Brian was a city boy. Lexington, Kentucky was city folk. Electrical power fed to the house in consistent supply. Water came from a shiny tap, not a hole in the ground, and it didn’t smell like rotten eggs. Food – all of it – came from the grocery store. And, being a growing, testosterone-charged boy of thirteen, he consumed supermarket aisles of it daily.
Spending part of the summer in hillbilly, backwater Eastern Kentucky with his hick-talking Mamaw – she sounded just like her cousin Loretta Lynn – well, THAT was an otherworldly adventure he could always spin to wow his friends when school resumed in the Fall. He stood a little taller when he came back to the city.
Or, maybe he just grew.
From all the eating.
Mamaw had two plumed roosters, boys who pecked around her property and sorted through the better trash she threw over the bank of Greasy Creek. She even named them, treated them like pets. Living by herself, sitting on the front porch waving to the coal trucks that lumbered past the isolated house, letting night fall on the fireflies that set the hill across the road alight like a twinkling Christmas tree – those activities got boring with nobody around to share them. She figured the roosters would do.
Testosterone does odd things to boys. It makes them crash around. Tear holes in things. Belligerence happens because they are both hungry and horny all the time. Of the one, they can’t get enough. Of the other, they’re likely getting none. All that unsatisfied longing can be deadly.
He hadn’t been in the house a day before he started his male hormonal refrain.
Let’s kill one of those roosters, Mamaw, and eat it for dinner.
Come on, Mamaw. I’ve never had FRESH meat before. I need to know whether it tastes different.
You will be giving me an educational experience I cannot get at school. That rooster will TEACH me something.
Days and days and days.
And days and days and days.
Something snapped in my Mamaw, a woman who grew up deprived and knew the value of a life, of not wasting things. Choosing not to squander a teaching moment, she turned her steely eyes on her grandson.
I’ll take one of ‘em, and ye can take the other. We’ll have a mite to eat for days. And days. And days.
She led her giddy grandson into the yard. Her pet roosters waddled over in greeting, unafraid. Grabbing one of them, she handed it to Brian, keeping the other swaddled in her arms.
Thank you she said, hugging the bird close to her chest.
In a quick motion, she grabbed the rooster by the plumbed head and started spinning its body in a wide circle. Feathers flew along its orbit of death, marked by gushing blood when its head disengaged and its body flopped around the grass and into the piled garbage over the steep bank of Greasy Creek.
Well, Brian, unless ye want to go down there and get that ‘un, we’ll hafta eat yours.
Silence. Brian didn’t answer.
Go on now. Brian? Brian?
She found him in the house. Ashen. For the first time in recent memory, NOT hungry.
I think I’ll skip dinner, Mamaw.