The summer was winding down as it drifted into August. The last of the hot days were upon us. She was staying with her grandmother after a visit with her father. This had not been part of the plan but here she was in the two story white farm house with her grandmother, her step grandfather, her uncle who was younger than her, and two older uncles plus their friend. She suspected it had to do with her accidental running over of her stepsister. Her stepmother refused to believe it was an accident but it was. She was ten and wasn't going around hurting four year old kids. But it was okay because the "farm" was fun.
She woke each day to hear her grandmother leaving for work. When she went downstairs she could help herself to sugar cereals that she never got at home with her mom. After breakfast, she and her younger uncle would begin a day of exploring. They were not allowed into the chicken barns that bordered the property letting off a foul smell that one didn't quite ever get used to. There was a good climbing tree near the barns so they would climb up high and try to peer into the slit like windows.They couldn't see anything though so they just speculated about what might be happening inside.
Often her uncle got bored and would go inside to watch t.v. Sometimes she'd follow him but mostly she stayed outside. She liked to take a book, and go hang out in Toby's, the Doberman Pincher, dog house. Everyone said he was mean but he wasn't mean to her. She'd crawl in and he'd follow her,laying his head on her lap while she read her book. She read until lunch time and then go inside to eat bologna sandwiches with chips. The older uncles would sit with them and tease her. She liked this time. They laughed at the things she said but not in a mean way.
One day after lunch, her younger uncle didn't want to go outside. She wandered over by the chicken farm to stare at a distance. Sometimes you could see the men going into the barn to feed the chickens. They'd open the doors and the roaring of hundreds of chickens "BOK, BOK" would roll out the door and over you. Today the door was open, and she couldn't see anyone. This was new occurrence. She snuck closer and closer, pulling her foot in the dirt to slow her walk as if this would make her somehow invisible. Finally she was at the door. She intended to only peep in but once there she could see much. The rank smell was overpowering and she gagged a bit as she tried to let her eyes adjust to the dark. She slided inside wanting to see beyond the shadow of cages.
Once in the gloom settled into the hard outlines of steel bars. Bits of light from the fans sent whirling bits of light over the imprisoned chickens. They were huge, and nearly motionless. They didn't even look at her as she peered at them. Some of them had sores that were open and oozing pus. In one cage, a chicken lay dead, occasionally pecked at by it's fellow inmates. There were no pleading looks. Just the a slight motion of each head pecking out to give a pellet of food in the tray before them. Worst the chickens were everywhere. They were piled high in monstrous proportions. She felt like she need to throw up and began to ran. She ran past the man who yelled "Hey" at her. She ran past the good climbing tree. She ran until she was panting and crying stopping at Toby's area. He was chained to the tree, and turned to look at her, his stumpy tail wagging. She crawled into his house and curled up into a ball. He lay beside her. She was not sure why she was crying. She knew it wasn't just about the chickens but she was too young and too ignorant to know what other meanings lie in the strip of sunlight gleaming over steel bars.