After receiving double the amount of shares I had anticipated, I happily release the fate of the hen. Enjoy.
I grabbed my wooden axe handle from my pack and with a knot in my stomach, my body acted in a manner which disagreed with my soul and I swung.
Clock, the hen was done. It laid there with blood streaming down it’s eye and I picked it up eager to bring it over for the plucking. I walked into the dark room, papers scattered about with Rodriguez sitting Indian style plucking the previous kill. With regret and victory, I set the hen down next to him. It’s about to get weird. As I watched my fellow Marine pluck his kill, I began to hear papers shift about on the floor behind me and with much effort a broken cluck begins to resonate. This hen believed in second chances as it worked its way to it’s feet and began wandering around the room confused, the blood still dripping from it’s eye.
With this, Corporal Hernandez, a stout, dark, and Mexican squad leader for our machine gunners, hand gestures the way in which I should carry out the kill by making large circular motions with his arm. Apparently death by neck twisting was the only prescription for this chicken. I quickly scooped up the hen and began swinging it around by it’s neck, squeezing my hands tightly hoping it would just die until finally, it’s body hung lifeless in my hand. Success? Maybe.
I placed him back down maintaining my confidence in my ability to kill yet it was only a minute longer the papers began to scatter.
With my back turned to my enemy (a move unforgivable for a Marine) I felt his spirit awakening once more. The hen rose to its feet, it’s neck contorted, eyeball leaking, and it’s cluck hoarser than an onset of laryngitis. Round 3. As my confidence waned, the Corporals insistency grew. “No, Charles, do it like this”. He motioned his hands differently this time, pulling his fists apart in a stretching motion. With guilt and mercy I clasped the hens neck and grabbed it’s ankles tightly. As I pulled its head further from its feet I could feel the vertebrae clicking in my palms, similar to that of cracking knuckles. One pop, two pop, several pops later, the hen lay still. Finally, the ordeal seemed over.
Killing a chicken is more difficult than killing a man.
I set the hen down again, certain this time that he she was next in line for the plucking. Perhaps it was the hens will to live, or the fact that a senior Corporal chased her chicks throughout the complex stomping on them with his boot–a game I would not take part in, but the chicken rose again. A muffled cluck, raspy and forced haunted my ear once more. I turned to find the mangled hen, head tilted, eyes red walking about the old dried up papers. In disbelief, Corporal Hernandez turned to me and with his deep Mexican accent, “That’s not how you kill a chicken”, he paused, “I’ll show you how to kill a chicken”. With the might of 1,000 men and palms decked with sausage fingers he swooped toward the hen grabbing it’s neck firmly. He grabbed the chicken’s feet, as if separating good from evil, and he tore them apart from each other. In shock, he looked toward his right hand to find the head of the hen now isolated from its body. Hernandez threw down the hens body and in disbelief we all watched as the hen scurried about the room, blood spewing from the top of its neck. I now truly understand what it means to be “running about like a chicken with its head chopped off”. Time froze, the chickens body screamed but no sound could be heard as she literally painted the room and us with her blood. Unknown to her, in about 3 minutes this hens actions would leave an imprint on the rest of my life when she truly fell lifeless for the first time after 20 minutes of torture.
I’ve reflected on this occurrence several times over the past decade, sometimes more than the human lives I’ve taken in Iraq. Perhaps there is a bit of humor in a kill such as this, man versus hen. They say that marijuana is the gateway drug to all others but my experience differed. In a subconscious effort to avoid the first gateway drug, I started with shrooms. It turns out that shrooms can also be the gateway drug to ecstasy, which leads to cocaine, which is the gateway drug to Special K, which finally ends up where I tried not to start, marijuana. Yet the true gateway drug for me, which lead to my hallucinogenic experiences while on a 30 leave from Iraq, was murder, whether it is of fowl or foe. Unfortunately, the Marine Corps does not make this connection and this is evident by the thousands, if not tens-of-thousands of deployed Marines –many to combat zones– that made it home, turned to drugs to cope with the death of human life, and were impolitely excused from their volunteer service to the USMC.
*To protect the privacy of certain individuals the names and identifying details have been changed.