Bonding, by Jarrid Deaton

My father, an old slaugh­ter­house man, decid­ed to keep hens on our prop­er­ty around my twelfth birth­day. The coop was an unbal­anced struc­ture that sat close to the cold white bricks of the slaugh­ter­house and just down from our garage. One night, not long after trad­ing for some chick­ens with a hunter who want­ed his deer butchered, my father came stum­bling in my room yelling that he had some­thing great to show me, to get my boots on and fol­low him. I was half asleep as we slid across the wet grass and over to the old weath­er-worn coop—all boards and rust­ed metal—that held about four­teen hens. He shined a flash­light at the roof of the hen house and the beam uncov­ered six brown bats hang­ing from the wire that drooped from the ceil­ing. He reached around to his back and pulled out a .45 and start­ed shoot­ing before I could even fig­ure out what was going on. The bats explod­ed, noth­ing but a mist of blood and fur, and flopped to the floor mix­ing with the black and white chick­en shit. I start­ed cry­ing. My father shook me hard by the shoul­ders, told me to tough­en up. He asked me if I want­ed to get rabies. I sobbed, told him no, no I didn't.

The next morn­ing I had to clean the hen house. Over in the cor­ner, the ruined parts of a moth­er bat caught my atten­tion. A baby was attached to it, still alive. I could see the thing's tiny heart as it beat under its skin. I watched until it stopped. I put what was left of the moth­er and the baby in the creek then ran close to the garage and they float­ed away, pulled by the cur­rent down through the white waste suds from the slaugh­ter­house and out of sight.

Jar­rid Deaton lives and writes in east­ern Ken­tucky. He received his MFA in Writ­ing from Spald­ing Uni­ver­si­ty. His work has appeared or is forth­com­ing in Pear Noir! Zygote in My Cof­fee, Six Sen­tences, and elsewhere.

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