Mr. Chicken

This one is based on something I heard one time, as is often the way. I don’t know whether I came up with the little details, or whether they were part of what I heard, but either way I’m pretending I invented them.

Mr. Chicken walked up and down Tall Man Road for as long as anyone could remember. He was tall and thin and dark and always had a slightly startled look on his face, as if the world continually surprised him. And maybe it did.

He wore Bermuda shorts no matter the weather, with a patched-up suit-coat hanging off his skinny shoulders and a top-hat. On the top hat, which leaned whichever way the wind was blowing (or would be blowing sometimes) was a crown of chicken-bones, tied together with rough twine.

Mr. Chicken carried a thin cane pole over his shoulder (for tapping hogs, he said) and pulled a rusty red wagon behind him up and down the road. It was full of bottles (and the bottles were full of things) and it seemed to clatter miles ahead of him, letting folks know he was coming.

And when Mr. Chicken came up your drive, you would give him your bottles, cleaned and shining and later on, you would find them hanging from a tree someplace, clattering in the wind. Mr. Chicken said the bottles held haints, trapped them likes butterflies in bottles, and he scrawled the mark of Solly Man, whoever that was, on each and every one.

Mr. Chicken was the only man who’d passed the Rattle-Bone Wire and conversed regularly with those who lived on the other side. He’d been over the bridge to Tenebre too, though he never spoke of what he’d seen. He was seen checking the long red string that ran between Blackberry Woods and the railroad track and painting it with a dab of chicken blood.

Mr. Chicken had been from one end of the county to the other and had hunted low houses and the ghost hogs out at the Dead Houses through the woods. He’d danced with hares on full-moon nights and it was said he courted a dead woman buried out on Lethe, whose ghost did not walk but instead danced. No one knew where he stayed, Mr. Chicken. No one knew where he’d come from. But everyone was glad he walked the road regardless.

That was Mr. Chicken.

I knew him and have always been glad of it.