Tuesday, 10 June 2014

chickenfactor

I paint a shelf red.

Later, when the shelf is dry, I’ll screw it to the balcony wall.

I’m a terrible carpenter—far too impatient and frantic. I eschew a vice in favour of my fist and saw off a knuckle. I haven’t worked out yet the times when a drill is necessary. I can’t be bothered with newspaper; I spatter red paint on the floor.

But I get things done.
But I look around my balcony and it is full of life and I think: this is mine, now.
But soon there will be a red shelf covered in peonies, cascading to the floor.

The other night I lay in bed with a body lying beside me and a story came to me with all the immediacy and nonsense of a dream. I tried very hard not to move or to fall asleep, convinced if I did either, I was lost.

In the story there is a person working in the factory where they check the chickens. Someone told me about this factory recently and I have been unable to get it out of my head. In the factory where they check the chickens, there is a conveyor belt with chickens that go by. The checker picks up each chicken in turn and looks at their crotch. If they are a female chicken, it’s fine. The checker sits them back down on the conveyor belt and the world continues to turn.

But if they’re a male chicken, it’s terrible.

If they’re a male chicken, the checker throws them straight into the grinder. The grinder grinds the chicken into bones and dust and meal.

I haven’t been able to get it out of my head.

I keep thinking about the person whose job it is to check the chickens. In my imagination—in the story—the person wants to make a small, soft difference in the world. The person is horrified by everything. In my imagination, the person holds up the chicken and checks the chicken and—the moment before the decision is made—the person whispers Love in the chicken’s ear.

Just the word; it is enough.

Love means many things to the chickens, but what it really means (what it has always meant over all times to all of us) is Everything is going to be okay.

The person whispers this because they want so badly for it to be true.

Love, says the person, and the chicken is placed down softly, fluffily, yellowly, on the conveyor belt.

Love, says the person, and the chicken is flung through the air into the grinder. Its bones snap. Its skull is squeezed like a blister until it explodes.

The thing I can’t stop thinking about is the chicken who escapes. Love, whispers the person (everything is going to be okay), and then they are flung to the grinder, but something happens. An ungreased cog; a snag in the machinery; a last-minute reprieve.

The chicken escapes.

And though this is a small, good thing—this escape—it is also an ending for the chicken. The chicken will never again be able to sit snugly in cupped palms and hear the word Love. The chicken and trust are over. Nothing will ever be the same. Everything is not going to be okay forever.

It’s okay—the chicken will be fine, I reckon. This a moment we have all been through, when we discover that the world isn’t the perfectly benevolent deity we had hoped for. When we discover our startling capacities for pain.

We discover and we make our peace with this…but that moment, that poor chicken.

It is 34º outside and the shelf is probably nearly dry. I’m going to get out some power tools and experiment with holes.

It’s okay. I won’t fuck things up too badly.

I have animal-print plasters for my knuckles.

I have turps for the floor stains.

I whisper Love to my own cupped hands. Everything is going to be okay.

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