The Woefield Poultry Collective (4 page)

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
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Mr. Blandings, the lawyer handling the estate, had told me over the phone that the will stipulated that Earl remain at Woefield for the remainder of his days. If I sold the farm, Earl was to receive ten percent of the proceeds. This had led me to believe that Earl was crucial to the operation of the farm, but there didn’t seem to be a lot of farming going on. So what did he do? Clearly he hadn’t helped my uncle arrange his social calendar.

When I called the people on the list, they were all extremely pleasant and immediately agreed to come. Country people are so polite. Well, except for the one man who said he wouldn’t cross the road for my uncle if he was on fire and my uncle was standing there with a bucket of water and a fire extinguisher. Fortunately, his wife took the phone from him and was really gracious. Perhaps her husband has suffered through a crop failure recently.


It was lucky that I was sober when my mother kicked me out of the house. Things might have turned out different if I’d gone over there drunk that first time.

Let me back up. My mother didn’t exactly kick me out. She came in and told me she needed my room. I was just writing a post on a certain actor’s freakout on the craft services staff on the set of
The Indivisible Man
. Apparently, he asked for an oatmeal muffin and someone at craft services gave him bran and he had a fit, screaming about did they want him to shit his pants and why did everyone always fucking defy him. One of the grips got the whole thing on his iPhone, sold it to TMZ, and now the studio is in full damage control mode. I don’t care what anyone says. He is one of the few actors I actually respect, even if he does have a rage disorder that causes him to menace the shit out of his crew and members of the public at large.

I seriously considered menacing my mother when she came in with her little piece of news. I’m basically a peaceful guy, even if I do listen to heavy music, which is the other prong of my media empire. In addition to writing, which some people have called Hollywood’s vilest gossip blog, I write It’s a heavy metal gossip site. You might have heard of it.

Anyway, my mother told me to turn my music down around ten times. I heard her the second time, but I like to get her blood pressure going. My mother doesn’t get anywhere near enough exercise. Yelling at me was basically her only activity, besides her crafts, which were getting
less and less physically demanding. At least with her stick furniture she had to swing the hammer. At the time I’m talking about she’d gone balls deep for scrapbooking. How much cardio does a person get putting stickers on a page? It’s no activity for a grown woman.

When I finally turned down the volume on the tunes, she was still screaming. You know how I said my aunt is a bigger lady? Well, my mom’s always been the opposite. There’s nothing to her. She’s basically an angry bit of gristle covered in leathery smoker’s skin. A steady diet of cigs and rye and Cokes will do that to a person.

“Seth!” she screamed.

“I’m trying to work here,” I told her.

My mother didn’t fully appreciate my writing. She was always going on about how I never left the house and it was so unhealthy, even though she knew perfectly well why I didn’t go out. I
going out and it was a total shit show.

She stood in the doorway of my room with her highball glass in her hand, but she wasn’t plastered. Truth is, my mother never gets too drunk. She nurses her cocktails. I get my drinking habits from my old man, who never nursed anything but his hangover and a grudge.

“Seth,” she said, quieter, “Bobby’s moving in.”

That stopped me. Bobby was this guy she met at bingo the month before. He’s a good ten years younger than her. Hell, he’s not much older than me, probably. It doesn’t matter since people with mustaches all look basically the same.

“Why?” I said.

She didn’t answer.

“I hope you’ll be very fucking happy together,” I told her.

“And Bobby and I have decided that he’s going to need your room.”

“Are you serious?”

“You’re a grown man. It’s time for you to move out. You’re twenty-one years old. It’s not healthy for you to live at home anymore.”

“I’ll tell you what’s not healthy for me. Going out. I can’t believe you’re doing this after everything I’ve been through.”

“Bobby says I’m enabling you.”

“The fuck he says,” I said, which made no sense. “Where am I supposed to go?”

“Don’t you have any friends on your Internet?” she asked.

“Yeah, that’s right Mom. I’m going to message one of the freaks who comments on my blogs and ask if I can move in with them. Jesus.”

“I’m sorry, Seth. But Bobby needs the space.”

