Pecker was a prize from the shooting gallery at the traveling funfair, a batshit rooster that roosted in the apple tree in our yard. Pecker had the look of the just-saved, and his neck-wrung feathers, sparse, spiked, seeming wet, suited the bird’s mean disposition. He was hardly a prize – more likely a giveaway at the bucket-ball stall before the carnival folk moved on. Someone must have taken the rooster for a hen and expected fresh eggs when the rooster wasn’t even good at rooster things. He crowed at night and woke our mother – woke us, too. Wait for the sun, you pecker! If only he were good eating, our father said, but Pecker would have tasted foul – ha, ha. Our father, the joker, said Pecker was good for a laugh. That Pecker. His comb looked chawed and his red eyes mad. Try to cross the yard – our backyard – and he would flap down and scuttle after and peck at our legs and our feet. And it hurt – he picked our little sister’s laces loose and made her cry.
Longreads for the Lockdown
Doctors, solitude and the stones within us – for fiction about isolation, it has to be Haruki Murakami. Translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin.
Plague Diary: March
‘Things have changed without seeking permission.’ A plague diary of this March, by Gonçalo M. Tavares, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn.
‘Our view of the morning’s entertainment was restricted by the width of the door frame.’ Bruce Chatwin writes about his imprisonment during a coup in Benin.
The Leech Barometer
‘A leech bodes this: you will, sooner or later, overflow yourself. ’ Rebecca Giggs on leeches and the borders of the human body.
The Lost Performance of the High Priestess of the Temple of Horror
‘Her eyes fluttered open and I felt like I was at the edge of the mouth of a cave, with every intention of jumping in.’ For pure escapism, lose yourself in the nineteenth-century Paris of Carmen Maria Machado.