Bria stole a live chicken from the feed store. She watches from her lawn chair as it pecks oblong divots in the ground. Dead grass snaps as it looks for feed. There will be worms, little bugs maybe, but she’s unsure if they’re sufficient. On her phone, she searches “how long does it take for a chicken to lay eggs?”
She should know these things; more things in general, really. At twenty-four, Bria’s brain is thin as an ostrich’s. She couldn’t hold an intelligent thought if it were superglued to her hands. Yolanda, her girlfriend, is older, much smarter too. Bria isn’t ignorant—she’s blonde with buoyant breasts. Bria tries to learn her girlfriend’s love language, but is a poor student.
Yolanda reminds her of this, and verily.
Their home is full of other animals, foolish attempts to bring Yolanda back to Bria’s good graces. Yolanda is a skilled veterinary surgeon; it stands to reason she loves animals. They have several birds, three rats, a perpetually molting snake, and most recently, Freckles, a pregnant cat with three legs. Freckles recently birthed the kittens, five pink and gray blobs full of slime and jellied organs. They couldn’t walk or see, but they could scream.
The chicken could kill the kittens, if mama cat doesn’t get to it first.
Bria could have bought eggs from the store; round white balls with a pink stamp on their head. No, this is better. They will be fresh. It shows an effort. Thinking of someone besides yourself, as Yolanda implored her. This will all work out, she reasons. Maybe the store won’t miss its broiling hen.
The bird cranes its neck up and makes a shrewd, infernal squawk.
No one would miss a sound like that.
Even so, Bria vowed not to kill the chicken for its meat. She will even wait for Yolanda so they can name the beast together. It will join her army of misfit animals that chirp-squawk-meow all hours of the day and night. The two will come to love their home zoo as they learned better to love each other. All of this over one of Yolanda’s favorite dishes:
Eggs boiled, braised, poached, scrambled over grits and wheat toast. All the eggs, infinity eggs, enough eggs to clog their arteries ten times over. She thinks of it now — a daisy chain of yellow and red, twin heart attacks or strokes or pulmonary embolisms from the endless consumption of egg yolks. And the chicken would watch with avian eyes until they did. It would pluck flesh from their husked, bony corpses.
She doesn’t want to think of Yolanda dead. She doesn’t want to think of her at all. But these nights she dreams of Yolanda, her sweet pleasures; she’d scoop Bria up like a pile of leaves and gentle as wind, leave slick, pink lipped kisses all over her cheeks, or later, bend her over the edge of the bed, pulling down her pants and spanking her with her sensual palm, leaving heart shaped hand prints with bruising fingers along Bria’s ass. She thinks of Yolanda in the shower—wanting to ask, “Can I join?” but holding back for fear of argument, so she sits in her bathrobe at the kitchen counter until Yolanda joins her, donned in medical scrubs and sensible sneakers. Most mornings, Yolanda has breakfast and Bria watches as her teeth process the slime of a fried egg.
That is like me, on her tongue, a juicy Bria on her tongue. Yellow and gleaming, a melted crayon with harsh coloring.
Their relationship is purely physical. Deep down, Bria knows this. A small, nonsensical part of her hoped the relationship would grow romantic but it hasn’t in months, almost a year. They live together, but this means nothing. Most days, they don’t sleep in the same room. The weekends come to pass, and Yolanda drinks too much wine and they find each other in the sheets. By morning, she is gone, as is her sweet tongue. They are roommates with benefits, nothing more.
Bria doesn’t want to believe it, but the evidence is there.
Yolanda was due home an hour ago. The veterinary clinic closes promptly at six. Bria’s own job at the thrift store only keeps her early mornings. She always waits for Yolanda to come home before dark with heels in her hand and a pain in her temples. Yolanda is bitter, but not tonight. Hopefully, Bria will please her with a dinner of fresh eggs.