“I can’t believe this. You two are shacking up, right? Why do you have to drag my room into it?”

“Bobby has helicopters,” she said.

“Bullshit. The guy drives an ‘86 Cavalier. No way he has even one helicopter, never mind a whole fleet.”

“Models,” she said, totally unconcerned that she was destroying my life. Ruining my security. Taking away not only my home but also my
home office
. “Bobby’s going to start a parts shop for remote-controlled model helicopters. He says it’s a great business.”

“And he has to do it in my room? Jesus. This is such a load. What about the garage?”

“You know perfectly well my recycling and crafts are in there.”

My mother is a low-level hoarder. Our house would probably have room for three or four Bobbys if there wasn’t so much
everywhere. Her mind was made up. I recognized the signs. It was like when she dropped papier-mâché for decoupage. Once my mother decides something, it’s all fucking over. She’s like Mussolini or Stalin or one of those guys.

“So where am I supposed to go?” I asked her. A reasonable question for a son to ask of his mother.

“Why don’t you try across the street? There’s someone new moved in there. It’s a girl and from what I hear, she’s all alone. Maybe she’s looking for a roommate.”

“I’m sure she wants the reclusive long-haired stranger from across the street to move in with her. That’s definitely going to be top of her agenda.”

“Doesn’t hurt to ask,” she said. Then she went back to watching
while she finished up her scrapbook documenting the life of
Aunt Elsie’s dachshund, Vlad the Destroyer, who is now hooked up to one of those little carts because his hind legs don’t move.

I’ll show her, I thought. I put on my Iron Maiden hat and headed over there. I’d ask whoever was living at the place if they were renting rooms and that person would chase me off the property and maybe call the cops and I’d tell my mother and Bobby that I’d tried but unfortunately they were going to have to go fuck themselves. Or I’d just move all my shit onto the front porch. See how they felt about that.

Bobby. Jesus. The guy’s not even interesting. Half the time there’s food in his mustache.


Well, first he come wandering over to where I was going to get working on that new shed for Bertie. He was a scrubby-looking bastard. He had that long, greasy hair some of them guys like and a hat with a skeleton on it pulled down almost to his nose and white shoes hanging open like he was too goddamn tired to tie them up. He was skinny everywhere but his belly. No color in his face. Like I said, a scrubby-looking bastard.

Seemed kind of nervous, too. Twitchy. Like maybe he was on drugs or something. A lot of young guys are now. On drugs, I mean. I saw it on TV.

He muttered something about a room and I told him I don’t know nothing about no room. I told him to try up at the house.

He started walking over there, bent nearly double like he was packing a bag of cement on his back. I got to thinking, maybe I shouldn’t let him visit her alone. She might be nosy, but she was a woman and she was from the city and didn’t know her ass from her knee, as far as I could tell.

I followed him around the house. He stood in front of the porch steps for a good minute or two, still hunched over. Then he pulled his hat down even further so I don’t know how he could see where he was going and dragged himself up the stairs and knocked on the door.

Feeblest goddamn knock I ever heard. The old house was going to hell but it still had solid doors.

Nothing happened, so I spoke up. I told him that the front door is oak, so you got to put some force into a knock to get yourself heard.
I must’ve surprised him because he jumped a good foot and a half. Good to know he had some life in him.

He gave the door another little knuckle rap and I knew that unless the girl was standing on the other side of it with a glass to her ear she didn’t have a hope of hearing him.

Goddamn it, I said, and climbed the stairs, pushed him out of the way and pounded out a couple of good ones. Ten seconds later she opened the door. She was wearing an apron and rubber gloves and smiling to beat all hell, not the least bit suspicious of the guy, which made up my mind that she needed some looking after.

The longhair mumbled something else that I couldn’t hear. He was staring at the front doormat.

Speak up, I told him. I wanted to hear what he had to say.

He told her he was looking to rent a room in exchange for work and that he lived across the street, at least he used to until the helicopters came. Like I said, I was pretty sure he was into the drugs.

I snorted. I’d never seen him before and I could tell from that soft little fish belly he’d never worked a day in his life.

The girl, Prudence, she cocked her head like a little bird. Then she give him another big smile.

