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Vol. 9, No. 2

Chicken
by Damon Galgut

Chicken

The moment he saw him, Alexander Newman went cold. The meeting he'd imagined so many times, longed-for but impossible: this was it. The face hadn't changed much. A little heavier, maybe, a little more lined—but the low forehead, the single heavy stripe of the eyebrows, the expression of sly malevolence: despite all the years that had gone by, he was the same.
     Rademeyer. The name had stayed with him, unspoken but powerful, like a dirty secret. He said it aloud to himself sometimes when he was alone. Rademeyer. And the name always conjured up the face, the face that he couldn't forget, the face that was in front of him now.
     Newman's own face had changed. He had lost weight, gotten balder, as time passed. And Rademeyer didn't recognize him. The small, cunning eyes, which didn't settle anywhere for very long, were blank.
     They were standing in the office of the main battery of The Happy Hen, the chicken farm that Newman owned and ran. On the other side of the glass, under hot white lights, rows and rows of cages contained an endless commotion of feeding and laying; but in here the world had gone still.
     Rademeyer.
     Newman said, “What can I do for you?”
     “I'm looking for a job.”
     “Who sent you here?”
     “Nobody. I just need work. I'm trying all the farms.”
     “What's your name?”
     Rademeyer said:
     “My name is Oppermann.”
     It was startling. He was lying, and as he lied his eyes fixed defiantly on Newman's face for a second, then flickered away again.
     “My name is Alexander Newman.” Newman said it coldly and clearly. He fully expected the spell to be broken, that his name would unlock the past.
     But nothing happened. The blankness stayed in Rademeyer's face.
     “So,” he said. “Can you help me?”

To read the rest of this story and others from the Summer 2005 issue, click here to purchase it from our online store.

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