For the last month I have been scrambling (get it) to get the second volume of Chickenshit ready for publication.
The series follows a year in the life of Billie Hatcher, a college student from Seattle, as she navigates owning a farm, having a new girlfriend, and living in rural Idaho. Billie learns that farm life can be rewarding, frustrating, tragic, spiritually uplifting, isolating, and unifying. Just when she thinks she’s getting the hang of her new life, something she never thought of catches her off guard. If nothing else, she’s developing coping skills, and maybe someday the place will feel like home.
You can pre-order the Kindle version of Chickenshit Volume 2 Just Hatched ahead of its release on April 1st. I hope to have the paperback version ready by then, too. So if you’re an I only like to read real books kind of person, we should have you covered. As always, I do the $1 eBook match.
Here is a preview from Chapter 1. I hope you like it.
March 30, 2013
At the risk of sounding like a girl. I am in heaven. Jodie and I finally went on an actual date last night. We went to Boise, of course, to a movie at The Flicks, followed by a late dinner at a pho restaurant a few streets over. I don’t know how, but we never run out of things to talk about. Not only that, when we are quiet for a moment, there’s this warmth, a connection between us, that makes the silence comfortable, too.
We sat close together on the hood of my car, holding hands and gazing out over downtown from the top of the parking garage. Drunks of all types, North Enders, families, couples, and loners shuffled along on the streets below us.
“There used to be a Subway, over there.” Jodie pointed. “My family had a booth at Saturday Market one summer, back before it was so big, and I would run over and grab a sandwich. My parents always gave me shit about eating fast food when there was so much good food at the market.” She shrugged. “I was a kid. I was kind of limited. That pho was great, though. I’ve never had it, or those spring rolls.”
“It’s kind of a Seattle staple. I never had it growing up in Sacramento. Chinese was about as exotic as it got there. They do have it now, though.”
“My mom loved Chinese food. We have the place in Emmett, but she liked this restaurant here that used to be over next to the steakhouse. A few streets over that way.” She arched her arm and pointed like a bomb dropping. Billie found it endearing the way that Jodie liked to use her hands to speak.
“You don’t talk about your mom much. It must still be really hard for you.”
“Well, yes and no.” She sat, thinking it over. “She’s everywhere. And that’s both comforting and heartbreaking. Sometimes at work, I feel like she’s about to hand me a book to re-shelve, and when they call me Mrs. Miller, I want to turn around and look behind me.”
“She must have been an amazing mom; you turned out great.”
“Well, she wasn’t great when I was little. She would be the first to tell you she wasn’t perfect. She drank a lot and kind of got around, if you know what I mean. My biological father could have been one of any number of guys.”
“Russ isn’t your real dad? I mean, your biological dad? But you look alike.”
“Not really, but people always say that. We have the same smile and mannerisms. I look more like my mom, Basque, some Mexican. But I wanted to be just like Russ from five on. The way they met … Mom was actually on her way back from a “date” when her tire blew out. Dad stopped and changed her tire, made sure she got home okay. Typical Russ. The next day he went to the diner where she worked and asked her out. By the time I was six, everything had changed. Mom rarely ever drank, we had a real home, you know. Mom got a job at the library part time and eventually moved up. She only had her AA degree – she did that online mostly.”
“I went through my own wild period, too. Nothing like my mom’s, but I drank and smoked pot when I moved to Boise. I dated guys and girls. I almost bombed out, one semester. It wasn’t fun, so I gave it up. I used to go to The Balcony. Back when I was trying to work through my sexuality, it was a place I could hang out with gay friends who weren’t afraid to be out with me and straight friends who didn’t care. How ‘bout you? When did you figure it out?”
“Oh, I think I always knew. Way back in kindergarten I fell in love with a girl in first grade, Lilly Jett. When her class would walk down the hallway past our door, it was like she was moving in slow motion, you know, hair blowing, her head turning towards me. I went home and asked my mom if girls could like girls. She said they could, and I took it from there. I know I’m lucky in that. I’ve heard lots of horror stories. Were your parents okay with it?”
“Well, I actually never told my mom. We didn’t talk about sex at home, and our church said it was a sin. We went to a Catholic church, Mom and I. Dad was raised Presbyterian, but he doesn’t go to church or make a big deal about it. He says your beliefs are your own, and there’s no call for trying to make others believe the way you do. Anyway, by the time I figured my sexuality out, Mom was sick and I didn’t want to upset her. Eventually, I told my dad. He wanted to know if I had a girlfriend or if I was exhibiting any risky behavior, whatever that meant. It made me laugh, on both accounts, because I am basically a hermit. But you know, my dad’s pretty sheltered. Anyway, he’s cool. He likes you.”
