My father, an old slaughterhouse man, decided to keep hens on our property around my twelfth birthday. The coop was an unbalanced structure that sat close to the cold white bricks of the slaughterhouse and just down from our garage. One night, not long after trading for some chickens with a hunter who wanted his deer butchered, my father came stumbling in my room yelling that he had something great to show me, to get my boots on and follow him. I was half asleep as we slid across the wet grass and over to the old weather-worn coop—all boards and rusted metal—that held about fourteen hens. He shined a flashlight at the roof of the hen house and the beam uncovered six brown bats hanging from the wire that drooped from the ceiling. He reached around to his back and pulled out a .45 and started shooting before I could even figure out what was going on. The bats exploded, nothing but a mist of blood and fur, and flopped to the floor mixing with the black and white chicken shit. I started crying. My father shook me hard by the shoulders, told me to toughen up. He asked me if I wanted to get rabies. I sobbed, told him no, no I didn't.
The next morning I had to clean the hen house. Over in the corner, the ruined parts of a mother bat caught my attention. A baby was attached to it, still alive. I could see the thing's tiny heart as it beat under its skin. I watched until it stopped. I put what was left of the mother and the baby in the creek then ran close to the garage and they floated away, pulled by the current down through the white waste suds from the slaughterhouse and out of sight.
Jarrid Deaton lives and writes in eastern Kentucky. He received his MFA in Writing from Spalding University. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pear Noir! Zygote in My Coffee, Six Sentences, and elsewhere.