Just then, a hen

by Francine Witte

Clucks into the doctor’s waiting room. Sets down between me and Charley to lay itself an egg.

“Backed up a bit,” the doctor’s lady says to the room. Okay by me, the thing we are afraid of is growing inside of Charley.

The other people don’t seem to notice the hen. They busy themselves with magazines and dixie cups. One lady is thumbing a People from all the way in the millennium. Titanic Leo on the front.

I look around and pretend in my head to know what’s wrong with each of them. What is growing so big that it will eat them from the inside out.

Charley, he is getting sicker and sicker by the very minute. And just then, the hen pops up, see! Look at that! I laid myself an egg!

I wonder what kind of egg is growing inside of Charley. But it’s high time he birthed it and crushed and move on with things.

The hen jumps up on the reception desk and is clucking and squawking at the doctor’s lady, who must surely be tired of everyone blaming her for the doctor’s delay.

And who seems to have no other choice but to pick up the hen and put it back out in the hall.

I look at the egg left behind on the carpet. Tiny and so easy to shatter.

I look again at Charley, who I realize at that moment is as eggshell as the rest of us, and I tell him I love him, y’know, just in case.