The Woefield Poultry Collective

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
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THE
WOEFIELD
POULTRY
COLLECTIVE
SUSAN JUBY

For James

Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth
.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Custom-House”

Remember, God doesn’t want anyone to be left behind!

—Leftbehind.com

Contents

Cover

Title Page

Epigraph

P
RUDENCE

S
ETH

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ARL

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RUDENCE

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ETH

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ARL

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RUDENCE

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CKNOWLEDGMENTS

Copyright

About the Publisher

P
RUDENCE

I don’t know about you, but for me there came that moment during every visit to the farmers’ market when I wanted more. I wanted to be the one standing behind the folding table, a truck of organic produce at my back, displaying my heirloom tomatoes and baby potatoes. I want to be the one handing over glossy sheaves of swiss chard at a reasonable price and talking knowledgably about my mushroom patch. The one looking cold and somewhat chapped about the face and hands, yet more alive than anyone else in unfashionable rubber boots and dirty pants. Obviously, I had no desire to be the one in the lace-edged bonnet accompanied by a stern-faced, black-hatted man and a brood of six children. I want to be that
other
person at the farmers’ market. The one with ideals and produce to sell.

It’s a bit difficult to become truly productive when one lives in a six-hundred-square-foot apartment on Roebling Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, no matter how strong your ideals, but I did my best. I raised herbs year-round in my hydroponic grow box (powered with solar panels mounted on the fire escape). I collected yeast and hand-milled my own organic ancient grains to make bread. I used the car share service to drive out to the country with other local foodies to buy sustain-ably raised chickens. I didn’t kill the birds myself; I offered once and the farmer said he thought he’d like to spare them that, at least. Still, I saw the buckets of guts and was left with no illusions.

The other thing I did was worm composting. It’s hardly a radical concept, but it turned out to be the precipitating factor in the
destruction of my relationship and perhaps the thing that made all this possible.

You see, my ex never felt as strongly about sustainability as I did. He used to object when I restricted our diet based on local availability.

“For god’s sake, Prudence,” he would say. “We live in the greatest city on earth. Must we really eat your lumpy homemade bloody cheese with everything? I’ve heard Stilton makes a nice change of pace.”

Leo had that English quality of being very sarcastic.

We went away to visit some friends of his in the Hamptons the same weekend New York experienced a brutal heat wave, and when we got back, it became obvious that the oppressive temperature had killed my red wigglers. I’d left my neighbor Kimi in charge and she’d overwatered them, probably in an attempt to keep them cool. The poor things drowned
and
cooked, leaving a sort of warmed-over red wriggler soup. Leo overreacted. He’d been increasingly testy since Kimi and I tried canning our own preserves and asked him to be our taster. He became violently ill because Kimi had misread the temperature gauge and the preserves were a bit poisoned. He was also still feeling bitter and sore after the fall he took when he was helping put up the solar panels and the chair Kimi was holding slipped after she became distracted by an unusual bird call, which I’m fairly sure was actually a problem with the building’s plumbing.

Things came to a head over those worms. I guessed that Kimi had been doing a marathon session at her art studio. She sleeps there sometimes when the stuffed animal sculptures are really going well. Leo and I walked into the wall of dead worm smell and Leo immediately began to complain. “For god’s sake, what is that smell?” and “Dear god, this is intolerable.” And so forth. I found the source of the problem almost immediately and took a moment to decide where to dispose of the bodies. I wondered aloud whether any of our neighbors had a cone composter I could put them in. A cone composter allows you to compost meat and other things you can’t put in a regular composter. They’re really fantastic. Leo went wild. Well, wild might be an exaggeration. His voice took on an even more unpleasant tone and he went on about rats and
flies. He refused to listen to my explanation of the advances being made in composting and talked right over me as I tried to tell him about the breakdown of different kinds of organic matter. He wasn’t acting rationally, so I chose not to respond. I just took the worms outside onto the fire escape and left them in a biodegradable garbage bag until I decided where to take them. Brooklyn might
smell
like people are leaving piles of rotten worms all over, but that isn’t the truth.

The fight wasn’t over. Later that afternoon I caught Leo throwing out the recycling. He stood in the small kitchen shoving paper and cans from my recycling bin into a garbage bag in an angry and furtive manner.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

I apparently surprised him because he froze with a clean tin can in his hand.

When he finally spoke his voice was hoarse, as though he’d been yelling for hours. Perhaps in his head he had been.

“Putting out the trash,” he croaked. His eyes bulged unpleasantly, and I reflected, not for the first time, that the Lasik hadn’t been such a great idea.

“Why are you putting recyclables in the garbage?”

“Because you think everything is recyclable and it’s not. Sometimes a person just wants to throw things away.”

This was completely unacceptable, and when I told him so he began pulling papers and cans out of the bag and letting them fall onto the kitchen floor.

I hated to see that. If there’s one thing I can’t tolerate, it’s a mess.

“Just because you’re feeling a bit disposable yourself doesn’t mean you have to project your rage onto household objects,” I said. Leo had been an emerging manager at one of the shakier hedge funds until it went broke during the financial meltdown and he was let go.

He gave a strangled shriek and began shoveling the paper and cans back into the garbage bag. Then he started putting everything he could reach into the bag, including dishes, the toaster, a bag of steel-cut Irish oatmeal and some expensive pumpkinseed oil.

It’s so sad to see someone lose control.

I waited for his tantrum to wind down a bit and then told him that when he was done, it was probably time for him to go home. That meant his cousin’s place in Teaneck. He’d had to sell his co-op in Manhattan at a huge loss to cover his credit card debts, and he didn’t want to return to London and tell his parents that he’d lost his job.

At that he picked up the overflowing garbage bag and stormed out the door to the fire escape. As he went to sweep down the iron stairs, he grabbed for the bag full of worms, informing me that he was going to throw them out, too. Unfortunately, I hadn’t knotted it at the top, thinking that I might be able to reuse it somehow. The stinking mass spilled down his Bastian khaki shorts and bare legs, and onto his leather sandals.

Another shriek. Much use of British swear words.

I persuaded him to put the bags down and take a shower. When he got out, he put the recycling back in its place and washed and dried the dishes and foodstuff containers. He even took the worm bag with him, saying he was passing a park with a community garden. He was sweet about returning my key.

That evening, a few friends came over to cheer me up.

“Well, Pru, what will you do?” asked Jeanine. Jeanine and Ruth are young adult writers, which is what I used to be. The difference is, Jeanine and Ruth are successful. So is Kimi, at least in the field of stuffed animal art installations. Jeanine has won several major awards and is revered by teacher-librarians. She was working on a novel in verse about date rape, and the rhyming was creeping into all of her conversation.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“A date with fate, for that you wait,” said Jeanine, musingly.

“You should write another book,” said Ruth. She writes comedies about girls with relatable hair and makes a small fortune doing it.

“No, I don’t think I will.”

Jeanine and Ruthie had encouraged me to write a teen novel when I was trying to figure out what to do after we graduated. At the time
it seemed like half the English Lit graduates of our liberal arts college were publishing YA novels, so I gave it a try. I wrote
The Sun Doesn’t Forgive
in two months. It was a parable about the ramifications of global warming and the need for personal responsibility. Jeanine even found me a publisher, a small press located on the third floor of a near-derelict building in Queens. They specialized in slender volumes of poetry about drug and alcohol addiction by authors who wrote from experience. The publisher, Dan Mullin, was a decrepit, sparsely bearded twenty-four-year-old. He wore the same green polyester cardigan every time I saw him.

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
10.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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