Nov 18, 2009

This is you

Larry Flynt's first sexual experience was with a chicken.

I have no idea how I know that. I have even less idea how I knew that then, when I was what, 14? It certainly wasn't from reading Hustler. I assume, thinking about it, that I must have heard it -- or more likely read it -- from one of the anti-porn pieces that cycle through Christian circles. The idea must have been to demonstrate depravity. A chicken. Now I see that I have no idea if this is true, though, and it's not an argument any more than Larry Flynt's face is an argument, but at the time I was just bothered. Just like the cut-up concubine in Judges, and angels having sex with women in Genesis, and Noah getting drunk and naked, Lot impregnating his daughters, and David collecting foreskins, there was something fleshy and sweaty, violent and unsettlingly wrong and also there was this message implicit that this is you. This depravity is in you. This is life. All of us are only this far from beastiality.

The chickens we had at the time, the half dozen hens were being terrorized by an angry, angry rooster. The hens were losing feathers, and skittering around in constant panic and every time I fed them they'd squawk and squat, trembling, terrified, waiting to be mounted.

In Texas, at least at the time, you could see where some men raised their birds for fighting. There were whole fields of small white lean-twos with roosters staked out, strutting around and stretching their wings, one per white triangle. It was still legal to fight them up in Oklahoma then, and there were other places too, on the plains and Eastward, over into Arkansas, where men would gather around pits and fit their birds were razor blades to fight and cut and die. The argument was it was natural. They never had any hens, or anyway only a couple, and all the rest they ate or sold off as half-grown poults to the chicken farmers that wanted eggs.

Sometimes you'd see hens in the city, especially in poor parts where Mexicans and poor whites would keep them in re-purposed sheds, half-hidden in backyards except for the occasional escapee that'd be wandering up to the road, looking silly and startled. Mostly the egg men were in the country, though, and the chickens would spread out across the yard, running after roaches and pecking at dirt bugs. They'd tell you the flock was a whole social system, with a hierarchy that'd have to be reordered by fighting with every new bird. They all sold eggs, advertising with cardboard signs and selling at the same rate or only slightly higher than the grocery store. The eggs were never white, but were every other color, and sometimes you'd crack one and inside would be blood. Like a miscarriage. And sometimes, too, the eggs would not be washed and there'd be feces dried to the outside, and tufts of underbelly feathers. The farmers seemed okay with this, as if it didn't demonstrate some deep depravity, and they would say or at least, in being casual, imply that this is life. This is normal. This is us.

Watching the chicken squat in terror at the shadow of the hand I'd raised to throw food, squat and squawk and tremble wide-eyed as if I might rape it, I could only think, life is not okay.