Hope Is the Thing with Feathers

By: Brandon Witt
ONE





FEATHERS WERE going to fly. It was only fair. I told Faloola the time before that if she wandered off again, it would be her last. I gave her too much leeway. Pretty soon all the other turkeys were going to start taking little holidays as well.

I kept threatening to turn her into turkey noodle casserole.

We both knew I wouldn’t.

But damn, she had to pick a day like this to wander off. Even with the thermal underwear, thick felt hat, gloves, and wool scarf, the freezing air cut through me as surely as if I’d jumped into my icy pond. Snow was pretty looking out from my window, but that was it. When I was a child, five decades ago, I’d loved the white shit, thought it the best thing ever. Those days were long gone. Now it just made my bones ache and tried to give my cattle’s noses frostbite.

Honestly, if it hadn’t been nearly sunset, I wouldn’t have worried about it. Faloola always came back. Even though she was my favorite, she wasn’t a kindred spirit. She liked adventure, travel, seeing new things. In all of my fifty-six years, I’d yet to leave the Show-Me State. Not even once. I used to be proud of that fact. Made me the most genuine of all Missourians. Somehow made me better than the rest, even if I didn’t completely fit in with them.

Of course, maybe if I’d traveled some, I’d have ended up searching for Faloola somewhere warm.

It hadn’t snowed in over a week, but it had been so cold not a single flake had melted. The snow had solidified into a thick gray crust over the earth, cracking with each step of my boot. Even the icicles that hung from tree branches over my head had lost their shine, now looking like shadowy fangs ready to devour me. I snorted out a laugh, causing steam to billow in front of my eyes for a split second. Mamma had always said I was a bit dramatic. Maybe she was right. Didn’t mean the trees weren’t ominous at the moment. Nor the woods just beyond my pastures.

Lord, if Faloola had wandered into them, I really was going to make her into a casserole. Although, if she was actually in there….

I didn’t want to think about it. Despite the heavy weight that grew in my gut with each step.

Fox. Coyote. Or even a damned opossum, for fuck’s sake.

Shit.

I should’ve done a better job at securing the chicken wire. She was the only one who ever went wandering, though. She enjoyed it. And she always came back.

Always.

Of course, lots of things stop coming back at some point. Even people.





BY THE time the sun vanished, I’d looked everywhere. She wasn’t in any of her usual favorite places. She liked visiting the rabbit hutch the most, but sometimes she’d be at the dove enclosure or pestering the chickens.

In a last ditch hope, I went back to the pen that held the pheasants and the rest of the turkeys. Maybe she’d returned home to roost, waiting until I was distracted and then slipping past me like the sneaky little bitch she was.

They were all there. I counted twice. Even counted the pheasants, for good measure. Sixteen pheasants. Eleven turkeys—there should’ve been twelve.

Damn Faloola.

I locked the coop back up and glared at the woods. I so didn’t want to mess with that. I wanted to have dinner, then curl up with a book by the fire and fall asleep. Hell, I just wanted to be warm.

But Faloola. My poor Faloola. Probably lost and scared.

Fine. No dinner. No book. No warmth.

I stomped back through the ugly crust toward the house. I’d just get a flashlight and….

My gaze wandered to the house on the other side of my three-acre field.

No neighbor within miles and miles and miles, except for the shit-brown house that had been built practically on top of our living room. I could still hear Momma yelling at Dad for being cheap and not buying the adjacent acreage. Of course, Old Man Webber had built on this side of his farm. His land was big enough, bigger than ours, that he could have built on the east side and neither of us would’ve ever known the other existed. Except for the occasional wandering cattle.

Or possibly turkey, in this case.

Old Man Webber had died several months ago, finally. I tried to buy the property. I was gonna tear down that shit-brown house and finally have my bit of the world in complete peace. But it seemed he’d left it to family, and they weren’t selling.

The idea of Old Man Webber having family was baffling. He’d hated everybody, and everybody hated him.

I’d seen someone messing around there several days ago. I’d been trying to build up my nerves to head over and see if it was the family and if I’d be able to talk them into selling.

Maybe they’d seen Faloola. Although, if they had, they’d have come over and checked to see if she was mine. But still…. I glanced out toward the woods again, then back to the Webber place. I wasn’t sure which was more daunting—the frozen woods just waiting for me to slip on an icy branch and break my elbow, or talking to someone related to Old Man Webber.

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