The Fear of Crowded BirdsSubmitted by electrictoothsyndrome at 2005-02-11 13:11:34 EST
Rating: 1.79 on 34 ratings (34 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
It was all James ever really wanted in life - to be left alone. When people looked away from him in convenience stores to avoid eye contact, it suited him just fine. He never cared much for plite convention. He never cared much for small talk. It was all so much acting to him anyway. No, better, he thought, that they just looked away.
James worked on the catching crew of a chicken factory. He was one of the few non-Mexicans to have held onto this job. No one else wanted it. Each day he would go home - the smell of ammonia and crowded fear permeated his clothing and hair and skin. The ammonia would wash off with some effort, but the fear was harder to wash away.
James had never gotten his driver's license. He'd never bothered. If he couldn't walk there, he didn't go. So he just dragged his nyquil-soaked countenance languidly along through his days until at some point he'd unwittingly become a lonely 30-year-old man without direction...without movement. He knew he couldn't chase away the fear of crowded birds. He knew it was useless to try. Birds only scatter if you chase them anyway.
So on through his workaday life he shrugged - catching chickens by day, washing off the shit of their fear at night. Notwithstanding his inward turmoil, James was good at his job. He'd been there longer than any other man on his crew including his supervisor; in fact, James had been the one that trained his supervisor in back when he was a new-hire. James never cared to apply for a better position. Such is the way of stagnant men - they accept that this is what they been born to do - chase the fear to feed the disease of humanity and their ice chests with featherless bodies.
In spite of his job seniority, when it came to the game of social interaction, James was still the quiet adolescent.
"Hey, James, what the fuck are you doing? Hurry the up. We ain't got all day," his supervisor bellowed at him like he was a mindless child. No matter how much work James did, it was always twice as much as anyone else, and was never enough.
There was no safety to be found in the sympathy of the crew either.
"James, do us a favor and run the rest of these birds in the cage...we're going for a smoke... Oh, and run down to the truck and get us a handful of 3M masks... Oh, and get me a coke out of the cooler while you're at it."
...and not all things were said to his face. They would also say things behind his back. He knew they were saying such things, but what could he do? All he could do was take out his frustrations of the fearful birds, kicking them and punching them - pouring every ounce of hate and frustration into each misdirected blow.
"What the fuck is James' problem, dude? Is he a fucking retard or something?"
"Dude, I don't know, but it annoys the fuck out of me - it's like he ain't got no sense."
"Hey, did you look in his lunch pail again today?"
"Yea, dude, I gaffled a Twinkie. He had a ham sandwich too. You wanna split it?"
They were always stealing things from his lunch pail, and James was always keeping quiet about it. He would make the expected discovery at lunchtime and just be grateful that he still had his apple or his cookie or whatever they'd been gracious enough to leave for him. He made himself to feel this way in their presence. The fear of crowded birds is a constant rumble.
At night, in the baptism of his shower, in the the shelter of his thoughts, as the shit rolled down the drain, he would curse and fume, ripping the perpetrator's throat out with one lightning-swift strike of his almighty and powerful claw. He would then stand over the body and scream: "that'll teach you to fuck with me! That'll teach you to fuck with me!" Then James would open his eyes and find his white knuckles clenched in a fist, holding onto the pieces of an imaginary man's trachea. Then he would cry...
It had been a day like any other. James' body and clothes were soaked with piss and shit, but his countenance and his lunch pail were clean. Not a morsel had been left for his consumption. He was, however, not angry - not afraid. He look around him at the smug, smiling, food-stuffed faces of his other crew members, and laughed as one by one they began falling to the ground clutching their stomachs, puking and convulsing violently, faces flushed and white as clenched knuckles.
Back in his apartment, a half-empty box of rat poison sat opened on the countertop...
Back in the chicken house, a thousand fearful birds scattered in as many directions...