Witchy ways

Pub date September 14, 2010
WriterL.E. Leone
SectionCheap Eats


CHEAP EATS How to tear down a chicken coop: Step one, build a chicken coop. I used scrap wood, found objects, and recycled nails and screws to make this one. At the time, I was going through a divorce, so my spirits were all light and buildery, and I whistled while I worked and didn’t get too upset if I got a splinter.

Suffering for one’s art, not to mention eggs, seemed noble and not at all frightening. I was in love with the woods and fresh air, high on my new sense of self, which I have come to see, in retrospect, as merely a phase: for five years and change, I found myself involved in a kind of a secular witchcraft.

No incantations or Shakespearean hullabaloo; without any belief whatsoever, barely even with intent, I lured little children into a large pot and cooked and ate them. Often in omelets! I didn’t know what I was doing. In fact, it took one of these omelets to point it out to me. The youngest, and one of the first, she stood before my brand-new-yet-already-ramshackle chicken coop, took one look at my outdoor bathtub, half a look at my black and pink punk rock rubber ducky, then stared at the 25-gallon pot on a propane burner that almost blocked the door to my crooked little shack.

"You’re kind of a witch, aren’t you?" she said, her great big eyes getting ever even bigger.

"Um, no, well, I think more of a chicken farmer, if you ask me," I said.

"But this is all so … so … witchy," she said.

So, OK, so I went with it. It’s my nature to just go with things. But I didn’t have any idea what witches do, except for live in funky shacks in the woods (like me) with their big noses (like mine) and crazy black cats (like Weirdo, R.I.P.) and either oversized ovens or giant pots for cooking kids in.

Before anyone burns me at the stake or, worse, tries to ruin my career as a nanny, let me explain metaphor to you. No — cut metaphor, let’s skip straight to dada. The children who I made into omelets were for the most part 40- and 50-something-year-old men with hairy bellies and hardly any heart, who had somehow or other neglected to grow up. They were off-the-beaten-path truck drivers, errant farm hands, recovering ax murderers, and homeless mushroomers. Whereas the little girls, the little girls were two: a psychotic psychologist and the above-mentioned big-eyed young ‘un, 29, a highly educated and queerish knows-a-witchy-woman-when-she-sees-one college perfessor.

In my experience the brainier they are, the harder they hurt. Step two, set down that rusty, dull hatchet and fix your drill. It’s true you are liable to think of ugly, downlifting things while deconstructing your chicken coop. All the spider webs, moldy hay, and fossilized chicken shit … how can you not be reminded of heartless, hopeless, imaginationless fucks?

Thing is, this is not the time for anger. That time has passed, and hopefully you have kicked and screamed and howled and yowled and beaten your poor pillow (or in my case, reading public) into submission. Deconstructing a chicken coop, on the other hand, requires precision. Ergo: Step three, stack all the neatly de-screwed boards and things in a Future Dump Run pile.

Step four, roll all the chicken wire in tight-as-possible rolls and stack it separately. Neatly. Remember: what you are doing is more sacred than building; you are tearing down. You are creating blank space — empty, meaningless, and therefore full of potential. You will want to leave this site as clean as possible for the next person, who is somewhere in the world creating just such a space for you. In the name of which …

Step five: rake, scrape, shovel, and dump what was the floor into what will be the next tenant’s garden. Now, city girl, get your city ass back to town, slow and stylingly, and find yourself a new favorite restaurant. No meat for you: half a falafel sandwich drenched in tahini and a cup o’ cream o’ broccoli, babe. You deserve this.


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