Hardly Noticeable

Sunday, October 30, 2005


As I was trying to create life, my father was out in the garage. I’m sure that he was working on his chicken-plucking method. Spots of blood, piles of innards scattered about the oil-stained cement. He tried to throw the feathers into the fifty-gallon burning barrel, but most ended up on the floor, strewn about like bloody snowflakes. He kept his strong jaw clenched, little flecks of blood were spattered in his brown hair. His grey eyes squinted like high-compression springs ready to burst. He was biting his tongue on the left side of his mouth, his lips were pulled in that direction as well. I can see his brow, pulled together like a horizon, the wrinkles on his forehead clouds over the mountains of his thin, brown eyebrows. The finished chickens he hung on the pegboard that held his hammer, saw, and crowbar. The carcasses hung upside down, their feet tied together and slung over a wooden peg. It was probably not the best way to store the finished chickens, he knew, but he couldn’t think of anything more convenient so left it that way. The porcine anger behind his eyes was the anger of defeat, of gluttony, of destruction. He wanted me to realize that he’d done what he did. He wanted me to punch and kick and scream. He must have. Someone looking at him for the first time would have thought him a mental patient at best, a degenerate murderer at worst. His tanned skin was stained with blood from the chickens’ innards; on his chest was the imprint of his own hand over his heart, slightly blurred, but distinguishable.

A few days after the disaster, my father’s surplus of eggs had dwindled down to nothing, and he was uninterested in buying any more. “If I’d wanted eggs, I’ll buy more chickens,” he had said to my mother one morning. I was busy thinking about what ants do in the winter underground, but my father’s statement caught me off guard because of the odd construction of the sentence. I wanted to tell him about my egg, but couldn’t bring myself to do so.
Nobody knew that I had the egg, as my bedroom was a testament to the universe’s penchant for entropy, and as such my mother usually closed the door when she walked by, in case guests or members of high society or the President of the United States happened to knock on our front door for a tour. Who could possibly countenance messiness in the room of a nine-year-old? I was the only one who’d been in the room the whole summer, and I knew that my own messiness was the reason my secret was safe.
“You know, I think I’ll just have some chicken for breakfast, how does that sound?” my father asked the air.
“Yeah, that sounds good,” my mother replied.
I stared down at my bowl of oatmeal. They hardly ever asked me anything, especially at breakfast. There were always conversations existing at the forefront of my consciousness of which I was not a member. I was the phantom, the vapor, the ghost that made my parents occasionally speak in hushed tones but was rarely directly addressed.
“Have we ever had chicken for breakfast?” my father asked.
“I don’t think so. It sounds strange, but good. Chicken’s a dinner food, but I think we could eat it for breakfast,” my mother replied.
“How can I cook it, though? I’ve never cooked a chicken,” he said. I can picture the framework inside his skull. He must have expected cooking a whole chicken to be like grilling breasts on the barbecue. When he’d finished plucking the chickens, he probably realized that he had no idea how to prepare such a complicated animal. Was it the same as a turkey? Baste, baste, baste? Turkeys took, what, five, six hours? How long should a chicken take? Are they part of the same family, so you can just adjust the time according to their size, or do chickens have their own time frame?
“Do you need some help,” my mother asked. She had probably noticed the puzzled look on his face. I ate another spoonful of oatmeal.
“I can do it. I just need to figure out how we want to eat this. I suppose I could make a fire in the backyard and put it on a spit and roast it,” he said. I can see the confused look in his eyes. “Or I could put it in a pan in the oven for a few hours.”
“Yeah, you could do that. Although I’d probably cut down the time a bit, since we don’t want chicken jerky.”
When I finally looked up from my oatmeal I saw that he was frowning. I felt something building inside my chest, words that needed to escape.
“You could deep fry the chicken,” I said. The air went out of the room like a vacuum. My father and mother looked at me, eyes dull like soap, a slippery look. My father shook his head, looked at the refrigerator.
“You could deep fry the chicken,” my mother said.
“I suppose I could. Yeah, that’s a damn good idea. Good thinking, hon,” he said. I wondered if they heard me; my insides felt like battery acid.
But their breakfast meal was set: deep fried chicken.
My father went outside, and as he did so I washed my bowl in the sink and set it out to dry. In my room, the egg was still unbroken, but I knew it had to crack soon. It moved intermittently, which I assumed was natural. As I stood looking over it, I could hear my father dragging the grill out from the garage. Something stirred inside me, and I pulled down a green notebook off the shelf above the egg’s box and wrote in it The chicken will burn. The words compelled me to write them. They tugged at my hand gently, pulling me toward the pen and paper, pulling the downstroke on the capital T and cutting a line across its top. They scared me, for I didn’t know why I wrote them, and I didn’t know what they meant


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