A chicken showed up in town, its owner unaccounted for, its nest nowhere to be found. People offered it corn chips, Cheetos, bits of hamburger buns. The chicken refused all snacks. It kept its distance from self-proclaimed animal lovers. The people decided it must be looking for a farmer, and they auditioned for the role, for they knew of no farmers among them. The chicken took a bike rack for a roost. When the sun started to rise, a jogger noticed the chicken’s orange feathers with blue tips were a nearly exact inversion of the orange and blue in the sky. The jogger renounced jogging and took up painting, producing a fine abstract study of color. Someone with a penchant for predicting stock prices wagered the future was in the chicken’s bones. A physician’s assistant said its soup held cures. People hadn’t seen the chicken for a long time, yet they fought over its fate. Violence erupted. At a funeral, someone noticed dozens of eggs in the bottom of a freshly dug grave.
They warned each other of not only wind, rain, and hail, but also of sun. They read forecasts like sacred texts. They talked of rain as if a god had spit on them. After a particularly sunny day that was supposed to contain enough clouds to temper the heat, they lost faith in meteorologists who, despite their serious demeanor and seasonal commitment to people, pets, plants, and pipes, seemed eager for a storm to knock them off the air. They turned to animals. “Look at that goat’s ears,” one of them said. “It’s like she can hear thunder coming.” They threw bread in the river to see how voraciously the fish would feed. “They’re eating like they might get washed away tomorrow,” a former star exclaimed, making plans to hunker down. They relied mostly on birds because they actually flew up into the air like little satellites. They took excessive birdsong as a good sign. A fallen feather meant a heatwave. A hawk meant trees would be toppled. They cared deeply for each other. As if caring were a means of steering the winds.
Even though the blood was inside of the mosquito, we still called it our blood, and when one of us was finally quick enough to land a swat on one of the insects, the blood smeared on glass. Someone was certain it was his blood on the window, and he felt the need to shower.
A couple kissed violently on the floor under the framed view of the night yard. Some asshole started to lick the blood up to prove something—what she didn’t say—but the woman who leaned religious stopped her. Someone drew plans for building a slaughterhouse while a guy with a guitar wrote a fair-to-middling folk song about the people who bleed.
Jordan Sanderson’s work has appeared in MockingHeart Review, Phantom Drift, Unbroken, Double Room, and other journals, and he has published two chapbooks, Abattoir (Slash Pine Press, 2015) and The Formulas (ELJ Publications, 2014). He lives near the Gulf of Mexico and teaches at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.