Kill Your Darlings

Entry by: tinyfeet&bluebirds

15th January 2016
We called them 'The Darlings'. It began as a joke, 'the darling starlings' because of their coats. Jet black speckled with white, like a night sky dappled with stardust. They were adorable the way they hung out in a group round the back of the sheds and chattered endlessly. They always clustered together like they were sharing some gigantic joke and we all wished we could share it. And then one of them, usually the one we called Esmerelda, would stick out her chest and strut across the yard like some preening pretty boy in too tight pants, her glossy coat spreading out around her as she showed off her stuff. She seemed to think she ruled the roost that girl but it was never long before one of the others would peck her down. Maybe Elsa or Esther, neither of whom was as showy but they still knew how to walk the floor, chest thrust forward, bum perfectly poised at the ideal angle, head and shoulders back, eyes fixed forwards.

It was hypnotic watching them from behind the thick glass of our kitchen window. We'd settle in with our velvety hot chocolates that coated our tongues as they slipped down our throats and gaze, sometimes for hours, as the proud girls went through their rituals. We loved them all for different reasons. Esmé for her sheer brass, working the floor as if she'd been born to it. Elsa for her grace, when she swept across the yard it was as if she elevated it, shading it's drab greys and browns with her sophisticated style. And Esther was a tap dancer, fast and coordinated, showy but never cheap, she never missed a beat. But perhaps our favourite was Elsa's twin, born from the same egg, the quiet, bashful Elsie. She didn't often leave the safety of the circle for the loneliness of the yard turned stage but occasionally the others would urge her and push her until she did and then, then something magical happened.

Elsie was like the sad lady singing in the bar you fall into late one night when you'd rather forget everything you ought to remember. The one who seems to be singing only for you and she's not just strumming your pain with her fingers, she is you, she is every sad thing that ever happened to you except somehow she's made it all alright because she's made it beautiful. And you watch her turning round the stage her black cape with the white speckles splaying out around her as she dances off balance and out of time and she is so beautifully flawed that for a moment, just for a moment, you cry for her. But the tears are for yourself and they're not tears of sadness, they're tears of joy because life is beautiful pain.

Of course we didn’t know that then. We were young and naive, hopeful even if our innocence was far from intact and we just knew there was something about Elsie that sang out to us, that touched a chord inside and set it reverberating as a bell rings in a church tower long after the rope has stopped swinging. Oh the others were sweet and funny, even hilarious but Elsie was something else altogether.

And they were our 'Darlings'. So beautiful and brazen and yes so human in their absence of perfection. We watched them for two years until their lives turned into a film noir. We killed them on a Saturday my brother Billy and I. It was a beautiful sunny day, the first day of May and mother needed the meat for the May Day Dance. She was making her famous chicken in a red wine sauce. For twenty-five people. We had no choice. So we crept up behind them as they clucked in their coven, taking them unawares before we snapped their necks. Scarlet splattered across their monochrome coats and their hot blood ran in rivulets down the drain. It was quick if that's any comfort and we took Elsie first, she didn’t even see us coming. We delivered them to the kitchen step where mother would pluck them those beautiful feathers scattering through the farm wherever the wind carried them. Then we stood in silence at the outdoor tap and scrubbed our hands mercilessly in its cold stream.

I wish I could say we felt remorse, that we wished we hadn’t done it or something like that. But we were farm boys, used to death and the messier end of the food chain. For us, it was just the way things were, the ugly in the beautiful, the salt in the sweetness, the death in life. We did miss them though, their shiny coats and their humorous ways. Our next batch were boring brown Bantams, small and uninteresting not nearly as glamorous as the Plymouth Rocks girls and definitely not as dramatic. They never danced around the yard, never illuminated our daily monotony with their humour and grace. And we never sat silent, transfixed by the window, to stare at them hungrily through the thick glass.