{An Umbrella Special Feature}

Martin Ott

lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.  A former U.S. Army interrogator, he still finds himself asking a lot of questions.

He has published poetry and fiction in over 75 publications and has optioned three screenplays. 


John F. Buckley 

grew up in the Detroit area and has lived in California since 1992.

He teaches English at local colleges and does some writing and editing on the side.

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Fifteen Miles Outside the City Limits of Summervale, Alabama

Afraid that his proud red mane would someday molt as though from nuclear
winter, the chicken-processing plant tour guide patted his locks and announced:

“Eight-nine percent of today’s plastic goods are composed of all-natural
poultry oils and exstangulated fowl tissue. Even rubber duckies are chicken.”

What he thought, however, was how everything tasted like hacked-up chick:
his fillings dug out with toothpicks, tongue muscle strong enough to wrestle

hens into the blades, his own mullet fatalistically grown to resemble roosters
combing barnyards for one more fix. He wanted a cigarette, but the hennaed

bouffant from Chattahoochee kept a peck of questions in her fanny pack;
she’d never seen such a place! And was it true the capons laid eggs when

the cockkeepers piped ESPN throughout the dormitories, or what do you call
them? The chicken barracks. He plucked stray down off his blazer shoulder,

which ached from musculoskeletal tears from when he gutted and deboned
fowl on the conveyors, pain only exasperated by choking his own chicken

in the unisex bathroom after watching the stretch pants and frizzled pelt
of the swing-shift assistant debeakulation supervisor, she who helped oversee

all removal of mouthparts, capa de omerta. She never washed her hands,
letting the guilt dry in a rouged crust in her cuticles, but he liked that in a woman.

It spoke of strength beyond the plight of nearly flightless birds, of ruddy grit
that made his red pubic hairs crow. Exhibitionist dodos in feathered hats

would gawk in the breeding hut, and he’d wooed every one of his future ex-
wives in the gift shop pawing cock and hen shakers, the thrum of saw

blades vibrating just right to loosen groins from dry dock. “Next we’ll see
which came first,” he joked, straddling the line to be first and last inside

the hidden plumage, polished stick for the feather duster, cocky, crooning,
doing his apprehensive best to cross a road paved with raw puckered skin.