The heavy meal in the heat of the day soon had them all nodding. Bessie stacked the dishes and put them in steaming water to soak. Covering the leftovers with a cotton tablecloth she left them for a cold supper. No woman heated the house up in the late afternoon by building another fire in the stove. Enough is enough! “You menfolk can find you a cool spot and catch a little snooze. I’m gonna lay on my bed awhile. Freddy, you got to git Miss Cora’s hen took care of before Dr. Charles is ready to go. I don’t mean for you to keep ‘im waiting. Be sure you take her a good piece outback of the chicken yard. I don’t want my layers upset.” Hanging her apron on the icebox door handle, she went to the bedroom just off the kitchen, lowerdnthe shades a bit, and hung her cotton house dress before an open window to air. After dusting herself with scented talcum and folding the quilt back, she slipped under the sheet. A lazy breeze ruffled her dress against the window shade, giving the illusion of cool. Knowing they couldn’t be seen from the road, Robert and Charles stripped down to their undershirts to take their ease in wooden rocking chairs in the deep shade of the front porch, chatting till first one, then the other nodded off. Bobby went home to rest till they were ready to go back to work.
“Come on Charley. I ain’t layin’ around takin’ no nap with the old folks. I better git that chicken took care of.” Freddy said, leading Charley to a coop In the chickenyard. Charley had seen chickens “took care of” many times, but still found it macabrely fascinating. The suspicious hen puffed her plumage, pecked Freddy’s hand and threatened him with a scratchy “brock, brock, brock!” Unperturbed by the promised violence, Freddy grabbed her legs and pulled her out to meet her maker.
Ignoring his mother’s instructions to “git her away from the chickenyard before you kill her,” Freddy did the job on the spot, grasping the luckless hen firmly by the neck and giving her body a whirl, snapping her neck, instantly. When he dropped her, the poor hen’s brain hadn’t gotten the message yet. She made a few wild circles around the chicken yard in a bizarre dance with death, terrifying the sisterhood. A necrophiliac rooster jumped her, enticed by her sensual moves. The squawking hens fled, a couple escaping over the fence, into the trees. “Mama ain’t gonna be happy about them hens running loose. I’ll be pluckin’ ‘em out of the trees once the sun goes down. This ain’t good.”
Eventually, they got back to work on the hen. Freddy chopped off her head and plunged her in the black washpot full of boiling water. They plucked her clean before delivering her to Bessie.
”I seen my hens up in them trees. You kilt that hen right slap-dab in the middle of ‘em, didn’t you? I bet half of ‘em ain’t gonna lay tomorrow. If I run short a’eggs, you gonna be the one doin’ without. I swear, when you git grown, I’m gonna come to your house an’ scare your hens out of layin’. Just git on out’a here. I knows you wantin’ To slip off fishin.” Bessie grumbled on as the boys grabbed the gear.