“Really? Does he know we’re …” I hesitated. There have been times in my past when defining a relationship in any way was the kiss of death. “Seeing each other.”
Jodie laughed at me. “He’s pretty sure we’re dating, but we haven’t talked about it. He raises an eyebrow and says ‘Again?’ when I tell him I’m headed over to your place. That’s his way of letting me know he cares without trying to tell me what to do. If he had a problem, he would have said something when I stayed over those couple of times.”
“I like your dad a lot.”
“Me, too. He has always been there for me. I wish he would date or something, but he won’t even hear of it. When he’s not working, he’s hunting or fishing. I go sometimes.”
“You hunt? Like you shoot deers?”
“And cut out their guts? And tie ‘em on your truck?”
“My dad’s truck bed, but yes. One deer will last us all winter. If we get a second one, we can give it to a family that needs it. And there is always a family that needs it.”
“Wow.” We had been staring at the building across the street. “What’s that mean? ‘Union Block.’ Is that about the mining unions? I heard there were a lot of conflicts over unions out here, like spies and mining ‘accidents.’”
“There were. You know, we could take a day trip up to Silver City sometime, if you want. But that building was actually named by some pro-Union people, from the Civil War. There’s more Civil War history around here, if you look for it. Most of the historical markers talk about the Oregon Trail, though.”
“Yeah, that’s mostly what I’ve seen.” I started to get cold, so I stood up to go. “Shall we?”
Jodie held my hand on the way back to Milepost. It was close to midnight when we got back, but even though she couldn’t stay, she came in for a few minutes and we plopped onto the couch.
“I wish you could stay.”
“I know you’re used to things moving faster, but I think we should take our time. There’s no rush.”
“I’m okay with that. I think about you all the time, though. I like being with you, no matter what we’re doing.”
“Me, too. But I don’t think I can stay over here again and not jump your bones.”
I laughed. “Jump my bones?”
“Sorry, I’m around older people a lot.” She shrugged but then leaned across me and gave me a long, soft, wet kiss. The kind of kiss that caused or ended wars. The kind of kiss that made people cross the ocean or catch red-eyes across continents. The kind of kiss that made me want to bolt the door behind us and not come out until summer.
“Gotta go.” She stood up.
“Ugh! No way.” I went to one knee.
“Hey, this hurts me more than it hurts you.”
“Gotta grab the bull by the horns.”
“I thought we were trading random expressions.”
“Ha.” She took a deep breath and looked at me. “I gotta go.”
“I know. See you Sunday?”
“With bells on.”
I stood at the edge of the porch and watched her drive away. Despite the cold, I was still warm from being close to Jodie. I sat down on the step and looked up at the millions of stars in the sky. I found the big dipper, which pointed me to the Little Dipper and Polaris, the North Star. The star to guide your ship by. I stared at Polaris and did the ‘arc to Arcturus,’ and I would have ‘spiked to Spica, but the trees in the yard were too high. I breathed in a sigh of, what was this, happiness? Huh. So, that’s what that feels like.
April 1, 2013
I have been getting up early a lot lately. I usually have a couple of cups of coffee and some toast with jam. I can’t figure out if that’s European or old person style, but, either way, it kind of settles me. The strange thing is, when I first wake up, I could swear someone was smoking a pipe on the porch, but when I go out and check, there’s nobody there and no smoky smell when I open the door. It’s probably my mind playing games with me. I have been reading more of my dad’s journals and some of his notes on the farm. I honestly don’t know how I’m going to slaughter goats this fall, but one thing at a time.
I just started my second cup of coffee when my phone rang.
“Is this Billie Hatcher, Dan Hatcher’s daughter? This is Betty, down at the post office.”
“Yes, this is Billie.”
“Well, good morning, Billie. Your chicks are in.” Betty spoke with a sure voice. She could have just as easily said, “Your car’s due for a tune up.”
“Yeah, your chicks. Well, your dad’s. Sorry for your loss. We like hearing them cheep and all, but you should probably come get ‘em soon. They’ve been across the country.”
I was not comprehending, but I didn’t want to sound like an idiot. “Okay, I’ll be right over.”
I called Elliot.
“Yep, April 1st, that’s about right.”
“They ship chickens through the mail?”
“Yeah. He gets ‘em from a hatchery in Iowa.”
