When Chickens Fly

By: susan peterson stamis

May 27 2023

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Category: Uncategorized

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In this 1962 picture, my father and his mother are basting and barbecuing meat stuffs, most likely affordable chicken, for the hungry kin gathered under the shade trees in the back yard. I imagine Dad Greek-chatting with Yiayia about our most recent cross-country road trip, and maybe this one was from Washington DC to Los Angeles or the other way around.

During his stint in the US, Dad liked to show us the sights of America, and one of these journeys took us through the Petrified Forest, where we stopped for a while to gawk at the tree shaped rocks lying on the scorched ground, looking for all the world like gigantic sticks of charcoal.

My father stuck to Route 66 from Santa Monica to its eastern terminus of Chicago. It was there that Dad decided to treat his family of three females, my mother, my teenaged sister and pre-teen me, to a drive-by of the Union Stockyards. I was mildly curious until we made our approach into the dreary neighborhood and were stupefied by a most horrendous stench. 

In an ill-considered stab at educating me, Dad, who loved a blood-rare steak smothered in ketchup, described what was going on behind the walls of the stockyard while I curled up in my designated corner of the back seat, holding my nose and crying my heart out.

My sister and I grew up mostly pet-less because my fastidious mom didn’t like to deal with fur and poop; but in Guatemala, my nine-year-old self was presented with a pet chicken. She strutted, clucked and pecked her days away on the patio where she lived behind the kitchen, shedding feathers and polka-dotting the concrete with chicken kaka. Most mornings I was treated to a fresh egg, but in a matter of a weeks, the chicken disappeared…no more eggs, no more feathers, no more kaka. 

My little self knew that chickens couldn’t fly, but in spite of my relentless inquisition of my parents and the help, no one could explain to me in English or Spanish how my chicken had escaped the enclosed patio. For a while my child’s heart preferred to believe that the chicken had simply run away from home. I imagined her strutting her way through the kitchen, the dining room, the living room and the entry, making a final fluttering dash through the front door to freedom; but over time I came to suspect that my sweet pet had run afoul of a machete and was laid to rest in our skillet.