What Remains

In a 21st-century version of a paper airplane, my 19-year-old texts me at work that her younger sister’s favorite chicken was devoured in the night hours.

I step out in the stairway and call home. Yes, I’ll bury the remains.

Every chicken owner I know has lost birds — to hawks, dogs, raccoons, the soup pot. There’s so many feathers on a chicken, or what the fox left of a chicken — golden and soft as milkweed fluff. As I bury the back and feet and the bright red guts, I remember walking my youngest in her stroller along our road, her tiny fingers carefully pulling apart milkweed pods so the fluff would drift away in the sunlight.

That morning at work, in a tiny and windowless room, I’m on the phone with a teacher who’s taught agriculture in a public school for over half a century, gathering some final details for the piece I’m writing about him. When chickens come up in our conversation, I mention my daughter has lost her first. He says one word, just a sympathetic, “Ah…”

My daughter, ever the pragmatist, says simply, “At least it wasn’t my cats. Foxes eat cats.”

As I walked home last evening, rain began falling, just a little mist that, during the night, slowly accumulated into a real summer rainfall. Drink it up, sweet earth, thirsty garden.