“But won’t they die from the cold or lack of food and water?”
“No, they overnight ship ‘em. They huddle together to stay warm and have food left over from their egg sack.”
“But we can have eggs to hatch anytime we want. Why would we buy chicks?”
“It’s the meat birds.” Now Elliot was being annoyingly certain, too.
“They’re different than the birds we have?”
“Oh, yeah. And we feed ‘em different, too. You want me to help you go get ‘em?”
I figured I could fit them in the back seat or the very back of my car. “No, I got it. But you’ll be here to help me set them up, right?”
“Yeah, I’ll be there.”
I went into the post office, and Betty was at the front counter. “Oh, hey, honey. Look, you probably want to drive around to the back, and we can bring them out. Also, sorry I had to ask around to get your phone number.” I wonder who had it. “I guess there’s no landline out at the farm. Your dad always gave his cell phone.” She pointed to a paper on the bulletin board behind me that simply read COMPUTER HELP and had Dad’s phone number on it. “But I tried that, and I guess it’s shut off.”
“Yep. So, you knew my dad?”
“Oh, yeah. He was so funny. He ordered some turkey chicks once, I don’t know what they’re called, and they were so ugly they were adorable. He gave me one, and we could never bring ourselves to eat it. We called it Thomasina and kept it forever. It either died of old age or ran off with a group of wild turkeys. Every year he told me I’d better eat it for Thanksgiving before the coyotes do. Your daddy was a good one.”
“Anyway, they have your birds ready out on the loading dock.”
“Okay. What are they in, some sort of cage?”
“No, they’re in boxes.”
“Box – es?”
“Yeah, only two. I think it’s about a hundred birds. They’re about yay big.” She held her hands out about two, then three feet apart.
One hundred birds? I drove around back, and the guy handed them down to me. I tried to peek in at them, but all I saw was beaks, eyeballs, and feathers, none of it adding up to a whole chick. Rather than risk escapees, I ignored my curiosity and didn’t open either box. Also, I was afraid there might be a dead chick. There was a lot of scratching and chirping until they finally settled into a rhythmic cheeping for the short drive home.
By the time I got there, Elliot was starting to feed the chickens, but he stopped to help with the baby chicks. In the back of the meat bird pen, he uncovered two large metal tubs I had never paid any attention to. We gathered a couple of smaller feeders and waterers, a bag of feed, and a giant bag of pine shavings. He pealed back a chicken wire cover on each of the tubs and showed me how to set them up.
“So, it’s still pretty cold. Do we need a heat lamp or something?” I had seen those at the farm supply store.
“Well, your dad got rid of all his heat lamps a long time ago. I’ll show you what we do.” He went into the storage box and pulled out what looked like two grills, only the grill side faced down. There were two extension cords in the pen, and we put the heaters in one corner of each tub. “It doesn’t get hot. You can put your hand on it.” He pressed his hand against the ‘grill’ side and held it out to me. It was warm but not too hot to touch. “Just enough to keep them warm until they feather in.”
We got the chicks and set them down into the tubs one at a time. We each counted fifty-four. His chicks were light yellow with darker backs, and mine were mostly yellow all over. No deaths and eight extras! They were adorable. We set up their feeders and waterers, and Elliot said that was good enough for now, other than checking and cleaning their mess a couple of times a day. Elliot told me that meat birds eat way more feed than regular chickens. They eat so much that you have to take their food away for twelve hours a day when they get a week old. They can grow so fast that they can’t walk or their hearts give out. Dad has been doing cross breeds that grow slower but fewer die. These guys will be gone in less than three months. Another shipment will get here the first week of June. So, I guess I’m going to have to figure out how not to get attached.
How could anyone kill and eat something this cute? Anyway, I’m trying to focus on what I’m doing right now and deal with the other stuff as it comes up. Out in the field, the kids were scampering and butting heads, goading their moms into kid behavior. Elliot and I finished feeding the chickens (the grey hen’s chicks are getting big), and the vet came out and picked him up. She took a second to check Frodo’s paw, and they were off.
After they left, Frodo and I took a little walk over to Dad’s tree. I sat on a stump and had a little talk with him. Dad, that is. It was quiet except for a few tiny birds in the bushes and an occasional truck on the highway. There was no one around, but I tell you, for a second, I could smell pipe smoke again.
Thanks for reading! Please comment or PM me via my author page on FB. I always look forward to feedback. How do you think Billie will cope with raising animals for food? Do you think small town Idaho will be kind to the new couple? What do you think of the cover?