I Confess to Stealing Three Chicken Heads

The boiling water Jaime used to soften the chickens’ skins smelled like a grave of wet dogs. I watched his steam-reddened hands rip off feathers, rinse pale birds, and remove entrails. The stench birthed shallow breaths and bile out of my gut, but I didn’t let on.

“Don’t let them fall in the dirt,” he said, throwing a still full gizzard into the bucket I held in front of me. “When you’re done, set aside three heads for Marianella.”

I sliced one side of the gizzard, making sure not to damage the lining that separated undigested feed from flesh. I rinsed it out, and handed it back to Jaime to add to the rest of the giblets. Then I put three chicken heads in a plastic bag.

“Marianella didn’t come,” I said, as I washed my hands. “She must have no money again.”

“Throw them in the burning pile,” he told me.

Without saying anything, I grabbed the bag with the chicken heads and started walking towards the burning pile.

I circled the pile for a minute, poked it with a stick a time or two, and when Jaime’s eyes shifted from me, I threw the bag three feet above the flames. The heads hit the dirt with a plastic thud, and I crossed my fingers before turning around to check if Jaime had seen me.

“Come early on Sunday,” he shouted, from where he stood by the chicken table. “And tell your mom you’ve almost earned half a chicken.”

“I’ll tell her,” I said. When Jaime turned around, I collected the heads from the dirt, and took them to Marianella for her cats.

“Can you see me through the clouds and through the leaves, Niño Jesús? I’m sitting on the thick mango root that’s cracking the foundation of the house.” I looked, saw no lightning, and went on. “I took from Jaime today; three chicken heads. I’m sorry if you’re angry with me. But old cats shouldn’t go hungry because Marianella has no money to buy trash. Amén.”

Process Note: I started rereading Magaly Guerrero’s Pagan Culture, my first blog. With “I Confess to Stealing Three Chicken Heads”, I’ve tried to capture one of the motifs that inspired the first post I ever wrote, back in the spring of 2009. I’ve posted the original entry, after the visual art; some typos have been corrected, but everything else remains the same.

Take Control of Your Life, by Gina Morley“Take Control of Your Life”, by Gina Morley

A Tale of Mythology and Paganism
by Magaly Guerrero
(First published on Pagan Culture (May 5, 2009); an edited version was also published on the Witchvox, under the title “A Witch Brewing among Catholics” (August 28, 2011).

The church looked amazing. The altar was adorned with huge candelabras, roses and tulips, and there were chains of white daisies draped all around the pews. Our catechism teacher told us that Father Elias was going to marry a couple after he was done with us. I was a little confused because it was Wednesday afternoon, and I thought people got married during Sunday mass.

I looked at my watch. I had been sitting on a wooden pew for over an hour. My butt was numb.

“You’re next.” Manuel Tapia’s voice made me jump. He was the oldest boy in my catechism group, and I had a crush on him. I confessed it to God as soon as I realized I liked him. I wasn’t sure if liking Manuel was a sin, but I told God anyway, just to be safe.

I walked to the confession booth rubbing the stiffness off my behind. I prayed it recovered before I got there. Please God let the chair have some padding. My poor butt couldn’t take any more pew torture.

I got to the booth, climbed three steps, and took a look. Crap! Another wooden pew. I stood very still waiting for my punishment, and then I guessed that saying—or thinking—the word “crap” in church wasn’t a sin because God didn’t strike me on the spot. I sat on the accursed pew.

“You have to kneel.”

“Crap!” Father Elias scared the living Jesus out of me. For a moment, I believed God had decided that saying ‘crap’ in his house was a sin after all, and I was about to get it. But it wasn’t God. The putrid breath seeping through the tiny screened window belonged to a familiar mortal.

“I won’t tolerate that kind of language in the house of God.” Father Elias moved so closed to the window that I could see his angry little eyes. I wanted to protest and tell him that God hadn’t said anything, and it was his house. But Father Elias’s stench made me dizzy, so I just nodded.

“Well?” asked Father Elias impatiently. “Didn’t you learn how to confess? You need to kneel.”

“But I don’t have anything to confess. I ask God for forgiveness as soon as I make a mistake.”

“Insolent girl! You can’t confess without a priest!”

I stared at the livid man thanking God for the screened window. Father Elias would have probably spat all over my face if it wasn’t for it. He continued ranting and I continued to stare without listening. My mind’s voice was screaming too. Why do I need a priest to confess my sins? Why would I share anything with this lunatic? Why am I here? Will my mom be mad if I leave? One question actually crossed my lips: “Why can’t I talk to my God on my own?”

Father Elias was in my face a couple of seconds later. “Get out. Go talk to your teacher and tell her you are not ready. I will speak to her later. Send in whoever is next.”

I walked out of the booth and looked at my best friend, Dahlia, who had been seating behind me, waiting for her turn. I froze. What kind of friend would I be, if I let her face this crazy man without warning? Help me, God.

“Well?” Father Elias spat into my thoughts.

I looked at the condemning fire in his eyes, and I knew that I had to do something, and do it fast. I took off running.
I ran until my lungs ordered me to stop. I found a tree to lean on, and waited for my breath to catch up.

