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“As we talked it seemed that he was slowly coming out of the other side of something, some chrysalis of feathers and chicken gore that had left bright flowers blooming on his chest.” 90

s t e p h e n

n e w t o n

One Friday afternoon Woodrow was late for work. I was buried, running around trying to keep track of pools of baby puke and spilled milkshakes, the mall packed with shoppers. After a couple of hours the security guard called on the walkie-talkie and said that Woodrow had arrived, but I’d better come quick. Woodrow was paralyzed with drink, staggering, rheumyeyed, weaving in languid circles behind his dust mop. The front of his white shirt—with Mr. Franklin sewn above the breast pocket; I had one with Mr. Newton—was covered with blood, a couple of huge gouts and a scattering of splatters. He looked like he’d been shot or knifed, and, combined with the legless imbalance, Woodrow was making quite an impression on the crowds of shoppers. Nobody was rushing to his aid, however, even though he looked ready for the emergency room. There was an element of danger about him, an almost palpable whiff of sulfur and brimstone. At the very least he looked incredibly out of control, this little drunken man wearing a white mallmaintenance shirt covered with blood, smoking cigarettes as he walked unsteadily behind his dust-mop. I took him aside in a hallway. It was Mama’s rooster, of course. Mama had gone off for the day somewhere and Woodrow had finally had all that he could take. He’d grabbed the rooster’s neck and, as he said, “Wrung it like the crank on an old Model T Ford, just a-gittin’ it, around and around,” and then after actually pulling the rooster’s head off with his bare hands, threw the detached rooster head over the back fence. The resulting fountain of blood that sprayed Woodrow got on his shirt, because ever since he started working at the mall, he had worn his uniform shirt all day, even at home. I never did figure out why, other than it must have made him feel valued somehow, perhaps a little important, with his name on the front.

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Niche Magazine No. 1  

Niche is an online literary magazine that was designed to be limitless. It aims to provide a place where an array of voices, from experimen...

Niche Magazine No. 1  

Niche is an online literary magazine that was designed to be limitless. It aims to provide a place where an array of voices, from experimen...

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