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  • Mj Pettengill

Ballad of a Sandwich Girl: Killing Picasso


Beautiful Rooster
Beautiful Rooster

A loud shot echoed. I winced and braced myself for another. I put my fingers in my ears—another shot. The fingers in the ears didn’t help much; I felt it more than heard it. Then one more. God, how can he miss?

I walked slowly onto the back porch, each step heavier than the first. His silhouette stood out against the sun-bleached pine boards of the barn. An eerie glow emanated around the visor of his baseball cap as he held the limp rooster upside down by his yellow feet in one hand and the assault rifle in the other. He turned to look up at the barn, then back to the bird.


He placed the lifeless body on the ground and leaned the gun against the white picket fence. A dark red, almost black circle grew in the patchy snow under the lifeless body. Shiny mahogany feathers blew in the wind, lingering by the fence and then slipping through the space from the missing slat before finally landing by my frozen toes.

The others were clucking and running around aimlessly in circles. He kicked at them; they fluttered and scattered, only to run back around him. He kicked at them again, only this time making contact with the buff-colored rooster with the feathery feet.

The ramp that led to the coop leans a little to one side; a small red Cochin stood like a statue in the middle of the ramp, her head cocked, listening. The main door to the barn banged against the barn rhythmically, driven by the wind.

Almost all of the windows in the barn stared back at me with black eyes, nothing inside now except for the goats. On the south side of the barn, their window was open just a quarter of the way. They were crying with their roman noses sticking out of the bottom of the window.


The sun was close to setting behind Carter Mountain. The long shadows of the fences and trees reached the back deck. My barn boots, caked with mud, sat waiting by the wooden rocker, the laces still tied. It was getting colder.

An iridescent, dark green feather floated across the weathered wooden floor, resting by my stocking feet, and then drifted along towards the apple trees in the back yard. The wind picked up, and more feathers, tail feathers, I think, followed the dark green feather and got caught on the one patch of grass that was still brown from winter.

Usually oblivious, the black and white bunny in the hutch on the other side of the fence scratched at the floor and vanished deep inside where the hay pressed against the chicken wire. Like maracas, dead oak leaves rattled as they rubbed against each other.

He walked towards the woods behind the barn; the rooster’s head swung back and forth, keeping time with his step and the mating call of the chickadee. The rotting spring thaw churned in the air as the dying sun reflected off the barrel of the gun. More feathers floated by, this time soft, downy and white. One of them hesitated before brushing past my feet, following the others in the path of the wind.

He tossed the limp body on the ground with a thud. Killing Picasso was like killing a part of me. Another deep red feather rolled down onto the porch. I picked it up and rubbed it between my fingers.

He approached me, assault rifle in hand. “It worked this time.” He grunted.

“You killed Picasso.” The little girl’s voice was barely a whisper.

“What do you mean?” He rubbed the handle of his gun with this shirtsleeve.

“I mean, you killed Picasso.”

The sun departed behind the clouds, behind the mountain, behind the barn. ***********************************************************

Excerpt: Ballad of a Sandwich Girl

(Memoir Unpublished)