The Life And Death Of An Urban Chicken

US National Archives
US National Archives

Looking back, I should have listened to my mother and grown up to become a nice batch of halal meat. It would have been a more honorable death.

But straight out of the egg I began to wonder if we focus too much on how we die and not enough on how we live.

“Stop it with that hippy shit,” my mother would say as I begged her to move us to an animal sanctuary Upstate.

“Couldn’t we at least be organic?” I pleaded. She just shook her feathers and walked away.

The day they took my mother from me she had just enough time to turn her beak to me and say, “We all die someday. Do me a favor and stop being such a pussy.”

When the death day came I was unable to do her that favor.

A nervous looking man purchased me for $10.75. The shopkeeper looked equally nervous when he handed me over. Outside of the chicken store, the cold wind ripped through my feathers and I began to shake. I became anxious because my feet weren’t on the ground and wiggled against the man’s chest trying to anchor myself. The man held me tighter and carried me down a staircase into an underground tunnel. It became harder and harder to breath as his arms clenched around my chest. The ground began to rumble and a forced wind stung my eyes. A great machine like links of silver sausages raced in front of us then stopped. I was terrified. This was the living nightmare of an ungrateful chicken seeking a unique death. This was what my mother had tried to warn me about.

I tried to run. I scratched and screamed and, for a moment, broke free from the nervous man. I looked left and right compulsively but everywhere some menacing human obstacle stood in my way. I was overwhelmed with fear and panic so I did what I thought any good chicken would do in my situation, I lost consciousness.

When I came to I was on the floor of a crowded bar surrounded by dogs. The humans were yelling and I promptly shit myself. The yelling continued as the dogs made predatory noises with their mouths. The man ordered a glass of liquid and ignored me. The people around him seemed excited, as if he had done something important. For a moment, I felt important, until the nervous man picked me up and deposited me into an empty trashcan on the sidewalk.

The snow began to accumulate at my feet. My hopes sagged lower than my wattle. But, just as I had settled on an anonymous death by suffocating in a bin full of frozen water, a lady appeared.

At first I was uneasy as she carried me down a flight of stairs. I was afraid we were going back to the silver hot dog machine. But, it was only a basement, and a cardboard box stuffed with the remnants of yesterday’s Daily News quickly soothed me. I had been given a home outside of the gastrointestinal system of a human being where I could grow old and possibly learn how to read. Or, so I thought.

For hours I was happy. But, in the long run, my mother was right. When you spend your life avoiding the natural order of a carnivorous economy, you wind up in the hands of a novice taxidermist from Brooklyn. I’m not sure I was fully dead when she made the incision into my breastbone or when she began separating my skin from my body. But I do remember seeing myself from the outside, experiencing the disempowerment of being someone’s poorly executed trophy. Now stuffed and mounted I understand. Hope is not for chickens. TC mark

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