“Maggy, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?”

It was Ms. Toledo, the town librarian. She was always nice to me. I touched my face and realized she was right. I was crying. I told her everything as we walked to the library. When we got there, Ms. Toledo offered me a chair, but I declined.

She let out a long sigh. “Oh, don’t worry too much. It’s not the end of the world.”

I knew she was trying to help, but she didn’t see Father Elias’s face. She wasn’t there when he told me that I wasn’t ready. Ready for what anyway? And why didn’t he answer my question?

Ms. Toledo must have read my mind because she said, “Tell you what, I’ll have a word with Father Elias.”

I gave her a pained look, and said, “Thanks.” I just wasn’t sure if that was the best idea.

She walked away and I thought about stopping her. She should know that Father Elias wouldn’t listen. I gathered some courage and was ready to go find her, but she came back before I had a chance to move.

“Here,” she whispered. “Take it home. Come back next week and tell me what you think.”

The excitement of taking a book home made me forget all about Father Elias, sins, and confessions. You see, the library in my town was so small that it couldn’t allow people to check out books. So taking the book with me was an adventure, especially because I didn’t own any books. My family was too poor, so we couldn’t afford them. That’s why I was such good friends with Ms. Toledo. I used to spend as much time in the library as I was allowed, in order to finish a book.

I thanked Ms. Toledo and left with a smile on my face. I walked the three miles from the library to my house, taking glances at the book every now and then, but not daring to open it. What if I dropped it and ruined it?

I got home, climbed my favorite mango tree, and opened my borrowed treasure. I read about ancient Gods—males and females—who interacted with their worshipers. I learned about ancient times when humanity lived in harmony with the earth, when people revered the moon and the sun and these Old Powers listened; times when people believed in the power of their own energy.

I enjoyed the book so much that I was really sad when Monday came and I had to return it. But my sadness didn’t last because Ms. Toledo replaced the book. The new title was filled with Gods from all over the world. Some of the Gods were terrible and scary, but I loved learning about them too.

I didn’t start practicing Paganism right there and then. I was only eleven. But it was in the yellowish pages of a mythology book where I found explanations for things I already believed in. I created this blog in order to explore what else is out there. Also, to figure out how my early readings have affected/influenced my writing.

Why do you blog?

Green Love in Stone Bay

I handed the pistol to Corporal Sanz. “I’m having problems pulling the slide back and releasing the magazine.” The sleeve of my camouflaged blouse was damp, but I wiped my forehead with it anyway. Summer was waging war on Stone Bay, North Carolina.

“Just a minute, Sergeant,” Sanz said, and gave a twenty dollar bill to a Lance Corporal. Then he turned around, disassembled the M9 Beretta, and held the bolt between his index and thumb. “This is nasty.” He stared at me.

“Really?” I said, trying not to grin at the outrage in his eyes.

Really. Bring it back minus the carbon.” He reassembled the M9, and placed it in my hand.

Forty-five minutes later, I cleared my pistol and handed it to Sanz.

His swift hands field stripped it in a couple of seconds. “It’s clean,” he said, sounding dubious.

I grinned.

Sanz ran a finger over the M9’s serial number, and said, “I see. This is a different weapon. Where’s yours?”

“That is the pistol I shot this morning,” I said. “The other one belongs to one of my Marines. He was dropped from the range because the pistol was acting up. I sent him home.”

“You should’ve said you weren’t here for inspection, Sergeant.” Sanz almost smiled. “I apologize.”

“I only accept apologies that come camouflaged as beer.”

“I see.” Sanz laughed. The man had one of those laughs that made you want to taste it right out of his mouth. He looked past me, and pointed at the Lance Corporal he gave the money to earlier. “Do you mind, Sergeant?”

“No,” I said, but it was a lie. I was more than put off by the way his face lit up when he saw the other man.

Sanz took a small package from the Lance Corporal, and they laughed about something I couldn’t hear. They looked happy.

“It must be nice to have someone here,” I said when Sanz came back.

“Lance Corporal Brook?” Sanz threw his head back and roared. “It’s not like that, Sergeant.”

I didn’t say anything.

Sanz bit his lower lip. “You know, I was just waiting to inspect your weapon before closing the armory. So I’m ready to pay if you want to collect.”

“Collect?” I said.

“Your beer apology?”

“I’m ready, then.” I smiled.

“Brook’s my ride, but if you don’t mind the CLP fumes, I could ride to the barracks with you.”

“I’ve always enjoyed the killer scent of gun cleaning oil,” I said, and we both laughed.

I was sitting in my Mustang, tapping a finger on the wheel, when Sanz got to the parking lot. I reached over the passenger seat to get the door for him.

“Thanks, Sergeant.” He sat down and put the package from the Lance Corporal on his lap.

“Call me AJ,” I said.

“Only if you call me Ishmael and keep the White Whale jokes to yourself.”

“No Moby-Dick jokes, I promise. Any plans after we drink your apology, Ishmael?”

He pointed at his lap. “I have to make a video for a special someone back in New York.”

