by Steve McCardell
We weren’t interested in chickens crossing the road to get to some other side, and we weren’t concerned with people born on the wrong side of the bloody tracks. But we were terribly anxious to know how a chicken would fare when tied to those bloody tracks.
It took three days, but at last I convinced old Bill that the thrill would be worth the loss of one chicken from his family’s yard. Convinced him by putting up the wager: fifty bucks if the chicken died, fifty to me if it lived. There was one chicken that was sick for a week, and of course it became our prey.
We weren’t too sure how to go about tying a chicken to the tracks. You see cartoons always getting tied to tracks, but there aren’t too many people who have tried it. In the end, we decided just to bind it up and set it between the rails. Bill was especially game for this, because he was pretty sure that meant the chicken’s death, and fifty bucks to him.
The chicken looked pretty miserable lying on the tracks. It irked out these pathetic moans, wondering why it couldn’t move its legs, why it was on its side, why everything smelled like oil. I almost felt bad enough to set it free, but of course I needed the money. The question of whether I would end the day a richer man never crossed my mind – I was sure to cash out, and cash outweighed my conscience.
Bill and I sat a little way from the chicken, picking up rocks from beside the tracks and throwing them at anything that seemed a target. At last, in answer to our silent wait, we noticed the green light on the train signal. We didn’t know how long it was on, but the train wasn’t yet around the bend. After taking another look at the chicken, we hurried over an incline to wait for our bet’s result.
The train’s distant whistle warned cars and people off the tracks, but it didn’t suspect the chicken. It sounded a few more times as it neared us, and finally we watched in awe as it sped past, some sixty miles an hour, and thrilled our anxious minds. A moment more and we could run to the spot of both chicken and answer.
The train was gone but for distant rear lights, and we stood from our place of hiding. We started our run but then stopped short on seeing the chicken gone. We walked to a spot of scattered feathers and no remains of the bird. “Welp,” said Bill, “I guess it got sucked up in the train. Chicken’s dead, Santino. Pay up.”
I knew he was right and gave him the cash, then we went to his house for the day. I looked forward to seeing his father that night, who always took time to speak with me. Three nights before, we had even talked of their poor ailing chicken, and he said he was pretty sure it would recover. “Hmm,” I said, as we were sitting alone. “I’ll bet you a hundred she don’t.”