Saturday 6 June 2020

'The Complexities of Hens' by Sandra Arnold

He always set the clock thirty minutes fast so he could enjoy the luxury of having more time than the clock showed. He mended every broken thing in the house with black tape. He welded iron bars onto saucepans whose handles had come off and reminded his four daughters to fill the pans to the brim before they put them on the stove to stop them overbalancing. He trimmed their hair with the kitchen scissors. This wasn’t easy as he had the sort of fingers that struggled to pick up small change that had fallen on the floor. He ran up four sets of identical dresses on the sewing machine after he’d finished his cleaning shift at the hospital, using material he’d bought on special. Sewing a straight seam was hard for those fingers, but he wasn’t one to shirk his duty. He taught himself how to knit and told the girls not to fret about the dropped stitches in their hats and scarves. He said when he’d mastered the technique he’d teach them to knit for themselves. He polished their shoes every night until they gleamed, the way he’d learned in the army. He bought six hens and a rooster so there would always be fresh eggs and meat. When the eggs hatched the girls carried baby chicks in their pockets to keep them warm and gave them names and sang to them as they weeded the vegetable patch and vacuumed the house and did their homework. When all four girls turned up at school one day with black eyes and split lips they said they’d walked into a door. The youngest said it had nothing to do with refusing to eat the chicken he’d killed and roasted for dinner. She said it had nothing to do with her saying that chickens had feelings and that they had thirty different vocalisations to communicate those feelings. She said it had nothing to do with her sisters saying the chicken he’d roasted was the first one they’d seen climb out of his egg and that they’d watched him grow his new feathers and that he’d just learned to crow.

'The Complexities of Hens' was first published by Reflex Fiction in March 2020.

1 comment:

  1. What a fascinating story! You had me loving this man and then wham. Brilliant work, Sandra. Faulkner brilliant.


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