I glared at the package before looking straight ahead. “Let’s skip the beer,” I said. “You don’t want to look tipsy in your video.” I didn’t speak to Ishmael for the rest of the ride.

“Are you sure about skipping the beer?” Ismael said.

I nodded without looking at him.

“Okay then. It was nice talking to you, AJ.”

I nodded again and watched him walk into his barracks room, before climbing up the stairwell to get to mine.

Later that evening, I was coming back from a run when I bumped into Lance Corporal Brook.

“Excuse me, Sergeant. Have you seen Corporal Sanz?”

“Not since this afternoon.”

“Damn,” he said. “I thought you were with him. He told me you were grabbing drinks, so I figured he would be fine.”

“What’s going on, Lance Corporal?”

“Nothing.” Brook shook his head. “It’s just that corporal Sanz gets in a mood after making Joe’s videos. I stay away from that stuff. Long distance relationships can break you in two.”

“Right,” I said, and faked a chuckle.

Sometime after midnight, someone walked into my room without knocking. “Are you fucking lost or…?” My words got lost between a toned chest and two dark eyes.

Ishmael didn’t turn around to close my door. He just leaned against it. He was a few inches shorter than I was, but at that moment he could have been a giant summer god in green running shorts.

He looked at his feet, and said, “I was afraid I would lose my courage, if I had taken the time to get shoes and a t-shirt.”

I should’ve told him to get out, but I just stared. I wanted to absorb him whole and keep him. I wanted to forget about the man waiting for him at home. I wanted Ishmael for me, but reminded myself not to be stupid. “I doubt Joe would appreciate you showing up here in your shorts,” I said.

Ishmael laughed softly. “Joe walks around naked, I doubt he would care.”

I felt my expression harden. “Please leave,” I said.

Ishmael didn’t move. “You have no sense of humor, AJ.” Still leaning against my door, he extended a hand that held a wallet size photo he had pulled out of his waistband.

I took a few steps towards Ishmael, looked at the photo, and blinked. I searched for the man who I knew had to be hiding somewhere behind the white Pit Bull in the picture. “You’ve been sending videos to a dog?”

“Joe can’t read or talk on the phone, so I send him videos.” Ishmael looked away from me. “I don’t want him to forget me.”

I walked to Ismael and pressed my body to his. I didn’t kiss him hard and desperately like I always imagined I would. Our lips barely touched. Then he took my mouth, and I tasted happiness for the first time.

for my Rainbow Boys, from their Iron Witch Ally

Blouse – the shirt or top of the Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform.

Process Note: The events that inspired this tale took place many summers ago, while I worked as an armorer (a Small Weapons Repair Technician), in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. I was teaching a rifle cleaning class to a group of Marines, when I noticed two sergeants who couldn’t stop looking at each other. I was about to give them a piece of my mind, but stopped… there was such panic in their eyes. At first, I thought they were afraid of me—an armorer inspecting weapons has that effect on shooters. I can’t remember what, but something in their gestures told me that their fear had little to do with my inspection. So I kept an eye on them after that… Two weeks at the rifle range (and my power of nosiness) gave me enough time to find out that the two sergeants cared about each other. They were both single… so of course, I set them up. Some years later, they got handfasted, in a discrete ceremony, in the middle of the night, in a warehouse that smelled of gun cleaning oil and solvent agent. They’ve been together for a bit over eleven years. I haven’t spoken to them in a few months… I’m not sure what they are doing at this exact moment… but I suspect that they, too, are celebrating love, common sense, the freedom they’ve been defending for two decades, and today’s Supreme Court’s decision, ruling “that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage”.

SilkiesMarine Silkies

Mistakes Grow Twisted Bones

When rooted in casual cruelty,
mistakes pollute the blood,
grow twisted bones,
coat the throat with kindling;

laughter turns into breath-pilfering fires
that burn on the tip of the tongue,
forcing the spirit to crave for mercy
it hasn’t served to others.

Crows hear the screams of the rotten
(feed on them);
when carrion eaters go for the heart,
when howling flesh fills the ears of their guts,
a murder and two births change everything.

Process Note: Below are “Blooming Howls” 1 and 2, by Gina Morley, paintings inspired by my Blooming Howls short story collection. Gina painted a critical moment in the lives of two of the characters in the first story. This poem adds another layer to said moment.

linked to the Imaginary Garden with Real Toads (Tuesday Platform–on Wednesday *cough*)

Blooming Howls 3

Blooming Howls 2

Blooming Howls 1

You thought I forgot to announce the winners of my “As Deliciously Geeky as Me” giveaway, didn’t you? Just kidding, I know you trust your wicked witchy writer, right? *cough*

Here are the winners (in the order they were selected by Random.Org):
Rommy – Pop Sonnets: Shakespearean Spins on Your Favorite Songs
Ashley (Ash_Lynn)The Matryoshku Murders
JonquilGarlic, an Edible Biography: The History, Politics, and Mythology behind the World’s Most Pungent Food—with over 100 Recipes

Congratulations, my Wicked Darlings! Please send me an email (magalyguerrero @ live . com) with your mailing address. I hope you enjoy the reading, and tell me all about it. 😉