At long last I persuaded him to join my friend Jenny and I at a tiny bar called The Dray. When Micah showed up we were busy drinking Jolly Roger's Christmas Ale and airing our grievances. "You know what the thing is," I was saying, "The things is that they are too intimidated to talk to us."
We both told Micah to order a beer and put it on our tabs as a little something for his loss, but he refused because he is a gentleman. He ordered a Rainier, the cheapest thing you can buy at a bar besides peanuts, which are free. They gave it to him in the can. They don't even give you a glass when you order a Rainier.
"I'm 25,000 dollars in debt," he said by way of explanation, settling in on a stool across from me.
Such is education.
"I'm really sorry." I said. "I've lost poultry myself. When I was a kid"
He looked down at his hands sadly. "I had to kill her myself."
"With a Swiss army knife."
"I thought the coons attacked!"
"They did. But they didn't finish her off. I had to stab her three times. She wouldn't die."
He looked up at me with his big, soft eyes. "Have you ever heard the term 'chicken with its head cut off?'"
I had. Like I said, I've lost poultry before. I've even killed a chicken myself. I've seen the way those fat, headless hen bodies flap around and twitch in the dirt.
"The coon took half her neck, I could see she wasn't going to live. So I had to stab her three times with a Swiss army knife. It was four in the morning. I was still in my boxers. Beatrice was gone. The raccoon was still in the corner of the yard growling. So I finished off Marilyn and then I wrapped her body in a blanket and put it back into the cage and I went back to bed. I woke up thinking, well maybe that was all a dream."
At this point Jenny appeared back at the table. Despite her scouting for snacks, she was empty handed. "It's just a chicken!" She declared. She was raised on a farm. She is the toughest girl I know. Her arm is twisted because her horse stepped on her when she was a kid. The other day I went to visit her at work at a climbing store and she cheerfully instructed me to put my hand on her forearm. I did, grimacing, and she twisted her hand back and forth. From beneath the skin I could feel bones grinding. "Pretty bad, isn't it!" She said, grinning.
"It's not just a chicken!" I shouted back. "It was named after his grandmother!"
"They used to jump up and sit on my lap" added Micah, as he opened his cell phone and produced a photo. "And now her carcas is still at home in my trash."
"The trash?" We were appalled. "You could have at least composted her!"
Then we felt bad. We shouldn't be yelling at this boy who just lost a friend.
Beatrice, Micah's other hen, survived the attack. She'd fled that night in the chaos, but wandered home a few days later. Micah said he was trying to focus on Beatrice's survival, instead of Marilyn's murder. We agreed with him. Then we said goodnight, and I walked home alone. Poor Marilyn. Poor all of us. But at least if you're a chicken who dies in an urban coon hunt, you'll never be 25,000 dollars in debt and drinking bad beer, or worrying about another Christmas without a boyfriend, unwrapping "Cooking for One" cook books from your beginning-to-grow-concerned parents and repeating phrases like "They only go for the boring ones, anyway."
There's a silver lining to everything.