Wings Wide Shut

Art by Julia Gomes

Henrietta knew she was the most beautiful. There was no question about that. After Lucia was taken, the role of “Queen of the Coop” was passed down to her. She liked to stand on a box in the pen, clucking and singing to her bitter and bland friends. Her life had become one of luxury. She got her own special feed, the males always mated with her first, and she laid eggs twice a day.

The woman with thin arms had given Henrietta special treatment lately. She had even been taken inside for special grooming for the past couple of days. She was rinsed in some metal container with a spout that gave her cold water which turned warm. Scented liquid with bubbles was rubbed down her body. Then she was rinsed off again. She was taken out of the metal tub and hot air was blown at her face and feathers. The process made her feel like the queen she was. The woman with thin arms occasionally made Henrietta her own food. It tasted a little funky, but she pretended it was delicious to make others jealous.

Of course this treatment had been given to different chickens every other month, but everyone chose to ignore this.

One day, she was put back in the pen after a cleaning. Every chicken was staring at her. They all came up to her and asked her what happened in the house and what the woman with thin arms did. They do this every time. The hens swarmed her with questions, clucking and pecking at her; she felt like a celebrity.

“Calm down, calm down everyone.” She flashed a smile at them. She noticed Marguerite in the corner glaring at her, but she ignored this. “Inside was spectacular. I was bathed and showered with affection. I am the woman with the thin arm’s absolute favorite.” Henrietta looked around at the other hens. They all wanted to be her. They were so hungry for what she had.

Then the woman with thin arms came into the pen. The attention was dragged from Henrietta and was now spotlighted on the woman. She had the common chicken feed in her hand and Henrietta’s in a separate dish. When she poured the food for the swarm of chickens, they flocked to the feeder like they were desperate. The woman walked over to the other end of the pen where Henrietta was waiting patiently. She put the dish down for her. Once the ladies were done with their food, they came over to Henrietta to get a taste of what she had. Henrietta pecked at them to go away. When she was finished and had successfully defended her food, Marguerite walked up to her. “How was your bath?”

“It was marvelous,” Henrietta clucked.

Marguerite rolled her eyes. “I’m sure it was. Now, look Henrietta, you know how close I was with Lucia.”

Henrietta nodded her head. “Why, yes, of course.”

“Well, she was treated just like you before she...” Marguerite paused and whispered. “Disappeared.

“But the woman with thin arms loves me. We all know this.”

“Lucia thought that too. She thought she was the woman with thin arm’s favorite chicken: being bathed, the special food, the inside time, the men. You know what happened to Lucia. We all do. Yet no one addresses it. What is wrong with this society? Are we all simply groomed for our untimely death? Are we all just cogs in the machine under the rule of the woman with thin arms?”

“Oh Marguerite! You never fail to entertain me! You’re so cute and scrumptious. I could just eat you up. But don’t you worry, your time of luxury will come my darling.” Henrietta laughed lightly and walked away. She clucked a light tune as she strutted across the pen.

That night, when all the chickens were tucked away in their coops, the woman with thin arms was dressed in all black as she entered the pen. She went over to Henrietta’s coop and opened the roof to peer down. She scooped Henrietta up in her thin arms and closed the roof of the coop. Henrietta woke up in a fright and started clucking, waking some of the chickens up. Marguerite, being one of those chickens, just shook her head and went back to sleep.

Henrietta was taken inside. She thought this was a weird time for a bath. Instead of getting a cleansing, she was put into a cage filled with chicken poop and feathers. She was frightened and dirty. She questioned why she was here. The woman with thin arms must have the wrong chicken.

“Hello! Woman! You have the wrong chicken! It’s me, Henrietta! Your favorite chicken!” She clucked and clucked but the woman just ignored her.

The woman with thin arms was at the metal box where Henrietta got her baths. She was washing some shiny stick with a point at the end. Henrietta thought that she needed a long cleansing after being in this cage. The woman with thin arms disappeared down a flight of stairs with the pointy thing. The doorbell rang and the woman with thin arms ran back up the stairs and answered it. At the door there were people wearing the sameblack robes as her. There was barely any talking as they made their way downstairs. Henrietta screamed, shouted, clucked at the people, but they all ignored her wails of despair.

The people in black were downstairs for a long time. Henrietta convinced herself that the woman with thin arms probably forgot about her in the cage.

What most likely happened was that she was going to cleanse me but these people came and she forgot. But why would the woman with thin arms put me in this cage?

Henrietta attempted to sit down in a clean area, but no area was clean.

There was a sound of footsteps coming up the stairs. It was the woman with thin arms; finally, she was free! Instead, the woman grabbed the cage by the handle and brought Henrietta downstairs.

Oh no, thought Henrietta. As they entered the basement, a musty and bitter smell overwhelmed Henrietta’s nose. There were silent people dressed in all black, their faces shadowed by the hoods of their robes, in a circle around some weird symbol on the ground. The symbol looked like someone painted it in 10 seconds. More effort was needed there. The room was dimly lit by candles placed on the weird shape on the floor. The cage was placed on a table in the corner of the room. The woman took Henrietta out of the cage and handed her off to a different woman. Henrietta clucked and tried to squirm her way out of their hands but nothing came of it. She was already in this stranger’s arms moving toward the circle of people.

When the hooded people stood in the center of the weird star symbol, Henrietta saw all of them looking at her. She liked the attention. For a moment she was the queen of the coop again. She saw the woman with thin arms pick up the sharp thing from before, and walk toward her.

The stranger held out Henrietta in front of her. She knew what was coming. Fear rushed over her small feathery body. She pecked and twisted in the hands, trying to break free from her inescapable death. Perhaps Marguerite was right. Lucia probably ended up here. It’’s always the good ones who die young. She never thought that this day would come, but she was still the center of attention.

She felt all the eyes on her. Nevertheless she squirmed and clucked, trying to get away.

Her life in the pen was so great; she laid eggs twice a day, but she never knew what happened to them after. Hopefully her children didn’t have to suffer an end such as this, an end filled with attention and agony.

She knew she was the most beautiful chicken in the whole pen, but she did not feel beautiful now. Her feathers were all stuck together from the grime of the cage. Henrietta clucked her hardest and tried to writhe out of this stranger’s grasp. She made eye contact with the woman with thin arms.

“Please! It’s me Henrietta! Your favorite chicken. You wouldn’t kill your favorite chicken. Would you? Please! You bathe me so often. You feed me special food. You—you—you steal my babies and now you’re going to kill me? You are sick! You are a disgusting human being killing innocent chickens for your own good. What is this even for? Huh? You are sick! I thought we were best friends. I thought I was your favorite chicken!”

She screamed at the woman with thin arms, but all the woman heard was this chicken who had been groomed for this exact situation, clucking. Henrietta’s eyes grew wide. She sucked in her last breath. The knife came down upon her head. She felt nothing. It was quick. Her head was on the floor. Her body, still squirming in the stranger’s hands, slowly dwindled. The people cheered. She was finally the pure center of attention.

The woman with thin arms grabbed Henrietta’s body from the stranger and picked her head up off the ground. She brought the body upstairs and put it in the sink along with the murder weapon. She would make a lovely special feed.