GlassFire Magazine

Home     Editorial     Fiction     Poetry     Nonfiction     Reviews     Submissions     Contact Us











Amanda Dill lives in Southern Oklahoma with her family. She prefers writing about real life situations—autobiographical or otherwise. In addition to short stories, she writes poetry and is currently working on her first novel. Her work can be found in various publications and online.













Amanda Dill

Chickens tend to dislike having people poke around in their nests and stealing their precious eggs, their future children. I suppose I’d feel the same way if our roles were reversed, but they aren’t, and I happen to like omelets.  My first childhood memory begins inside a chicken coop, the musty smell of hay and feathers clogging up my nose and mouth, my head filled with images of little chicken heads and sharp, tiny beaks. It’s not exactly a pleasant memory. Then again, there aren’t very many nice things inside of chicken coops.

After filling our baskets with eggs, some brown, some white, some a muddy non-color somewhere in between, my grandmother and I sorted the eggs by size into cardboard cartons. Some we would keep for breakfasts and cakes and other childhood delights, like ice cream or custard. Leftovers would go down the road to be sold or traded for meat. Looking back, I see how fragile this practice was. It’s difficult at best to find farm fresh eggs for sale, even in some rural areas, simply because it doesn’t yield much profit on a small scale. On that day, though, I could only see the beauty and wonder of the smooth, thin shell, the delicate shield which held something familiar yet somehow new. Very carefully, we loaded the eggs into the back of my grandfather’s pickup truck, sliding them all the way to the front between two crates of corn to keep them from tipping over in transit. My grandmother slammed the tailgate shut after I climbed down, checking to make sure it was secure.

I walked around to the passenger side, opened the door, and prepared to climb up into the cab as I did every time my grandfather took eggs to the farmer’s market. But today, my grandmother stopped me.

“This time,” she said gravely, “you’ll stay behind and help me in the kitchen.” I thought nothing of this, as I was a pretty good dough kneader, go-getter, and pot-stirrer, but perhaps I should have.  Once the truck, the corn, the eggs, and my grandfather were out of sight except for the dust cloud moving, now soundlessly, down the county road, my grandmother motioned toward the back yard. I remained clueless until she stopped in front of the chicken coop for the second time that day. Then I knew.

It only took a few seconds, I’m sure—maybe a minute, at the most—but it felt like an eternity to me.  I don’t remember if the chicken made a sound, whether it thrashed about or died with dignity, but I do remember trying to pluck the damn thing, my eyes clouded by tears, half-listening to my grandmother’s instructions. I might have been eight years old, but the gravity of the day’s events was not lost on me. This was not a fly I’d swatted—this was an animal, one that lived and breathed, provided food for my family and others, one that I’d watched putter around the farm at dawn—and I’d killed it with my own tiny hands. Knowing what was on my plate was one thing, but having to actually kill it, clean it, and help prepare it myself—that changed things.

It was, in retrospect, an event that changed not only the way I saw myself, but also the way I saw my grandmother. Gone was the innocence of not knowing how my food got to the table. I realized, albeit the hard way, that someone, somewhere, had to kill and clean everything I ate. It’s not easy.  While I suppose it would be a beautiful, grand gesture for me to say I’m now a strict vegetarian, that my killing that chicken scarred me for life, rendering me unable to choke down a single bite of meat ever again, I simply can’t do that., Food for Thought