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How To Kill A Live Chicken
Hen in a farmyard

For Round 6 of our contest, we asked you to send us original works of fiction where one of the characters tells a joke and one of the characters cries.

At the start of the New Year, I had a list of a lot of radical things I was going to do new this year. I worked as a business manager for an organic farm in Alameda County. Some restaurant owners called me the tomato lady, which I didn't like.

The pay was low, too, but my expenses were low. Living in the area for 20 years now, I had bought a cheap house on some land with my husband early. We were now separated. A white dude, I had sent him to live with his parents in Idaho. He suffered from an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and emailed everyday to see if I was OK. God forbid if one day I didn't respond.

We didn't have any kids. I couldn't have any.

When I was able to catch up with the egg farmer, he told me that I could kill one of his chickens for free. He had farm workers, and one of them would show me how to catch one and wring its neck.

He didn't seem surprised by my request. I guess he assumed I was one of those foodies. I was, actually. My female friends would have been horrified to learn about this. Some were serious animal-lovers.

But I was planning on cooking the bird, and feasting on it alone. I imagined sucking its little bones. "The time has come to talk of many things," the Walrus explained to his row of oysters. Oh, how I loved that Lewis Carroll poem.

Why did the chicken cross the road half-way? She wanted to lay it on the line.

I was wearing sun-glasses, jeans and boots, trying my best to not look nonplussed. The rancher hand, Latino, didn't say much. I asked if we needed gloves and he said, "No, too slippery."

He grabbed a chicken swiftly, and handed it over to me. I took a hold of its feet while it was still fighting. The flapping caused my heart rate to accelerate. Somberly, he walked us out toward a barn. Once there, he said, "Go ahead twist the neck." He had explained earlier, "You snap the neck. Lay it down. It will appear to still be alive for a little while longer. But it will die."

The birds neck appeared to shrink as I reached with my right hand to grab its neck. As soon as my left hand left the feet to make a torque, the chicken flew free.

The farm hand ran after it, grabbed it, and strangled the bird himself. He then laid it down after its deathly bird dance, and chopped its head off. The blood splattered some onto the table and onto his hands. Quick, he put the bird into a plastic grocery bag, which he handed to me, while the bird head, he tossed into the garbage can.

I cried when I plucked and took out the intestines of the chicken myself. Wept like a defeated person. I wanted to still a beating heart; to tear it out myself. I drank nearly two bottles of red, pan-frying the bird with shallots, parsley, mustard and heavy cream.

I thought at night I'd dream of chickens, crying, screeching, forming a roiling sea of white that I'd wade through in rubber boots. Since I had murdered not a one, I dreamt instead of what I really wanted to do this year, of adopting a child. I saw a young girl I wanted, a younger self dropping from the sky into my life.