Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fresh by Mark McNay (MacAdam Cage 2007)

Fresh chickens to be sold in butchers and supermarkets for the ease of the purchasing public. Fresh chickens you assume have been killed recently. You picture a redbrick farmyard with purple foxgloves growing in a corner. The healthy smell of shite. An old 1950s tractor quietly rusting on flat tyres, only useful to the robins that nest under the seat. The farmer's wife comes out of the door, pulls a chicken from the ground it was idly pecking, and twists its neck with her fat powerful hands. She sits on a stool, places the quivering bird on her lap, and plucks it while it's warm. She sings a song of somebody's lover lost in a foreign war. She stuffs hand-stitched pillows with the feathers and sells them on the local market on a Wednesday afternoon. The plucked and dressed chiken is trussed ready to be hung that afternoon in the butcher's and you walk in and buy a bird whose pulse has barely died in its throat.

The fresh chickens Sean handles are driven to the factory in shoebox-sized containers packed on the trailer of an articulated truck. The driver flicks a roll-up butt out of the window and calls for Rab, who sidles out of his hut and guides the lorry into the loading bay. Strong forearms reach into the shoeboxes and drag their prey into the artificial light and hang them by the ankles on a hook. They fly along, upside down, flapping their wings, trying to escape, shitting down their chests, squawking and pecking at their mates. The hooks drag them into a tank of water where an electric current stops their hearts moments before rubber wheels grind the feathers from their skin.

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