PRECIOUS by Vanessa Norton
7/28/15
 


On Wednesday, our baby Buff Orpington arrived in a little box. We opened it onto our bed and watched it stumble like a drunk. Its eyes were dark and blank. I wanted to squeeze it until it stopped breathing.

This is what precious means, I thought.

Haze felt the same; I could see it in his mouth.

We sparred over who got to hold it. Haze swiped the hour-glass timer from Scrabble and started timing me. Three minutes was enough to verge on injury, so I passed it to Haze.

At night, the baby Buff Orpington slept between our bodies. We woke up every hour to make sure it hadn't been crushed. Sometimes, I wanted to find it beneath Haze's hip, just to see how he'd react. I wanted him to cry, because I had never seen him do that.

--

After six days, feathers appeared on the baby Buff Orpington's wings.

"What do we do?" I asked.

Haze opened a drawer and took out a pair of scissors.

"You hold it," he said.

The baby Buff Orpington chirped frantically while I held its wing between my fingers. When Haze was through, it was bleeding.

"Look what you've done," I said.

"You could have stopped me."

The blood hardened into little scabs that I picked until they bled again.

--

At two weeks, feathers sprouted from its tail. We cut those too.

--

By week three, despite removing the feathers, the baby Buff Orpington's fluff was nearly gone. Its toes were long and its face looked like a chicken's. It didn't make me feel like I wanted to watch Haze cry. It didn't make me feel anything.

We shut the Buff Orpington inside its box and carried it to a secluded bush in the park. We set it free. The weather was less foggy than it should have been, so I didn't feel bad.

"What do we do now?" I asked.

"I don't know," Haze said, but he knew.

We drove to the feed store and charged past every breed of fowl until we found the Buff Orpingtons in their cage. We paid $3 and headed for the car with a little box.

The air was cooler in the country. It reminded me of another era. "Let's fuck," I said.

We did it until the upholstery smelled like ass.

At home, we sparred over who got to hold it. By day, it stayed in its box by the heater. At night, it slept in the crease between our bodies.

When problems arose a week later, we clipped new feathers from its wings, then its tail. We prepared ourselves for the inevitable.

After dropping it off in the park, we drove to the feed store and picked up another. This time we didn't make it to the parking lot; we fucked behind a stack of decorative hay bales.

This became the usual. Every three weeks, we were happy for a week.

Meanwhile, the local park was filling with Buff Orpingtons. People started to talk. The appearance of the Buff Orpingtons was the most mysterious thing anyone had experienced in years. The comment section in the neighborhood rag was the longest in its history.

We needed to offset our routine, so we started leaving Buff Orpingtons on street corners, in plant boxes, on welcome mats. A different place for each Buff Orpington.

Our feelings vascillated between anxiety and exhilaration. We fucked in public stairwells, private doorways, rosemary bushes.

"Are we going to have to stop?" I asked. "Because I don't think I can."

"Never," Haze said. "Even if we have to move to another town, we will always have a baby Buff Orpington."

"Like, forever?"

"Forever."

--

A spree of killings—raccoons or coyotes—left several Buff Orpingtons with their bodies open for everyone to see. One was discovered on the doorstep of a chocolatier and another at a doctor's house who happened to perform abortions. Fists were raised. The police got involved.

We changed feed stores to one located 100 miles east, where they didn't ask questions. I dyed my hair and traded in my glasses for contacts. Haze slathered on copious amounts of self-tanner and wore a wig. Part of me knew everything would end, but by then my heart was pounding even as I slept.

I stopped eating. I became skinny, like I was when we first met.

Most days I spent on my bare knees, crawling from bush to bush, sifting through stray feathers. I'd learned to read the feathers; I knew how long they'd been there and where they were going next. Haze flattened his body against the sides of trees, scuttling over the roots so no one could see him. He'd learned to know when someone was looking before they did. But I didn't care. All I wanted was to find our first baby Buff Orpington, the one who showed me what it meant to be precious. I knew that if I looked closely, something would lead me back.

--

Vanessa Norton is a writer living in Oakland, California. Her writing appears in the anthology Sex for America: Politically Inspired Erotica, edited by Stephen Elliott, Drain, Revolver, and Hobart. She co-hosts the Fireside Reading Series with Janey Smith in San Francisco.

Art:
Egyptian Religion Camp (2013) by Pamela Council. Pamela Council is an artist from New York.
 
 
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