Tu's Chicken


by CS DeWildt

I used to kill small animals with my dad and an old .22 when I was a kid. They were rodents, mostly muskrats, but occasionally I'd put a new hole in a bird or a feral cat. Dad would lead me out of town on the west bound train route and smoke giant cigars while he talked about god's plans, plans that included reducing the number of muskrats living along the tracks.

"Vermin," he'd say as I picked one off. "They'd shoot you if they had a trigger finger." We never went on an actual hunting trip because dad was away too much. He drove a truck full of office furniture back and forth between Ashville and Omaha. Our big game was the muskrats.

Dad had killed 4 people in his life. The 1st ones I learned about were some kids in a VW bus in Iowa. Dad was getting back on the highway after stopping at a Flying J's for dinner. The kids ran the signal at the onramp and he clipped their rear bumper when they cut him off. The bus rolled down the slope from the onramp to the highway below. I don't know if the fall killed them, but another rig demolished the van at 70 miles per hour. The kids' families sued the company dad drove for and lost. They had to pay the company's legal expenses after another civil trial. Dad testified to the circumstances for the 2nd time while the parents cried and wished they'd left well enough alone, if you can consider having dead kids "well enough". That was 2 of the 4 people dad killed.

Dad said one person had it coming. The truck was his weapon of non-choice once again. He had parked his rig in the lot of a closed Wal-Mart in southern Illinois to get some sleep. He told me he was dreaming about hammering railroad ties into place with giant spikes and a sledge. He said I was in the dream. Dad hammered the ties while I followed and shot muskrats. He said I kept asking why their families didn't cry. He told me to "just shoot". He woke up and the shots stopped, but the hammering continued. He said the sound scared him so bad he couldn't move. I never knew my dad to be scared of anything and the comment filled my belly with his fear. Dad peaked out of the sleeper and saw a figure through the driver's side glass. It was holding a Rambo style survival knife and hitting the window with the compass end. Dad hopped into the seat wearing only his 40 waist white Hanes and fumbled with the keys in the dark. The figure said something dad couldn't understand and the tapping outside became a frenzied staccato. Dad found the ignition and the rig shook. It snorted and bucked the figure off. Dad said the thump you'd expect when you ran over someone was more of a wet squish. The figure screamed until the 3rd or 4th set of set of tires. No one sued that time.

Dad liked to tell me about life during our murderous jaunts down the tracks.

"Don't marry a Catholic."

"Why not?"

"You like meat on Fridays?"

"Yeah."

"Don't marry a Catholic."

My mom was a Catholic. We ate fish on Fridays. I figured mom just liked cooking fish or she did it because dad was overweight and one lean meal a week was better than nothing. I didn't see how fish wasn't meat.

"Don't trust the police."

"Why not."

"'Cause they're assholes."

Dad was a cop before he drove truck. When I was about 6 years old I'd get up real early and wait for his cruiser to pull up the driveway. It was always dark when I went out to meet him. He'd pick me up and his gun would grind into my hip. He'd tell me about all the bad guys he caught while he tucked me back into bed. I had a lot of nightmares about criminals, but they always ended happily because my dad would shoot them. I found out later that dad was let go because he was caught drunk driving. He became belligerent with the cop who stopped him and tried to take the officer's side arm. He was allowed to plead down to disorderly conduct if he'd resign. He said people don't look out for each other like they should.

The last person I learned he killed was in Vietnam. He didn't talk about being there very often so when he did I listened. He said he probably got a lot of them, but it was always under chaotic circumstances so you never really knew. You just shot.

"His name was Tu, but we called him Bruce Lee because he knew kung fu. He wasn't a VC."

"What's a VC?"

"A bad guy in Vietnam. Tu was a little shit, but I watched him fight some kids and he held his own real good. 5 boys bigger than him and he took them all on. He was quick. He'd step it back when it got too hairy and then tagged anyone fool enough to get close. He could spin and throw his leg high enough to kick any of them taller boys in the mouth. The guys and me just stood back 'til he started taking the worst of it. Like I said, it was 5 on 1."

"He couldn't win?"

"He did win."

"But you helped him."

"Yeah, but he fought and kept his chicken. He could have gave it up without a fight. Wasn't his fault we chased them other kids off. It was his circumstances."

"Was it his pet chicken?"

"His family had a farm. It was probably for eggs."

"I don't like eggs. I'd eat the chicken."

"I know you would. We saw Tu back to his house in case them kids came back and there were some VCs there."

"The bad guys."

"Right, they were always interrogating, looking for spies. We come out of the bush into the small farm clearing and there's 3 of them slapping Tu's daddy. Tu screamed and ran to him, dropped the chicken. The VC's turned and shot him like nothing and then bayoneted his belly. We fired and they fired and in the end they all went down. No way to know whose bullet made what hole. Tu was on the ground just howlin'. They stirred his pot pretty good with the bayonet and his insides were a mess. Our medic was already dead a few days and we didn't know how to fix Tu, if he could be fixed. He just kept screaming and bleeding. The chicken was running in circles round the yard, eating bugs and pecking at the bodies. Tu's daddy picked himself up and came running and yelled something and a lady come out of the thatch shack, Tu's mom I suspect. They sat by him and were praying I guess, chanting some nonsense, and they kept saying something to us. We figured they wanted help, but there was nothing we could do. Tu is still screaming his head off. Finally his daddy gets up and walks right up to me. He points to the barrel of my gun and then runs back to Tu and starts tapping on the boy's forehead. He points to me and then taps on Tu's forehead again."

"He wanted you to shoot him."

"I know."

"Did you?"

"Yes."


CS DeWildt is a liar. He wants to hurt you. His work has appeared in a variety of print and webzines. He is the author Dead Animals, a collection of short stories and flash, as well as the crime novella Candy and Cigarettes. Please visit CS at http://csdewildt.com