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Jeff Landon

Harmony and Eggs

At night the insomniac chickens wander about in loose gangs. They are

fat and careless and roam amid the sleepy people on a commune called

Harmony and Eggs. The chickens pick at grain between dry grass blades

and gather in a line to parade the farm. People are sleeping. The

blind girl in her yellow dress barks her terrible cough. She coughs

without stopping and her mother sits beside her with a damp washcloth

for her daughter's head, but it's just a cough, nothing serious. The

chickens leave her be. They're not doctors.

 

In the shared kitchen, a man talks on the house phone and eats from a

carton of ice cream. His hands tremble. He used to drink but now he

eats ice cream. This is the man who always remembers to feed the

chickens, and they gather beneath his window to wish him strength.

The moon makes the farmland look like ice, and the chickens loop

under the tractor that the hippies donít know to operate. They keep

moving, past the pickup truck with a shot clutch, and the outdoor

bathtub. The chickens move in a steady line like a snake made out of

chickens. A young man and woman lay naked in the cornfield on a

blanket with their arms wrapped lazily about each other. The chickens

respect their love and privacy and move on to the swimming pool,

which is filled with rusty tools. The terrible bluegrass

band plays their terrible songs in the pool for the acoustics. The

mandolin player, a disconsolate type, stops picking mid-chorus and

says, "Hello, you chickens."

 

The Chickens move to the front gate to welcome everyone back home. A

pair of headlights peeks down from the top of the long driveway, and

the chickens wait and pick bugs off themselves to look their best. A

girl named Raina gets out of the car and sits on the edge of the

outdoor tub. The chickens form a circle around her. She combs her

hair. She pulls something out of the pocket of her jeans, a letter

she was going to send but never will. She crumples up the paper and

jams it back into her jeans. Raina never feeds the chickens, but

once, when it was raining, she opened the door to the silo and the

chickens rushed in to get dry. They remember. Raina lights the stub

of a joint, and blows a trail of smoke to the chickens. They lean in

closer. She looks like she wants to tell them something. They wait,

these chickens have nothing but time. They never sleep and thereís

nowhere else to go.


Jeff Landon lives with his family in Richmond, Virginia, and teaches at John Tyler Community College. His stories, online and print, have appeared in Blip Magazine Archive, Crazyhorse, Another Chicago Magazine, Other Voices, New Virginia Review, Pindeldyboz, Hobart, FRiGG, Smokelong Quarterly, Night Train, Quick Fiction, Phoebe, and other places.

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