dumb not to. If they didn’t lay eggs or taste delicious when you fried them, chickens would be pure useless.
Ray peers into the gunnysack. “Looks like you got all the dead ones out. Fewer today than usual. Well, that’s ok.”
That is a strange remark. As I study the farmer and consider his words, his face tells me that he is wondering if I really got all the dead chickens out of the metal pens and that he’ll double check later. I hope I got them all. I’m 99.9% certain that I did. You just never know with chickens and it wouldn’t surprise me if some will die just to make me look bad like I didn’t do my job.
Ray has gray hair, flecked with black. He wears years of hard work on his face. I admire the deep lines and wrinkles, which remind me of an old, broken-in, catcher’s mitt. When I shake his hand, it’s like shaking a leather glove that was wet and dried in the sun. His hand feels hard and unpleasant. That’s the kind of rugged, manly handshake that I’d like for myself and hope that this job will help me in that endeavor.
My name is Dana and my goal is to share the unconventional story of my teen years in a way that may make you cringe but also laugh. The chapters are intentionally short so that you can read "just one more" before you go to bed or a quick one before work or maybe a couple during your lunch break at work.