In my poll last month, you all said you wanted to see some fiction from me. Here’s a small story I concocted for you — I hope you’re all getting ready to enter the End of the World Flash Fiction Contest next week!
Enjoy, and if you like it, let me know in the comments!
Blood drips onto the packed earthen floor, making spots of liquid rust.
Pa thrusts the chicken carcass into my hand. Its feathers are still warm, still soft, still alive. At least I think so.
“Take this here bird to Ma, Genevieve. We got to make sure all’s right for the Mayor, you hear?”
I nod at him and heft the chicken, glancing down once at the stump where her head stares up at me through glazed dead eyes like tiny black marbles. Lucky was my favorite chicken, but today it was her turn with the axe.
Ma’s at the hearth with a pot at full boil. I slide the bird into the boiling water, holding onto the feet. I look up at Ma, swirling Lucky in the pot like a paintbrush in turpentine. Ma sticks her tongue through the hole where her front tooth fell out, and I pull Lucky from the pot and dunk her in the bucket of cold water.
Lucky ain’t the first chicken I’ve plucked. Her feathers come out easily, like Pa’s slow-roasted ribs when the meat falls off the bone.
Ma hands me the stuffing, and I grab handfuls of the buttery bread. I picked the sage for it myself, down by the ravine.
I look up at Ma’s face, what used to be so pretty. Now she’s dripping sweat on the chicken and her blue eyes are muddy gray.
Lucky’s cavity overflows with the stuff. Like a cave-in I saw once, where the rocks done poured out of the cave’s maw. I round up some stray bits of bread.
“It’s gotta be perfect, girl. I ain’t the one to explain to your Pa if it’s not.”
Soon the smell of roast Lucky fills the cabin, and I watch the sun race the sliver of crescent moon to the horizon. Just after the last glowing golden strip dips under the trees, there’s a knock at the door.
It’s the Mayor in his brushed suit. He’s even gone and wore a bow tie. Pa’s in fresh muslin, and me and Ma in our nicest calicos. Pa’s leathery hand clasps the Mayor’s, which looks like soft silk and smells like mint even from here.
Ma’s dressed the table in our only cloth, a lace overlay Gran made that has more runs than whorls. The Mayor sits at the head, and he flashes a gold tooth at me.
“Ain’t you a picture, little Genevieve. All grown up, aren’t you?”
I give him a smile, real demure like. He shifts in his seat and nods at the plate of chicken in front of him.
“Now, Abel. You thought about that proposal I made?” The Mayor looks at me as he says it and picks up a drumstick, teeth tearing into the dark meat.
“I don’t reckon I can give up this here land, Mayor. My grandad’s pa’s what settled it.”
“You got what, dozen chickens and three cows up in these parts? Not enough to feed three mouths.”
Pa’s hand is holding his knife as he carves a slice of Lucky’s breast. The knife shakes as he pulls it away, and I slide off the bench.
“You like some more tea, Mayor? I made it myself.” I gesture to the tin pitcher on the mantle.
He nods and waves me off, his eyes on Pa’s knife. “I could set her up real sweet, Abel. Real sweet.”
I fill the Mayor’s glass, and he catches my arm. His silk-soft thumb brushes the thin skin of my wrist. My pulse jumps.
“I always meant this land to go to my daughter, Mayor. Not to sell to nobody.”
The fingers fall from my skin, but still I hover at his shoulder. I can see his handkerchief poking out of his pocket like a dead white tongue.
The Mayor opens his mouth to respond, and I cut in. “Well, looky there, Mr. Mayor. You got yourself the heart.”
He smiles at me again, and I bob a curtsy as dainty as I can make. He spears the heart with his fork and bites into it. Juice dribbles down his chin. I pull his handkerchief from his pocket and hand it to him. He shakes it out and dabs the chicken grease from his lips. I see his name embroidered on the hanky.
His hands fly to his throat, and blood spills out between his fingers.
“Land ain’t for sale, Mr. Mayor,” I tell him as the drops make spots of liquid rust on the floor. “And I ain’t for sale neither.”
I pry open his jaw and take hold of his gold tooth. One good yank drops it into my palm.
I done said it before. Lucky ain’t the first chicken I’ve plucked.
Get every new post delivered to your Inbox
Join other followers