Morning comes early in summer. The day had barely cracked open, riding on a breeze that fluttered gauzy curtains in. And the goddamn rooster. But she was already up. Clothes, shoes, hair-pins, and she was down the stairs.
Mama sat at the kitchen table, looking over the books as the scratch-box radio advertised the latest in soap flakes. Only so many stamps of this, so many of that. A coffee can of nickles, dimes, and pennies.
Outside, the sun was already making the day grow sticky. And already much too bright.
The chickens milled about in their yard, looking for seeds with their quick-twitchy glances. I hate my legs, she had told him. Seemed like ages ago. They’re awful – look like chicken legs. He disagreed, but teased her for it anyway. And called her Chicken ever after.
Now, it seemed, everything was gone and different and older. Just her and Mama, most every day the same. Work and wait. Work and worry.
The pipes shudder-screeched as she filled the pails with water. Wha’d’ya gonna do when you get outta here? he’d say, Me, I’m gonna make it big. See the world. Maybe go into the pictures or somethin’ – hey, I like the sound a that! A regular Clark Gable! Wha’d’ya say, Chicken? She had once emptied a whole pail on his head for such a notion. Mama had scolded them both for making such a ruckus.
Water, feed, shovel, repeat. One eye on the work, one eye on the road with her semi-rational fear of black Oldsmobiles. And her semi-rational hope for the familiar blue pickup. You wanna take me out in that old thing?
She pushed the stray hairs away from her eyes, taking a moment to carefully pin them away. Ever conscious of keeping tidy. Of being presentable.
Because one day he’d be back again, all in green and pins and stripes. Right there, leaning on the rust edge of the fence, calling softly like a question. Hello, Chicken.