When Jimmy turned fourteen, he bought himself a pellet gun with money he earned picking up corn off the ground for a farmer the fall before. We practiced shooting tin cans off a fence post. I could shoot more accurately than he could, but that didn’t offend him. One day as we sat behind the house, a flock of Mom’s chickens meandered by and Jimmy took aim.
“You ain’t gonna kill a chicken, are you?”
“Naw, I can’t hit the broad side of a barn.”
He took aim. “POP!”
One of mom’s laying hens fell over and started twitching.
“Now, don’t that beat all? I hit it.”
“You killed a chicken. Now Mom’s gonna kill you.”
“What should we do with it?”
“I don’t know. We’re in big trouble.”
We ran over to the chicken and watched it twitch its last. Jimmy took off his hat, placed it reverently across his heart and bowed his head for a moment. “Thank you, Hennie, for all those eggs you laid for us.” He donned his hat again.
“Maybe we should quick dig a hole and bury it.”
“She’ll miss it though. She knows how many she has.”
“Maybe we could say it got hit by a car on the road.”
“That’s a good idea.”
He picked up the lifeless hen and took it to the house, dangling it by its feet, to show to Mom.
“Now what’d you go and do with that chicken?”
“Nothin’,” he said. “Mr. Anderson whizzed by in his red pickup and ‘Bam!’ He banged right into it.”
“You know we ain’t got many hens left to lay eggs.”
“I’m sorry Mom. Maybe we could fry it for dinner and it won’t be wasted.”
“I s’pose so.”
She took the dead hen over to the woodpile and chopped off its head. Then she boiled some water and dipped the chicken in it to loosen the feathers before she proceeded to clean it. Jimmy and I sneaked the dismembered head behind the chicken barn and checked it. It was a bit bloody, but Jimmy examined it carefully until he felt something hard. Sure enough, the pellet had struck it right behind the eye.
I nearly barfed. “Poor Hennie.”
“I’m a purdy good shot,” he said.
“Yeah, but maybe you should stick to shooting tin cans from now on.”
The fried hen for dinner tasted a bit tough, but we ate it heartily. Jimmy and I exchanged mischievous glances. While thinking about how our dinner had died, I hoped we could keep a fit of the giggles away.