Fiction: Little Red

May 4, 2016 Fiction , POETRY / FICTION

By

Myra King

 

 

When Papa is slaughtering the chickens I keep my hands over Ben’s ears. He keeps his eyes shut himself.

Papa insists we help. He told Mama we needed to know about the Realities Of Life. I’ve known about them for five years now. Since we moved here in ‘52.

I was four like Ben is now, when I first had to watch. But I didn’t have no big sister to block out the noise.

 

Our place is up in the hills, it’s a long way from town. We don’t have to go to school. Mama does that for us. The teaching.

She still has all her books from when she grew up in the big city, from before she met Papa.

 

We have one of the biggest chicken farms around and every three months is the slaughtering. Mama says there would be no chickens bred in our farm if it were not for the slaughtering. Cause, she says, why would anyone breed chickens for just being chickens? Daft chickens are, like you kids, she says.

 

I did have a pet chicken once that I called Little Red, from the story, The Little Red Hen. It was one of the books that Mama has. I can read that one better than Mama now. But Papa says what is all this learning going to do for us kids. Better to learn how to pluck and dress the chickens.

I know how to do that. It’s the boiling water you have to be careful of. And I told Ben that too, not to get too close to the overflowing.

 

I was just six when I first got burned and Mama put butter on it and told me to stop with the crying. She pulled open her shirt and showed me the scald-scar running down the middle of her chest like red lava. She said she hadn’t needed no doctor and I wasn’t going to need no doctor either.

 

That night when I was crying, Papa came in with the strap and then, when the bed springs creaked, as he climbed back in with Mama, I heard him laugh as he told Mama how that had shut me up. When I saw the strap.

But Mama and Papa they don’t know, but it was biting down on my fist that stopped the crying noise. I still had tears that wouldn’t stop. But you can’t hear tears, I suppose.

 

Mama and Papa didn’t know about Little Red. I kept her a secret and took her scraps that Mama didn’t see was left over from my dinner. Little Red would come to me in the pen, jostling away the other chickens to feed out of my hand. I knew which was her, cause she was the one with the floppy comb, like a large red petal.

 

One night I sneaked Little Red over to one of the breeding cages. But Papa saw her the next day and Mama got in trouble for getting the mix up. Breeding hens is different from killers. I was too scared to tell that I was the one who put her there.

At the next slaughtering I saw Little Red’s comb in amongst all the other heads that was in the barrel we toss out to the pigs.

I didn’t want no more pets after that.

 

The chickens, they know what’s coming. I know they do.  I can’t stand that noise. The squawking that sounds like screaming. Different from normal chicken noise. It starts after the first one is killed. I think they can smell it. The smell of the singed blood on the neck where the head used to be. And the boiled feathers like the sheets Mama once left in the copper overnight.

 

I have to take out all the innards and put them back later, in little bags. But you never get the same chicken to put them back into. Bag Of Giblets, it says that on the labels Ben will be putting on today. His job.

 

I know the worst is yet to come. Tomorrow I have to help with the slaughtering. But for now I hope no one looks over and sees me closing off Ben’s ears. And see that his eyes are shut.

Sometimes I just wish there was someone here to cover mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Myra King

Myra King lives along the coast of South Australia with her rescue greyhound, Sparky. Her work has appeared in many literary magazines and journals. Recent highlights were a second placing in the Cambridge Fiction awards, a commendation in the Tabor Creative Writing awards and a Pushcart nomination by Boston Literary Magazine.

Myra’s short story collection City Paddock, and YA novel The Journey Of Velvet Brown have been published by Ginninderra Press.

http://myrakingprofile.webs.com/  

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