“Shouldn’t there be twelve?”
Terndill shut the lid on the cooler. “This is not some supermarket checkout, Bo.”
The warm spring breeze filtered past the chainlink and razor wire bringing the smell of rich earth and white pine pollen. The forest and glades surrounding the compound glowed beneath a full July moon.
Bojine, ‘Bo’ Durnoc said, “I was just… Eggs always come in dozens.”
“Don’t handle them until you get back to your place.” Gerry Terndill set the red plastic cooler on the passenger-side floor of Bo’s pickup. “I’ll come by next week to check on them. But in case I’m delayed, or…” Gerry responded to a beep from his phone, tapped a few words and slipped it back into his pocket. “Yeah. Things are moving fast. If I don’t see you before they hatch, separate the males from each other. You’ll know which ones are which.”
Bo and Gerry had been high-school friends, backwoods buddies before Gerry had left for school to get a PhD in genetics at Georgia Tech.
“Don’t you worry, Gerr. You know I’ve been raising chickens and turkeys for years. These won’t be no different.”
“Oh, they’ll be different. Keep them isolated. They won’t be immune to most avian illnesses.”
Bo sneezed into his elbow. “I’ve got a space all set up for them.” He sneezed again. “‘Bout the news… Is what they say on TV really true?”
Gerry looked sideways at his friend. “Mind that cold.” He closed the door and leaned in. “Bo, though you and I know different, these are just chickens. Maybe a little strange looking, smarter too. The media only ever tells us half the story. And that name…”
“That’s the one. It’s only half right. It should be Corvidisaurus.”
Bo Durnoc wiped his dripping nose. “What?”
Mary crossed her arms the way she does when Bo comes home drunk, late or carrying some box containing a wounded baby possum, coon or coyote.
“That better be BBQ from Ziggy’s ‘cuz this house can’t take any more of your god-damned orphans.”
“Oh, these? These are Gerry Terndill’s. I’m just holding them for a spell.”
“Terndill? That research friend of yours at TriGene?”
Bo toted the cooler into their double-wide that sat at the corner of a plot of land which held a long chicken coop to one side and a set of wired chicken-house-on-wheels dotted across the remainder.
“I’m doing Gerry a favor. Holding on to a nest of sorts.”
“Let me see.”
Sitting inside the trailer, Bo’s dog Goldie nosing the cooler, Bo sneezed into a box of tissue and then slid back the cover to reveal the mottled eggs.
“Ooh, they’re pretty. Big too,” Mary reached in to touch one.
“Hold on there, girl. Gerry says to treat them like they was aliens, they libel to get sick from us just touching ’em.”
Mary huffed. “If you want my help, you’re gonna have to trust me, Bo.”
“But, Gerry said…”
“Our germs gonna be their germs.” She lifted one of the ten eggs. “They’re heavier than I expected. Are they supposed to be this cool?”
“Oh, shit. Gerr said, hundred and three, minimum.”
Bo called into their double-wide from atop the tractor he used to move the portable chicken coops, “They be startin’ Mare.” Mary skipped down the stairs and hopped into Bo’s lap. Bo turned the tractor and headed to the other side of the property. A pair of sheds peeked out from behind the ten-thousand strong chicken warehouse. One shed was surrounded by a high wire fence and contained laying hens and the dominant rooster that kept the hens producing fertile chicken eggs for the factory. The other looked abandoned.
The outside of the derelict shed belied its advanced interior.
“Nice and warm in here.” Mary stood over the straw bed where the eggs had been placed. She turned one and noticed a crack where an egg tooth had poked a hole. “Still no word from your friend?”
“You saw the news last night. TriGene’s been shut down, and Gerry was indicted.”
“Do you think they know about these little guys?” Mary pulled out a tissue and tidied her nose. “I wish you’d keep your damn colds to yourself, Bo.”
“Wow, would you look at that?”
One of the occupants of the eggs had broken free and rolled about, wet and disoriented.
“You said these were chicken’s, Bojine, I am not gonna raise a bunch of alligators.”
“They ain’t ‘gators, Mary. They’re, hmm, what did Gerry call them, crow lizards. No, dinocrows, that’s it.”
“Crows? What are we going to do with crows? Pesky, smart-ass,” sniff, ” scavengers.”
“Gerr said they was mostly chickens, but with crow genes added.”
“So then, why do they look like lizards?”
“Don’t know. News said TriGene was trying to perform de-evolution.”
Mary and Bo helped the other corvidisaurs free themselves from their shells. They cheeped like chicks, balanced like birds and began rooting in the straw.
“Look at that one, it’s got those funny hooked fingers, but with wings too. And it’s way darker than the others.”
Bo looked over the brood. “Gerry said they’re be more than one male. But all I see is the one.”
Mary cupped the featherless, burgundy skinned male in her hands. “So this is the rooster. Look at him, he’s staring right at me. Do you think they imprint… fuck! The little bastard bit my finger.”
“Here, let me see.” Bo examined his wife’s thumb. “You’ll be fine.”
“Chickens with teeth? That ain’t right, Bo.”
“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up. Don’t think we can get them sick, but…”
Six weeks later, Bo and Mary lie in bed, too weak to even rise to feed their golden retriever. Bo’s next to last ritual was to call his pastor to ask for help from their congregation in closing out the last batch of fryer chickens still in his factory coop. Their pastor, however, and two of his staff had taken ill and had died from pneumonia the week before.
Bo pulled himself outside and struggled to gain the tractor, where he barely maintained his seat as he trundled down the road to the last shed on the property. Inside, the occupants had grown large and strong and when daylight showed at the crack of the door, the male leapt from his perch and burst out beneath Bo’s legs. Bo flailed about, to no effect. The rooster’s flock made their escape and all ten of them, with the foot-tall, deep-red male leading the way, dashed through Bo’s feeble grasp. They scrambled quick as rats and headed across the grass toward the open doors of the factory warehouse.
Collapsed at the shed, Bo’s last sight and sounds were of his precious Jersey Giants being ravaged as if by foxes; feathers bursting into the air like fireworks, frantic squawks rising in a din. The age of the dinosaur had come and gone, and come again.