The Baby Chick (1956 Hinckley, MN)
I smell cow poop when I follow Grandma outside. I watch as she bends down to place a bowl of water under the big pine tree for the two baby chicks to drink.
She looks down at me and says, “You stay right out here in front of the house.”
I nod my head. I’m happy to get to play outside. There is nothing to do in my Grandma’s house. She doesn’t have any toys. I watch her as she slowly walks back up the porch stairs. When she gets to the screen door, she turns around.
She doesn’t smile when she looks down at me and says, “I don’t want you wandering off, understand?”
I know I don’t want to do anything to make her mad at me.
Once I can’t see Grandma’s skirt through the screen door anymore, I look around to see what I can find to play with. Daddy promised me a pony and I wish I had one now. I stoop down and pick one of the baby chicks up. I rub its yellow fluffy fur against my cheek. Its so soft, it makes me smile. The birds are singing. I look up into the dark branches of pine tree but I can’t see them.
I’m going to play house with the baby chicks. I’m going be their momma. I find a piece of tree bark. This will be a plate. I pull grass up and put on top of the plate. This is their food. It's time for the chicks to eat. I put one chick's beaks into the grass. He doesn’t seem to like his food. The bowl of water will be their milk. I put his beak in the milk. The chick tries to move his head away.
“Drink your milk!” I tell him.
Because he is not listening, he makes my hand hit the water bowl and some of it spills on the ground. I look up at the screen door to see if Grandma was looking.
“Now you did it! Now you spilled your milk!. You are going to sit there all night until you drink your milk. Do you hear me? You drink your milk or I’ll give you a whippin!”
I try to make the chick drink his milk again, but he doesn't like it. He goes to sleep so I pull more grass up and put it in a pile. This can be his bed. I lay him down on his bed for a nap. The other chick has not eaten so I pick him up to feed him.
He doesn't want to eat his food or drink his milk either, so I tell him, “You can go to bed like your brother!”
I lay him down next to his brother but he jumps back up. I lay him down again and again, but he won’t listen to me.
“Okay, it can be time for you to get up from your naps now.”
I shake the baby chick that is sleeping. He don’t want to wake up.
“Wake up, sleepy head,” I tell him.
I pick him up with one hand and try to make him stand up on my other hand, but he won't stand up. I don’t know why he won’t listen to me. I'll bring him to Momma and Grandma because he will listen to them. Everybody listens to them.
The screen door slams behind me as I walk through the living room and into the kitchen. Momma and Grandma are sitting at the table talking.
I hold my hands up to show them the baby chick. I tell them, “He won't wake up.”
Grandma and Momma look at me, but Grandma’s eyes tell me she’s mad at me.
In an angry voice she says, “You killed it. It’s dead.”
Momma has told me about the word “kill” when warning me about strangers. She said it meant someone would take me away and do bad things to me that hurt, and I would never see her and Daddy again. And “dead” means you never get to see your family again, like we don’t get to see my brother Darrell. I also know about God and the Bible. Momma said God’s rule is “Thou shalt not kill,” and that God punishes the bad people who kill. Is God going to think I’m bad now? What is he going do to me? Is he going to send me to hell with bad people? I feel my body shake.
Momma reaches over to me and pulls me close to her. I look at her face. It doesn't say she's mad at me. It says she still loves me. She looks at Grandma with eyes that say “I don't like you.”
Momma looks back at me and says, “It’s okay honey. You have to be more careful next time because they’re so little.”
Grandma looks at Momma. Her face says she doesn't like Momma. She looks down at me and says, “There isn’t going to be a next time. You are to leave the chicks alone, do you understand?”
I nod my head. I know my Grandma doesn’t like me either.
I wonder what God is going to do to me. When I put my pajamas on and get on my knees to say my prayers, I tell him I didn’t mean to kill the baby chick and I'm sorry. I don’t want to go to hell. I want to go to heaven with my brother Darrell. I ask him to please not punish me. I promise I'll be good and I’ll never kill another chick again.