Enchant by Adam Crittenden
Phil’s little brother Bubba woke up later than usual for a summer weekday. Their family stayed home in Albuquerque for summer vacation, rather than traveling anywhere. This was nothing out of the ordinary. Phil and Bubba wandered out to the backyard, feeling the sun’s heat on their peeling pink necks. Their father’s hen house, adorned with a little yard of its own, outlined with chicken wire and coffee cans filled with cigarette butts, hid in the corner of the backyard. Phil and Bubba wandered closer, picking up clods of dirt and throwing them against the fence, watching them explode into yellow-brown dust. The brothers’ father, Big John, always told them to watch out for a malevolent rooster, Dodger. He said that Dodger was “a mean ol’ bird who’d claw yer eyes out jus’ soon as look at ya.” Dodger stood about two feet tall and had grey spots on his white feathers. Dodger was missing an eye from an encounter with Big John.
Big John went into the hen house to find a rotten, sulfuric egg that he smelled from the kitchen. He thought Dodger was secured but was surprised when he turned around and there was Dodger, clawing at his shins. Big John yanked out his pocket knife and swung at the feathered air, landing a slicing blow to Dodger’s left eye. The rooster fluttered, managing to leap over the chicken wire and run into the wooden fence. He fell to the ground, twitched, rose to his feet and flew to the top of the fence. One of his wings caught and Dodger froze, as if taking a break from his journey to anywhere; a small trail of blood snaked down the fencepost. Big John was furious, so he left the rooster there.
Phil told Bubba the story: The Battle of Big John and Dodger, and how Dodger reappeared in the hen house the day after.
Bubba said he wanted his gun. They turned and ran into the house, returning quickly to the yard armed with .30-30 Winchesters—rifles they had used against deer last hunting season. The duo crept closer to the hen house, opened the gate and entered. Old Dodger sat in the corner, a small amount of light catching his right eye. The brothers backed up at the sight of the rooster’s mutilated face. The hens rustled and Dodger charged. Bubba dropped his rifle and fell out of the hen house, tumbling down the ramp. Phil backed up and aimed. Fired. The brothers ran out of the hen house and stood in the middle of the backyard. Dodger leapt out and rushed past the open gate, still charging Phil and Bubba. Phil fired two more shots into the reddened rooster. White, grey, and red feathers floated in the yard. When the bloodstained feathers landed, Dodger was gone.
About a few months later, when Big John went inside to tend to the hens, there was a small lump in the corner. A head popped up, right eye shining.
Adam Crittenden is currently working on an MFA at New Mexico State University and editing for Puerto Del Sol. In regards to his own poetry, he explores personal issues and meditations with key poets in mind, from T.S. Eliot to Forrest Gander.