Chloe was no ordinary pet chicken; she was beyond sweet and had a truly unique personality. Chloe was not an exotic breed; she was a gorgeous yellow Buff Orpington and was incredibly soft to the touch. She had the misfortune of finding herself last in the pecking order, yet she was adept at navigating the temperament of the flock and always held her head high with pride. Over time Chloe and I developed a ritual of watching the sun set and it became something I looked forward to each day. She would watch for me to walk towards the pen and as soon as she saw me walking towards the pen she would jump up. When I stepped inside the pen she would jump into my arms and I would hold her and stroke her head until she fell asleep. Night after night we sat on the little wooden stool and watched as another day fell off into the horizon. Sunsets became synonymous with making Chloe feel safe and letting her know that she was loved and giving me the refuge I desperately needed.
I heard somewhere that alcoholism affects some forty million people either directly or indirectly and I was merely another statistic. My husband of twenty years had been unable to find solace in anything other than the bottle and the abuse and erratic behavior had for the most part been directed at me. That summer day in late August claimed more than my broken heart.
That particular summer was plagued with a heat wave that seemed to go and on and even though the chicken pen was covered and the chickens had shelter they needed extra attention to assure their safety. During the heat wave I checked on the chickens multiple times during the day to water the ground and make sure they had ample fresh water and they seemed to be weathering the heat very well. The last day of the heat wave brought gale force winds to the high desert and before I left for work I checked on all of the animals to make sure everyone was okay. I reminded him as I left to check on everyone throughout the day to make sure they had what they needed. Disappointment had become a way of life and it seemed there was no hope in getting him to do something about his problem; he had rejected every attempt I made to help him, but I kept trying. Midday I called to check on everyone and I could tell he was barely coherent and knew there was no point in asking him to check on the animals, so I put the phone down and waited for the end of the day.
I could see the top to the chicken pen had blown off and when I didn’t see Chloe jump up my heart dropped, I ran as fast as I could but I was too late. I took her in my arms and told her how sorry I was that I had failed her, that I had failed us all. I found a spot on the edge of the property to bury her and I faced her to the West so she would always be able to watch the sunset. As I was burying her, my husband walked out towards me yelling something about it only being a chicken, but she wasn’t just a chicken, she was a reminder of what we lose along the way. I know it was a combination of the tears in my eyes and the sun distorting my vision but when I looked up at him he was unrecognizable to me and I wondered how after twenty years of marriage that was possible, but things die and we can do nothing but let them go.
I hope that he found the solace he needed and I hope that Chloe watches the sunset every night, because I can’t watch it through the tears.