Hardly Noticeable

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Connecticut/Washington/Minnesota/New York/Florida/Kansas/California/North Carolina/Japan/Wisconsin/Netherlands/Iowa/Oregon Next up: Oman

I awoke less than an hour later, my forehead and hair soaked with sweat, the sun splayed out in stripes across my back and face, cut by the window blinds. My mouth tasted as though I’d been sucking on kiwi skin, and there was a spot of drool on my baseball glove. I stood up and looked back into the box.
The tiny chick was still searching for its mother. It moved as though it were a stop-motion movie, everything happening in short bursts, head twists and the clamping and unclamping of its beak. The day’s events had left the lingering imprint of fire upon me, and something about the way the chick moved reminded me of flames. It was all unceasing energy and movement, its feature a shell for the energy it transferred, like the body for the soul.
I stuck my hand into the cardboard box and stroked the top of the chick’s head. It was startled and began opening and closing its silent beak. I could imagine that it would be afraid of my hand, which must have seemed huge on its little head. The chick probably couldn’t reconcile the differences between its fuzzy body and my hairless hands. I could feel the zealous crackle of recognition, confusion, and excitement all mingling in the touch of fingers to feathers.
Gently, I cupped my right hand and hoisted the chick out of its cardboard home. It was light, lighter than a pencil or a piece of bread. I hadn’t expected this, that life could be so insubstantial. By now its feathers were dry and fuzzy, and while looking at it and the discarded egg, its weight made sense: the egg minus the eggshell equals the chicken. I lay down on my bed and placed the chick upon my chest. Its tiny claws caught in the cotton of my shirt, and as it wobbled around my chest I could see it plucking miniature holes in the front of my grey t-shirt. As I moved to put a pillow behind my head, the chick began to slip off the plateau of my chest and dug its claws into my skin. I felt the pain and it confirmed the chick’s existence, the pain that proved we both existed. I had gone from farmer to herder.
This role reversal was a problem, however, because I couldn’t figure out how to tell my father about the chick. The more I thought about it, the more I realized the chick wasn’t mine. I was a thief of sorts, as my only claim was the bed of flower petals that I had made for it and the light I shone on it, a light I stole from my parents’ kitchen. But it had survived at least a few of my father’s egg raids, I realize now, based on the size of the embryo when I finally looked at it by candlelight in the bathroom. So maybe it was fated to be mine. I don’t know. Yet the question haunted me. My father had raised both the rooster and the hen that had laid the egg. It seemed the two competing forces had no points of intersection at which I could find some sort of solution.
I was afraid to talk to him, to tell him about it. I wanted to, I wanted to more than anything, but I couldn’t. I thought that he might see the chicken as an insult. It was broken, impure, mute. It was defective. What if I gave it to him and he returned it without saying a word? I was not ready for the little chick to feel that kind of rejection. No, there had to be some way to resolve it. I thought back to when I tried to bury the chickens in the garden. I had wanted to share my grief with him, but he hadn’t wanted that. For a moment, I thought we could share the chicken, but realized it wouldn’t work. I would still have to approach him, to talk to him about it. Ideas kept coming, my mind was like ice, but as each etched itself it was buffed out by others. I couldn’t keep a line of thought for long enough to come to a resolution.
I hoisted the mass of fuzz from my chest and put it back in the box. I shook my head, my hair lashing me in the eyes, and walked out of my room into the kitchen. The air was still slightly acrid from the fire, but the smell had lessened considerably. I grabbed a cereal bowl and filled it halfway with water, then returned to my room and put it in the fish tank. Nudging the chick on the head, I led it to the bowl and tapped its beak to the surface. It took tiny, spastic sips. Upon seeing that the chick knew what to do, I pulled down my notebook and again looked at the words I had previously written. Then something came to me again, something pushed my hand towards a pen and the pen to paper. I was powerless to resist. It shall be resolved. The words smirked at me with their strange diction. I had never written the word “shall” before, but even after writing it I felt like I’d never written it. It was already written somewhere and I had merely copied the words, like when I’d place a thin piece of paper over a picture of a tiger and trace the lines through the sheet.


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