I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a story about cannibalism for some years now. I think it’s an interesting topic because it’s an uncomfortable one and I like writing about things that make me and you squirm a little. Despite the interest in the topic, I haven’t attempted a story.
The reason I’ve held off has been with striking the right emotional component. I can’t just have characters going, “I just love me some human flesh for dinner,” and bypassing the thorny issue of eating your own kind. Cannibalism is something we struggle to accept. Well, most of us. I could play with the issue from a disassociation point of view. Now we might get squeamish eating a human but we kind of take as it as read (or is it red in this case) that it’s OK to eat a burger because it came from a cow. Now that’s interesting topic to apply to a book. That mental or moral justification that it’s OK to eat meat when it isn’t my kind—and why is it taboo to eat your own kind anyway?
These have been some of the cannibalistic thoughts I’ve considered in the search of a tone and theme for a potential story. However, I think I might have found my theme—thanks to my chickens.
Yes, my chickens. Let me explain.
Julie and I are facing the circle of life with our chickens. Non chicken owners might not be aware that chickens have a short productive egg laying life. They start laying at the age of six months. They then lay well for twelve months. They go through a “molt” stage when they don’t lay for a while then lay for another twelve months, although egg production drops a bit in this phase. They’ll hit another molt but as this point egg production will dwindle and dry up from this point on. Commercial egg producers will ditch (that’s a euphemism by the way) their chickens as soon as they hit their first molt because it’s not worth their time. At the moment, our chickens are coming out of their first molt. This time next year, our egg production will be effectively over.
The big question is what do we do then. Who comes first in our priorities—the chicken or the egg?
Julie and I have discussed the situation. Do we let them live out their days or do we have a series of delicious dinners. Very quickly we both answered that we couldn’t. These aren’t chickens. They’re family members. They have names, personalities and 401ks. They are our friends. Hand on heart, if someone served my hens to me, I think I would be physically sick. It would be like I was eating one of my own…
There I have it. There’s my emotional note I was looking for in my cannibalism tale. I have my human element for somebody doing something inhuman. Now the plotting can begin.
Thanks chickens. I definitely won’t eat you now. The rest of you, I’m not so sure.