by a contributor
a Brief Encounter by Kerry Headley
Ondine, the middle-aged lesbian with the chicken coop, the goose, and the incontinent dog, suggested I try martial arts the next time her rooster tried to kill me.
I’d moved in a few weeks earlier. When he realized I was staying, one of the roosters began charging me and pecking and scratching at my ankles. I walked to and from my car gripping a broom as a weapon. Because of his bravado and his thick neck of gold feathers, I called him Mr. T.
“I shouldn’t have to do Aikido to get into my own house,” I said to Ondine.
“That back talon’s like a scalpel,” Ondine said. “I once had one slice through my Achilles tendon.”
“That sounds like an injury that would cause me to miss work, which would make it difficult for me to pay you rent,” I said.
Previously, I’d lived with a man who used my razor to shave his face and another who dug the sponge out of the trash and returned it to the kitchen sink whenever I tried to throw it away. Another housemate told me she wanted to kill herself and her daughter because somebody’s mother had served soft drinks during a play date. “The world is too toxic for us,” she’d said right before I threatened to call the authorities.
Ondine seemed comparatively sane. She was a teacher. She took African drumming lessons. She collected hawk feathers and meditated.
It hadn’t occurred to me to ask Ondine if any of her farm animals were psychopaths.
Ondine bent her knees and slapped them, and then she adopted a defensive pose with her arms out like a football player. “You find your center, see?” she said. “Then use his energy against him.”
Ondine was still at work the day I hit Mr. T. with the broom hard enough so that he soared through the air the way I imagine athletes hope a football will, except with less grace and more screeching. I watched him flop into a stand of wild comfrey where he wobbled, momentarily stunned. “How you like me now, bird?” I said aloud, swaggering until I saw the goose giving me an ominous side-eye.
Ondine tried to keep my security deposit.
Her dog tried to jump into the moving truck with me.