One chicken

Waiting for a cab near Honolua Bay, Maui 2019

Waiting for a cab near Honolua Bay, Maui 2019


A cacophony of clucking and squawking filled the barn.

Small balls of yellow fluff popped out of a clear plastic tube into the sawdust of a pen at one end. The tiny chicks wobbled on legs thinner than a pencil. There was a taste in the air. An unpleasant flavour of bird shit. The room was tall and cavernous, heat lamps organised in lines hanging over each pen. Some of the chickens pecked at each other pulling feathers out of their neighbours bodies while squawking and banging into each other. The sound echoed for hours and hours every day, every month, all year. This was how the family made their living.

Lizzie stood at the entrance clutching her father’s hand. Tears pricked her eyelashes but she held them back. She’d heard the sounds of the barns for as long as she could remember. Her mother would never let her in. Lizzie had her own chicken that she kept outside in a small run her father built for her out of pieces of timber and wire. She named her chicken Collette. An only child Lizzie spent the days in the summer taking Collette for walks, holding her until she slept and trying to teach her to fly off the bottom step.

When her mother brought a roast chicken to the table as she did every Sunday, Lizzie wept large fat tears. Collette was asleep at her feet as her mother served Lizzie thick slices of steaming hot chicken breast on a plate.

“Gravy?” her mother said hovering over her with the jug. Lizzie nodded watching the thick brown sauce pool onto her plate. She knew it would taste delicious.

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