Early one morning in the month of June, someone ran over a huge black rooster on County Road W in Wisconsin hill country. Thirteen years old and punch-pleased on an X-90 minibike bought for me by my godfather, I arrived on scene at sunrise with the body still warm, not yet stiff when I kicked at it with the toe of my work boot. Usually I was the only one who passed by so early on this country road, driving over to the Thompson farm, where I helped with chores in the barn at dawn. Perhaps Weasel did it, the older Slama boy, out all night, speeding home drunk. Three upraised black feathers fluttered in the breeze at a right angle to the body, weakly flagging Weasel to slow down for God’s sake – the rooster’s last gesture.

The rooster belonged to Weasel’s dad, who raised goats, rabbits, sheep, one donkey, and a flock of these oversized black chickens, running loose on the bare-dirt lawn of his eyesore house just around the curve. Fuck you to the neighbouring Lutheran farmers said the toppling house, the junker car in the drive, the chickens getting onto the road. One of the neighbours had called the county about the donkey, saying it wasn’t fed.

Driving past the Slama place I throttled down, vividly aware that Kristal Slama slept behind those upstairs windows, though I did not know which one. I closed my eyes and kissed the air. The fine-grained skin around her eyes had a purplish tinge, as if she had great sorrows, though just my thirteen years old.


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