What's This I Hear?

What's This I Hear?

A Story by busterlee

On the job in the chicken house


What’s This I Hear

I was a starving college kid living in the dorm when I took the job.  It was the worst mistake that I ever made. I turned down a job working for the county engineer and accepted a salaried position with a local poultry company.  I found out on my first day what life on a massive thirty five house chicken farm was like. The smell was horrible and the flies, the flies, the fat sticky flies, everlovin flies.  I worked a week and was down with some strange intestinal malady for two. The place made me sick. It put me in bed but at least I was on salary and could afford the doctor’s bills.  I recovered eventually and went back to my stinkin job.

I walked in to the place and was instantly in charge of a crew.  They were doing jobs that I didn’t fully understand so I watched and learned.  They didn’t like the idea of some kid walking in off of the street and telling them what to do.  I wasn’t too comfortable with it either. They were a tough bunch. They were hard workers because that was their lot in life.  They weren’t there by choice. They were there because they needed to buy groceries. They needed to feed the family. They put in their time and collected their pay and barely kept their heads above water.  That, I had in common with them.

Jenny was the leader of the bunch.  She was the oldest and I’m sure the wisest of the group.  She led them with determined grit and the kindness of a mother.  She had a wonderful raw sense of humor. The things that came out of her mouth would embarrass a sailor and also give him a proper belly laugh.  She was my favorite. I think she was the most candid person that I had ever met. I trusted her. I watched the rest and tried to learn their names.  I whispered in Jenny’s ear.

“Which one is Dude?”

She burst out laughing, turned red in the face and lost her breath.  I didn’t understand. Tears were rolling down her cheeks.

“Dude, like in The Big Lebowski.  You know Dude.” I was confused. “You’ve never seen The Big Lebowski?”

I shook my head.  “No. What’s The Big Lebowski?”

She explained between outbursts of laughter.  “They are all Dude!!!”

It seemed that they had all seen the movie and the guys had taken to calling each other Dude.  I was embarrassed but at the same time relieved that I wasn’t losing my mind.

I eventually learned their names and got a handle on why I had been hired in the first place.  They had recently upgraded their data collection methods. There was no more pen and paper. Everything was to be collected on handheld computers.  The boss was scared to death of computers. Every time he saw one, beads of sweat would pop up on his forehead. His eyes would squint and he would stab at the keys with a stiff index finger.  It looked like he was trying to crush an ant. He seemed sure that if he touched the wrong key the whole thing would go up in flames. I wasn’t afraid of computers and when I would straighten out his messes he would lean back, raise an eyebrow and smile like he had just witnessed a miracle.  Those little miracles kept me in good standing even when I did something stupid.

A normal day on the job consisted of handling broiler aged chickens, inspecting them, being pecked, slapped with wings, crapped on, breathing toxic ammonia and dust.  I took antihistamines every morning. They left me in a semiconscious fog. Half asleep, I moved through the day like a zombie until one of the little feathered devils would slap me below the belt.  That always brought me back, gave me a quick shot of adrenaline, quickened the pulse and opened my eyes. I learned to hide my pain. The crew noticed and named me “Iron Balls”. Looking back I think that was the nicest thing that they ever called me other than “Dude”.

The boss was insufferable on most days.  He would come barging in, two hours late and bark out, “Alright now, get your heads out of your asses.”  I wanted to tackle him so bad. I wanted to rub his face raw in the chicken litter. I hated the job. I despised him but like the rest of the crew I needed money so I swallowed my pride, put my head down and continued working.  He was also bigger than me. I was sure if I ever punched him that my fist would bounce off broken and bruised then he would wince and throw me through the wall. So I endured and collected my pay. I coped as best I could.

On a cool march day he came barging in with his fifteen year old son behind him.  “Alright now, get your heads out of your asses and go to work.” I gritted my teeth.  My blood pressure soared. I looked at the blowhard strutting across the chicken house followed by his minnirature.  The boy looked just like him and probably weighed twenty pounds more than me. He was a walking piece of granite and testosterone.  He had the same arrogant chin tilt, shoulder posture and flat top haircut as his dad. I growled and looked away. It was spring break.  What a place to be on spring break.

The next day the boss dropped the boy off and went away and left me in charge.  I treated him well but he worked just like everyone else. I was standing, holding a chicken upside down, giving it a thorough inspection when the boy hit my shoulder and almost knocked me over.  My neck cracked. I turned toward him and dropped the bird. “What are you doing?” My nostrils flared. I wanted to break his nose. Everyone laughed. Apparently he thought he was playing a game, swapping licks with the guys on the crew.  I was sure one of the crew had told him to hit me. I explained to him that I was not playing and warned him not to touch me again.

The day went on and the boy didn’t touch me again.  He worked and was Ok for a dumb kid. I liked him but my shoulder still hurt.  The hours went by and I became bored. My mind wandered while I went through the motions, while I did what had to be done.  The boy was standing beside me.

I looked at him and just started talking.  I didn’t have anything to say. I didn’t have any point to make.  I was just talking.

“Did you know, you can find pearls in chicken litter?”  I paused and looked into his eyes then continued. “That’s right.  A chicken sometimes gets a grain of sand in their crop. It starts collecting calcium on its surface and if it stays there long enough it forms a pearl, just like an oyster does.”  I continued working. “Eventually it passes through the chicken’s digestive system and is pooped out into the litter.”

The boy shook his head.  “Naw.” He says.

I raised my eyebrows with complete confidence and continued working.  “I’m telling you the truth. It doesn’t matter if you believe me or not.”  I had no idea where this lie came from or why I was telling it but I knew I was beginning to enjoy my job.

“You’re full of crap!”  He sounded agitated. I continued working.

Jenny chimed in.  “That’s right. He’s telling you the truth.”

“No way.”  He said.

Jenny started again.  “I’ve got half a shoe box of em at home under my bed.  When it’s full I’m gonna retire.” I looked around and the whole crew was smiling.

Lee blurted out.  “It’s true. If you look around you might find one right now.”  All around the chicken pen, one by one the other crew members joined in.

“Yall are crazy.  There aint no pearls in chicken poop.”  The boy said.

We all continued on working and supporting the story.  It grew and grew out of one stupid bored comment from my mouth into a pretty convincing argument.  The boy protested and we persisted on and on until the discussion gave way to some other nonsense.

Spring break ended and the boy went back to school.  I didn’t think twice about it. Weeks went by and we all got the work done, collected our money and paid the bills.  It was around 10:30 am and the boss stood holding a chicken in his hands. He hadn’t had much to say that day.  We were all just going through the motions and getting the work done, lost in our own thoughts. I was on his left.  He turned and looked down into my eyes. The skin wrinkled on his forehead. His lids squeezed tight barely revealing his pupils.  He growled at me then began to talk. “What’s this I hear about pearls in chicken s**t?” My mouth dropped open. The chicken house erupted in laughter.  I took a step back and chuckled.

© 2018 busterlee

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Added on July 16, 2018
Last Updated on July 16, 2018
Tags: chicken, boss, job, humor




I like to write. I don't know if my writing is worth reading but that doesn't seem to matter much. I think that I need to write and I know that I enjoy it. I believe that 90 percent of what we do i.. more..