Another hour passes before Yolanda’s Buick appears. She slams the car door, disheveled and exhausted. She eyes Bria, then the chicken. “What the hell did you do now?”
Bria notes the tightness of her voice, but presses on, “You like eggs. I got us a chicken, so they’ll be fresh! Won’t that be fun?”
Yolanda squats on the turf. “That’s a rooster.”
“It can’t be.”
“I know my cocks. That’s a rooster. You got ripped off.”
Bria scratches her chin, picking a scab. It stings. There’s blood. She ignores the rosy dribble down to her chest.
“Only the females lay eggs,” Yolanda says. “And you need both a male and a female in order to get eggs. That is sixth grade biology.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t think.”
“That’s the problem: you never do.”
Bria stares across the street, at their neighbor’s ample foliage. Waxy palm leaves sway against the setting sun. She doesn’t mention shoplifting the chicken. Instead, she sits silent. Yolanda goes inside and then returns, still in her scrubs, smoking a cigarette and nursing a Bud Light. She nudges Bria with the bottle’s lip. “Take it back in the morning. We don’t need a fucking chicken.”
Bria tells her, “I can’t.”
“Of course you can.”
The chicken plucks an echolalia of beak against dirt, never venturing from the lawn.
This bird is stupid.
Maybe it doesn’t know to leave.
This prompts Bria to ask, “Do chickens have thoughts?”
Yolanda rolls her eyes but indulges, “They’re about as smart as other birds.”
“Do they have feelings? Like, do chickens get sad?”
“If you asked this many questions in school, maybe you wouldn’t be a cashier now.”
This is a low blow. Yolanda knows Bria’s experiences in school, her special education classes barely teaching her a thing. One year, they memorized vocabulary suffixes. For some reason “oo” for egg was latched onto her brain a good ten years later.
Eggs, eggs, eggs; everything revolved around eggs.
When Bria was young, her parents dragged her to Sunday school. One morning they asked which came first: the chicken or the egg? The question was unambiguous, and the answer was simple. The chicken came first because something, something, Jesus and God’s design for men and the Holy Spirit. Even then, Bria doubted the Holy Spirit gave a shit about a lowly egg. She remembers raising her little hand, asking, “Don’t chickens come out of eggs?” But the teacher never answered. Just as well, she reckons, it doesn’t matter what comes first. The eggs are here, the chickens stay, as do the lesbians.
One in particular chooses to stay for a little egg.
Bria first met Yolanda at the queer bar in Orlando. They made small talk—Yolanda was not a bar person, but was freshly divorced and wanted some fun and was so nervous, like butterflies in her stomach-type nervous. And Bria sat and listened with her clear mind to this tipsy woman. Eventually, they went back to Yolanda’s house where they shared an unmemorable night of sex. They fell asleep naked and woke up to a Florida heat familiar as underwear and socks. Sweat was their new skin, and they stayed nude and ate breakfast.
What was a one-night stand turned into something else over breakfast. Yolanda never loved Bria so much as she did that first morning—walking around in nothing but her pearl necklace, breasts swaying over a stomach full of eggs and butterfly wings. Those monarchs never stood a chance against a deutoplasm’s remains.
She thought the chicken—rooster—would reignite the hunger from that first night, their morning afterglow. Bria sees now, it’s just a bird.
“I’m sorry,” she says to its feathered behind.
Yolanda drains her beer before throwing the cigarette into the dirt. “I’m going to the bedroom,” she says, stretching her arms. “Are you coming?” She doesn’t wait for an answer, leaving the front door open, expecting the younger girl to follow her in to undress.
Bria stays on her lawn chair, fading sunlight like egg yolk on her face. She wants to scream. The rooster clucks its disdain for her.
Anastasia Jill (she/they) is a queer writer living in the Central Florida. She has been nominated for Best American Short Stories, Best of the Net, and several other honors. Her work has been featured with Poets.org, Pithead Chapel, Contemporary Verse 2, OxMag, Broken Pencil, and more.