By: Talia Haven

The old wooden steps to the front porch creaked under our weight as we headed into the house. Huddled together in one corner of my bag, the midget captives trapped inside no longer moved. I secretly wish with all of the excitement of grabbing small running objects that I had grasped them too hard and they had all died. Then I could just throw them out, and I would not have to deal with them anymore.

I hollered "Mom!" As Kerr and I walked through the front door and headed for the 70's style kitchen. Mom answered with a "Back here." We headed through the old style room with its sunshine yellow walls, burnt orange carpet and antique metal cabinets that surrounded shinning stainless steel appliances. The old wooden screen door creaked open then slammed behind us.

Feathers littered the backyard scattered around by the occasional breeze that sent them twirling through the air. Some had already blown into the field behind the house; spread out across the plowed field, that dad said will have corn growing in it. Mom's sister, Aunt Reis sat across from her with a washtub of hot water in front of them. She gave me that look that's starting to become all too common. The' "you should be here so you can learn how to make yourself useful," look. At their sides, freshly plucked chickens lay on the ground. Mom dipped the last chicken in the water before she placed the wet bird on the sheet of plastic which covered her lap. Wet white feathers dropped to the ground at Mom's feet as she continued to pull and tug at the hen's feathers.

"How did it go?" asked Aunt Reis.

"Great." Kerr slipped off his game bag and flipped open the flap to show her what he had caught.

"Nice, there's enough to put in the freezer." Aunt Reis rolled the plastic up, with her other hand she reached down and gathered up the plucked birds at her side.

I stood off the one side and shuffled my feet uneasily I wondered if Kerr's captives knew they were going to be wrapped in freezer paper and tossed into a deep freeze.

Mom continued to pull the hen's feathers. It seems like a lot of work for just a few chickens. Back home getting dinner was more natural things were processed and packaged. You just went to Hugest and shopped for what you needed. You didn't have to deal with plucking pinfeathers out of supper.

"See you later, Tai." Chickens in hand, Aunt Reis had already started across the backyard. Kerr followed, his game bag once again slung over his shoulder.

"Thanks for your help." Mom hollered as they disappeared around the corner of the house. She turned her attention back to the partially done hen, re-dipped it in the water then continued with her plucking.

Next, to the barn, caged chickens clucked and scratched at the ground, oblivious to the fact that some their fellow hens had just been murdered and that the last of them was at this very moment was being picked clean. In school, we learned that animals don't have long memories. They live day to day, and when one of them dies, they don't grieve. They continue with their lives. Who was once a mother, father or sibling is forgotten, not even a memory remains.

"Ama, you don't look like you had a good time." Mom flipped the hen over and continued with her work.

I settled down in Aunt Reis's vacant chair and drew the game bag up until it rested in my lap, cradled like a small child. There's still no movement, just dead weight. "I managed to catch three," I replied as my fingers tugged on the strap over my shoulder. "But I think they died."

"You'll have to check and see. If what you caught are dead, you will have to toss the dead ones out back." Mom gave the chicken a final look over for any stray feathers, satisfied she tossed it down with the rest. The plastic wrap crinkled as she balled it up, bloody plastic ball in one hand she grabbed the headless hens by the feet with the other and headed for the house. "Dump out the water and bring the tub and lawn chairs up, will ya?" she asked.

Alone, I had to face the fact that I'm going to have to deal with what I had done. I mustered up my courage. I opened the bag and peeked inside. Disappointed I looked down at the upraised faces of three huddled figures. Darn, they're still alive.

The smell of freshly butchered chicken drifted in from the kitchen where it spun on the rotisserie. Dad's aquarium ended up being the perfect place to keep them in. Too deep for escape the empty tank took up a good portion of the family room wall. Dad stood by ready with the lid, while I lowered the game bag next to the castle. A male and two females tumbled out onto the freshly laid dirt that now replaced the brightly colored stone that previously covered the bottom. Spying the castle the man dashed over to make sure it was safe. Satisfied he returned and helped one of the females across the ground to the castle.

"Looks like one of them got a little bumped around." Unconcerned about the female's welfare, Dad watched them disappear into the castle. "It's never a good idea to make a wild animal into a pet," he said. He bent low and peeked into the tiny castle door looking for any sign of movement. "Sure you don't want me to get rid of them for you Ama?"

I started to cut up strips of fabric to make blankets. "Ya I'm sure," I replied. "Besides, I'm starting to feel responsible for them Dad. I was the one, who took them from their colony. If I just let them go now how would they get back? Would the others even accept them?"

Dad stepped back and slipped his hands into his front pockets. "Wild animals are funny," he paused. "Sometimes they accept what has been handled and does not smell right. And these three," he said as he nodded towards the occupied castle, "they've been handled a lot; the colony might not accept them back."

A quick stop by the aquarium the next morning lets me know that the cloth I'd tossed in the night before was missing. I'm delighted that the blankets are being used, and told Mom so over eggs and midget pork.

Hot coffee in hand Mom sat across from me. "A dog will drag a rag into its house to keep warm at night if given a chance," she said. "Animals do that; they make nests and beds out of whatever's available."

I took another bite as I enjoyed the taste of greasy fried pork and the crunch of bones.

"Do you think Aunt Reis has done anything with the ones Kerr caught?" I asked.

Mom slipped her coffee before she answered. "I'm sure she took care of that last night. Reis has nowhere to keep them."

Morbid curiosity consumed me; I wanted to know what my three had escaped. "How's it done?" I asked, trying hard to sound like I was making casual conversation.

"First they're drowned in salt water," she said. "Then they are left to soak overnight to remove the natural toxins in their bodies."

She reached over and grabbed my plate. "Done?" she asked.

Forehead pressed against the glass; there's no sign of life as I stared into the aquarium. The chicken and water I had left the night before appeared to be untouched. So I changed it and gave them scrambled eggs and some processed cow's milk.

Aunt Reis called up Mom after lunch and invited us over for supper tonight. She's serving one of my favorites, human, and dumplings. Mom accepted, and she wants to make a dessert and needs to go into town.

She's ready and patiently waiting while I finished setting up the camcorder. Maybe they come out when no one is around.

I sat alone in my room and watched the whole thing. Everything from my captives first steps out of the castle, to the final covering of dirt of over the dead female's body that the other two had wrapped up so carefully in the scraps of cloth I had tossed in the night before. I watched as they carefully leveled the mound of the grave flat until it looked like the area had never been disturbed. The task finished, the remaining female followed the male along the glass wall, as they looked for a way out. The two of them stayed out for a while before they went back inside the castle. I sat glued to the scene as it played out in front of me. The rest of the tape showed nothing else.

Dinner at Aunt Reis's lasted only for a few hours, and the dumplings she made were fantastic. I'd asked her if the meat came for the humans that Kerr and I had caught and she said yes. As I picked about chunks of human, I could not stop thinking about my captives at home. I wondered if they realize how lucky they were that I had managed to catch them instead of Kerr.

My two captives are free now. I released them back into the wild where Kerr and I had come across the first one. His plow was in the same place, tipped and untouched, and the colony appears abandoned. If there are others around, they've hidden well, and I have no plans to look for them. The body, I also returned. After I had viewed the tape, it wouldn't be right to throw it out with the dirt from the aquarium. I don't know how our two species evolved differently. They're so small and primitive in their ways… hunted and raised for food. Animals do not bury their dead. Only giants do because we need to protect the body after death.

Keep it safe from scavengers. That's what makes us different from the animals. Perhaps in a midget sized world that is what makes them different from the midget animals, concern over their dead.


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