A few hours ago, Ma told me to go buy a pet.
She did not spec-i-fy.
And by the look on her face, I think she’s regretting her ambiguity.
“Phil, what is that thing?”
“It’s a rooster, Ma.”
“They sell those things at the pet store?”
Should I tell her about the farm? Should I tell her about the pick-up truck?
I haven’t named the creature yet and I want to talk about him so I say the first name that comes to my head.
“Warlock will be a nice addition to the family, Ma.”
Ma’s yet to put down the rolling pin. She’s yet to close the knife drawer.
“Well, does he lay eggs?”
“Ma, it’s a rooster.”
I never thought I’d have to give my mother the birds and the bees talk. The roosters and the hens discussion.
“Ma, the hens lay the eggs. The rooster, he, well, I think they have sex. I’m not quite sure how birds, y’know, make more birds.”
“Well.” She puts away the rolling pin. She closes the knife drawer. “Well,” she says again. She opens the refrigerator. She takes out the beer.
“Can I keep him, Ma?” Should I tell her about the farmer’s instructions? Should I tell her about the twenty dollars sitting in my back pocket?
“Does he shed?”
“Does he make a lot of noise?”
“Only in the morning. But that’s a good thing, y’know, in case the alarms don’t go off and you miss…work.”
“Okay.” She opens the beer. She pulls out the chair. “It’s fine with me, but it’s up to your father.”
My father hasn’t been home for nearly seven years.
“Okay,” I tell Ma. “What would you like me to do with Warlock in the meantime?”
“The bird, Ma.”
She looks at the tiny fowl resting in my palm as if she’s just noticed his peculiar size.
“Is he a newborn?”
“No, ma’am. Fully grown.”
She sips the beer. She sighs the anguish. “Are they always that tiny? I mean, I’ve never seen one in person, but I’ve seen pictures of ’em.”
“Um.” Should I tell her he’s a tiny robot? Should I tell her he’s some sort of phantasmal creature?
“Warlock’s a rooster, Ma.” I leave the room.
She sips the beer. She forgets the confusion.
Ryan Dunham is currently a doctoral candidate at Ohio University in the Media Arts and Studies’ Mass Communications program. He earned both his B.A. and M.A. in English Literature and Creative Writing from Binghamton University. His work has previously appeared in Helix Magazine, Jersey Devil Press, and Ricky’s Back Yard, and is forthcoming in The Bookends Review.