Officer Alex remembers a very bad day for both police...and poultry
“The Ridgecut.” Such a simple name for such a horrible stretch of Interstate, but that’s where we were because that’s the place a semi-truck hauling enough live chickens to feed Cuba on a Saturday night jackknifed sending live (and now dead) chickens to every point of the compass. It was horrible.
The sun beat down on us like we owed it money and the sweat running down our backs was competing with the volume of it pouring into our eyes at the same time, but compared to the scene we were on, the painful distraction was almost welcome.
We couldn’t see, we couldn’t talk, and we could barely breathe because the only thing hotter than the sun above was the asphalt below that had been absorbing heat like a sick follow-up joke to the heat coming from above, and the thought of “microwaved pork” wouldn’t leave my mind…But instead of microwaved pork, we were dealing with asphalt-fried chicken. Everywhere.
I braced up against a car to take a break, and the warmth coming from under the fender well seemed almost cool in comparison to everything else. I wiped a rag across my brow and surveyed the carnage. It was like the Tet Offensive of poultry. “Chickenfallujah.”
Cops and TDOT workers were chasing chickens from the walled-median for fear of the wrecks they would cause by drivers instinctively jerking the wheel (instead of turning them into feather-bombs as you should; a chicken isn’t worth your life or the lives of others should you swerve the avoid the galactically simple-minded creature).
Chickens were stranded in thick kudzu where they’d landed on impact. They were in oncoming traffic over an impassible wall. They were smashed into the pavement in tiny slicks of red-feathered gore, and yes…some were being chased by our Guatemalan population who resided at the base of the hill where this occurred. And the feathers…the feathers were everywhere like the stars, only matched in volume by clucking from all directions in Dolby 7.0. It was surreal.
“This is like a Chinese Hell. The Hell of Chickens,” I muttered. A co-worker didn’t hear me but he nodded in his hyperthermic state. His boots were covered in sticky, deep red chicken feathers, and white ones lined his polyester uniform from his feet to the crown of his head.
I was going to point out how ridiculous he looked until I realized I’d nearly lost the power of speech. And of course, I looked exactly the same. A dark cloud moved in overhead to complete the effect.
I’d seen a truck full of basketball-sized boulders spilled all over this spot during a winter snowstorm of all things. I’d seen a beer truck wreck there with its contents winding up in car trunks from here to the Gulf Coast. Cars and semis on fire, children’s toys spilled from broken car windows, even human remains from a suicide I’ll never document here, but this…this was different. More spectacular and more horrible than any of those events at the same time.
Only one thing could make this worse, I thought. And almost right on cue, the first few drops of rain began to fall around us.
A short round man in a very yellow vest ran past me, a terrified chicken only a few yards ahead; rain drops grew larger and the feathers started getting plastered to everything they were attached to, myself included, as the rain was turned into steam from the pavement, the bad situation turning worse.
I smiled, and thought of how cool this job really was. I’m pretty sure it was then that I vomited.