He walked to the shed and grabbed a length of chain, and a saw. If he wouldn't budge by force Tom would be forced to do a little surgery. Funny thing - growing up in a hunting family all his life - disemboweling and dismembering a deer never phased him. These rotting, stinking, bloated chickens were another matter altogether. He always hated cleaning the houses, and he usually ran from the house at least once to vomit. Why should today be any different? Closing the tool shed Tom took the long walk back along the crushed clamshells to the rear of the houses.
As Tom turned the corner of the chicken house his eyes fell onto a gruesome sight. He dropped the chain and saw to the ground. A crunching sound of clamshells grating together rose into the air. The only sound it would seem in this lonely and overlooked corner of the property. Not even the birds were active in the trees, on the ground, or flying through the air above. It was silent. Completely silent. Tom rubbed his eyes, shook his head, and took another close look.
The corpses were all still there. A dozen at quick glance - maybe more into the breech of the trees. Yes, he could see a few leaning awkwardly on the trunks of trees from where he stood. Bucks, does, and fawns laying in odd positions and unnatural angles at the back of House Four. Where had they all come from and why where they all lying around the chicken house? No - more to the point - why were they all laying dead at the back of the chicken house. The large dead deer who managed to crash his way into the chicken house wasn't alone in the attempt it seems. There were three other massively large bucks who had also charged the sheet metal and wood frame. And one huge doe - Tom wished he had found her last Fall instead of this morning. None the less, here they all were. Piled up like stuffed animals at the base of the chicken house.
Tom left the chain and saw behind and approached the pile of dead deer. The smell floating up from their bodies was overpowering. He removed a thick red handkerchief from his back pocket. Covering his face the smell was a bit less obtrusive but still quite strong. Looking over the racks of the bucks he saw a white mold or fungus covering the rungs. From the tip down to the base connected at their skulls the antlers were coated in the fuzzy growth. Everywhere on the antlers it seemed except those places where the deer mangled itself against metal.
The side of the house was scratched and dented. Streaks of blood, sinew, foam, bile and patches of hair adorned the wall like a grotesque piece of artwork rendered by an overworked butcher at the end of a long day. It was all splattered and thrown on the side of the house with no order or care. In fact it appeared as if the deer came charging from the field, through the woods, and made a direct bee line for the back of the chicken house. But were they running from something? Or toward something? Were they frightened? Or were they finalizing some terrible fate they had resigned themselves to? It seemed to Tom that the deer at the front of the heap had been lucky. They made a choice to crash into the wall and end their lives in suicide. While the others toward the back of the herd had keeled over in pain and suffering as the driving force behind their exodus from life took hold.
Tom walked away from the ramming buck and through the driveway littered with corpses. On either side of him deer lay scattered about - foaming at the mouth, blood spilling from their eye sockets, and patches of hair ripped off or fallen to the ground. A few of the deer at the edge of the woods were indeed suicides too. The clear split along the center line of their skull and the tell tale gash in the tree trunk were enough evidence to convince Tom of that theory. He walked a few paces into the tree line and found what he quickly estimated to be about two and a half dozen more deer. All littering the ground and bloating where they lay.
Suddenly, a heavy groan came up behind Tom from some distance away. The whine and moan of the engine was distinct and recognizable. And early. The sound broke Tom out of his internal thoughts and grounded him in reality quickly. The truck had arrived to pick up the chickens and carry them off for processing. But his father hadn't scheduled them until Saturday. And this was only Friday - he was certain of that fact.
Tom pulled his handkerchief down quickly, stuffing it in his pocket as he ran toward the house. Past the scattered deer, past the pile of barricade bashing bucks, and over the crushed clamshells toward the old house. How could they come early? They'd done this once before and Tom cursed the day. His father had been sore with the company and was on the phone cursing the plant manager the entire time his boys were picking up the birds. A day early may not mean much in the life of a chicken - and in the life of a lowly plant manager come to think of it - and certainly not to the grow out weight being targeted. But to his father, for some reason, that one day made all the difference. And his father was pissed.
When Tom finally arrived at the house his breathing was labored and he had to double over holding himself up by propping his extended hands on his knees. An eighteen wheeler with chicken crates, two pickups, and one small coupe had pulled into the yard. The truck was positioning itself. The men in the pick-ups were unloading, stretching, and getting ready to catch live birds. Tom's father broke through the screen door in a huff, exploding out onto the small landing off the back of the kitchen. His wife standing behind in the half light breaking through the doorway. She wasn't dressed to come out - and never really like confrontation to begin with.
As his father hobbled down to the several wooden steps Tom could tell he was angry. And doing all he could to maintain the look of a man in control of his own body. Meanwhile, deep inside, Tom's dad was fighting a disease that robbed his bones of vital strength, which somehow robbed his mind of vital clarity. Yelling at the top of his lungs Tom's father approached the man rising from the coup. His clean white shirt and small tie contrasted the entire seen greatly. Right into his face went Tom's dad. Right into his back pocket went the man's hand.
Pulling out an envelope thick with folded papers, and removing a pen from his front shirt pocket with his other hand, the man handed both to Tom's father. Refusing to take the paperwork Tom's dad spit on the ground and began to hobble over and proceed to give a piece of his mind to the working men and the driver. They had heard the argument and anger from other farmers before. And most simply looked the other way, shook their heads, or waved their hands in a weak "It wasn't me!" protest.
Tom knew exactly what was happening. The truck came early - Paperwork Man in tow - to close his father's contract. Pick up the last of the birds. And move on. They were not interested in talking, and they were not interested in wasting any more time. The men quickly fixed their gloves and cheap paper masks into place. Two of them gripped the metal handles of the house, and heaved against the rusty tracks until the doors were swung wide. A few chickens spilled out into the clamshell drive while others scurried away slowly into the darkness deeper inside the house.