My daughter holds the knife exactly as I taught her—arms straight out, left hand on the grip, right hand on the scabbard. She treads mindfully, keeping the sharp edge of the knife pointing away from the unicorn on her t-shirt. Our footfalls are barely audible because of the farm’s loose soil, and because I’d just told Letty to slow down. Her cadence, her concentration pushed a fast-forward button in my mind. Her body elongates. The knife blooms into a bouquet of calla lilies, her clothes bleach and stretch into a modest white dress.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” I ask. “You don’t have to.”
The collie catches up after sniffing for squirrels along the low slats of the barn and stables. She huffs, kicks up dirt, yips. High-pitched. It’s all playful. She thinks we’re headed to a backfield to play frisbee.
“I can do it. I want to do it.” I check Letty’s face—no fear—but still I’m doubtful. She’d cartwheel through hell itself all day to show up her older brothers, but I’d tuck her in on the closet floor that night. The boys have been killing since they were 8, since the day I saw Porter take a hoe to a garter snake like he was sitting in church. Just like that. A white flutter had followed—the chickens disturbed by his victory howl.
The henhouse is quiet now. I open the latch and let Letty in, latch her in again. As I fill the pot with water and light the fire underneath, I hear her inside; her voice is a bee buzzing: “…it’s an honor to be Sunday dinner…you’ve had a good life.” She walks out of the shack carrying a hen upside down by the legs. “Easy,” she beams, white kernels of corn.
The double noose hangs from a support beam. It’s too high for her, so I move an egg crate closer. “Legs in the loops while she’s still calm.”
I picture what she’s about to do: the quick sideways slash, the spatter of blood on her jeans, the immersion of the carcass, white feathers floating in the boil. My stomach burbles. Letty’s still messing with the rope.
“Where’d that dog get at? Be right back. Just dip her in the water or plucking will be near impossible.”
“I know, Dad.”
I stop yelling the dog’s name when I get behind the silo.