So they choose the world’s biggest chickenshit to be the one to cross and I’m shaking in my chickenboots cause that’s me.
With metal hunks of streaming steaming speed roaring up the road, and I’m supposed to cross…Here? Now?
But you gotta do what the people want, you know? Otherwise…well otherwise they all abandon you, and you’re left cold and featherless and scraping up spent seed in the back of the coop…the hard unchewable leftovers not even those disgusting hogs down the yard can stomach.
So here I am like a turkey in the short straw, a cluck barely escaping my gaping beak, staring out at my fate—scratching the sidewalk by the hole in the fence and peeping out.
They’re waiting for me to do it.
They all want to know what will happen.
When I cross.
Anyone else would play the part, sure, they’d be your mark of the day, your designated neck-sticker-outer, turned to chicken burger the moment a giant semi smashes over my fluffy feathered body…
“Hey Chicken,” Henry says to me. “Why don’t you just go already? Everyone’s waiting,” he says. He’s a cat, see, fearless, doesn’t get why I’m shaking in my chickenskin over here—I snarl at him, at least try to—my beak just cracking into dopey grin.
Henry raises a whisker at me, says, “They need you man. They need you to check out the other side.”
“Alright,” I tell him. “But what about my needs. Like the need to not be turned into fillet.”
“Oh don’t be so dramatic.”
I peck at the ground. Nervous tick.
“It’s easy,” Henry says, “watch,” and next thing I know this mangy meower is tugging me straight into the road as a family of five in a wood-paneled station wagon careens directly towards us and my wings shoot up and feathers fly everywhere and I’m screaming “Buckaaaack! Buckaaaack!” and before I know it Henry already has me back on the curb by the time the thing squeals past, kids’ faces staring down at me from the window like I’m some kinda good-for-nothing chickenshit, which I am.
So at this point I’ve had enough, you understand, had enough being looked down on, treated like a pariah. Just because I’m a little yellow under the wattles, so what? I can be like Henry too, a cool cat, a go-getter, a somebody, see, I can and will and I’m strutting now, hunting and pecking across that cracked mac from coop to…to…whatever’s over there on that other side, Happiness maybe? I can be who they want me to be, who they need me to be, have to be, but hold on cause here’s a camper van hurtling right for me and why the hell is there so much traffic in front of a farm anyway, in the middle of pigshit nowhere, and here I am again back on the curb like the giant chickenshit that I am.
“What’s the matter?” Henry says. “Did a car touch you when you were a chick?”
“Very funny, Henry,” I say, sweat pouring down my wings—I didn’t even know chickens could sweat—teetering on the precipice of certain death, with this lousy tom mocking me from the sidelines. “Say how’s about you worry about your own job huh? When’s the last time you caught a mouse around here?”
“Don’t worry about it.”
But he wasn’t far off the mark, truth is. Musta been when I was two-three weeks old, a Ford pickup, dirty blue and rusted, just standing out there in the yard, cloaking me in its filthy shadow…and next thing you know it gives off this belly-roar and it’s slowly creeping towards me, coming towards me and I knew what was about to happen and I couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it—”HEY!” I yell at Henry, who has suddenly laid down in the middle of the road curled into a tight little ball. Now I hate that smug fleabag bastard but I sure as hell don’t wanna see him get turned into fertilizer…I’d never have the courage to cross then…not that I do anyway…But so Henry waits until the last minute, a truck full of vegetable pickers hooting and hollering, “Gato estupido!” “Quieres morir?!” Swerving at the very last moment and Henry still not budging, not one inch, just closes his eyes and yawns.
“See?” Henry winking at me now, a cool cat on a hot road. “It’s fine.”
He’s not brave, he’s just stupid. He hasn’t seen what I’ve seen. He hasn’t seen a whole tray of unhatched eggs splattered and smeared across the asphalt, frying in the midday sun. He hasn’t seen life halted before it could ever be.
He doesn’t know.
“Live a little,” Henry is tugging at me again, and I bat him away but he keeps going, keeps pulling.
“No, stop, I want to live, I want to live a long life! Thirty seconds of thrill ain’t worth being flattened!”
Henry’s turning his head. Henry’s not getting it. Henry’s tugging me.
“Jeez, you really are a chickenshit!” And he walks off in a huff.
Yes I’m afraid. I’m afraid! So what?
I wonder why I’m so paralyzed in the face of something everyone else finds completely normal. Why the world is so completely terrifying to me. If they knew what I know, saw what I saw, I bet their eggs would turn yellow too.
…So I’m thinking to myself when I look up and there’s Henry licking himself…on the other side! My beady eyes gaze upon his effortless, furry visage.
I wish I could be like that.
Just strolling along the edge and not giving a care in the world.
Is it possible for someone like me to live that way? To really live.
To be lauded. To be loved.
Maybe Henry’s right. Maybe this is the whole point.
To risk something, to strive for something greater.
And before I know it, I’m clawing forward, toe by gnarled toe, huffing and flapping and strutting forward, forward, towards that great unknown, that wide green vista beyond, free of the farm’s tethers, its fences and hutches and pens…Yes, this is living, this is freedom! This is how we were meant to live! And the trucks swerve and the cars halt and they all stop for me, me, me!
And when I finally reach the opposite curb and look over the grassy knoll, peering out at the world which awaits us, I will squawk back to my brethren and tell them. I will tell them why this chickenshit crossed the road.
It was to get to the other side.