She asked him if he was afraid of hard work and he said yes. She laughed like that was a hell of a good joke. She asked him when he wanted to move and he said right away.

Neat as you please.

Twenty minutes later, that sad-sack bastard started carrying things up the driveway. Turned out he did live across the street in that goddamn slag heap with all the junk in the yard. He moved like he was wading through a swamp. I still hadn’t seen his eyes. He could have been a goddamn ax murderer, for all she knew. And she moved him right into the house.

I asked her if she knew what she was doing and she said that great results demand great risks and that when she needs help she trusts in Providence and Prudence.

Shithouse luck is more like it.


I’d been trying to scrub the bathroom. It’s one thing to have a house in the rustic style. It’s another thing entirely to have a filthy bathroom. As in many farm homes, there was only the one, and my uncle’s looked as though it hadn’t been cleaned properly since the house was built. There was a coating of mineral deposits and I hate to think what else in the crusty sink basin and toilet bowl. There were at least three empty, uncapped tubes of toothpaste glued to the counter with petrified gel.

After an hour I’d just finished removing the rusty razors, unused cleaning solutions and slivers of desiccated, hair-covered soap, and had taken down the moldy, rust-stained shower curtain. I was bracing myself to begin scrubbing the sink, and it occurred to me that in order to get ready for the party, I was going to need more assistance. Earl seemed to prefer working outside. Perhaps, I thought, I could barter with a cleaning service. It was too bad we had no livestock or produce to barter with. One could probably go far trading eggs.

Just as that thought was tumbling around in my head, I heard a knock downstairs.

When I opened the door, the young man standing on the porch appeared as uncomfortable as it’s possible for a clothed person to be. At first I wasn’t sure what he was saying because he mumbled. He reminded me of some of the boys I used to see outside the heavy metal club down the block from my old apartment. They would come in from New Jersey to see bands. They were so picturesque, with their long hair and jean jackets and high-tops. They really added something
to the neighborhood. Leo used to say it was a smell, but he never appreciated the importance of nurturing subcultures.

Just the sight of the young man on the porch gave me a warm, slightly homesick feeling. Maybe it was just the lingering aftereffects of staring into the toilet for so long. When he asked if he could work in exchange for room and board, I knew it was meant to be.

Earl, who stood off to the side of the porch listening to our conversation, kept shaking his wattled neck and giving me outraged looks. From outside, my decision probably looked hasty, but I believe that things unfold as they are meant to.

Seth informed me that he was twenty-one, that he didn’t have a high school diploma and had almost no skills. He looked younger than that, perhaps because he appeared never to have been exposed to sunlight. Also, he was not a landowner with responsibilities. I suspect that was aging me quickly, as was the task of cleaning Uncle Harold’s toilet. At any rate, I felt twenty years older than him rather than the three I actually am.

When Seth showed up at the door again, not quite half an hour after we first spoke, he had a computer tower in his arms and a set of old computer speakers dangling around his neck. I told him he could have the bedroom upstairs.

“There’s nothing on this floor?” he asked. “This stuff’s kind of heavy.”

“Afraid not.”

Over the next few hours I watched him carry two or three items at a time, none confined to a box or a bag. At one point, he dropped a tall stack of VHS cassettes. They skittered all over the driveway and it took him a good ten minutes to gather and stack them all again. When he came into the house, his chin resting awkwardly atop the pile, I asked if it might be easier if he packed his things in boxes.

“They’re all taken. My mom does crafts,” he said.

Night had fallen by the time he finished moving into his room. I’d seen three trips worth of magazines, four trips to move a small aquarium with fish and accessories, a single trip for a canvas chair labeled
“Director of Rock,” another for a laptop the size of a small coffin. On the last walk up the long, pitted driveway he pulled behind him a small rolling suitcase with one broken wheel. It zigzagged erratically like a disobedient scent hound. I could see a sleeve hanging out of it. He walked as though he were on the last leg of the Great March. When he made it into the house I asked if he wanted some of the salad I’d made for dinner.

BOOK: The Woefield Poultry Collective
12.05Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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