Jesse Minkert
Betty and Dupree

Dupree saw Betty bathing in the dust. Betty was a widow. A coyote killed her husband while she sat on her eggs in her nest in the high grass by the fence. The Guinea cocks danced in a line, heads to the ground, wings up over their backs, charming the hens with their prowess, but Betty had been through all that. The younger cocks bored her. The older were married. Hers was dead. Roosters keep harems; Guinea fowl mate one-to-one for life. It's not a decision. It's how they lived on the savannahs. Dupree cared naught for the hens of his coop. Glossy black legs, crimson tail and wings, Dupree could take whom he wanted. He saw Betty bathing in the dust.

Melissa, the girl, was twelve. She chased Dupree with a broom, yelling, "This ain't nature! Nature don't want this! You're going to the hell for chickens!"

Melissa's mom snatched the broom away. "Leave them be," she said. "Nobody made you the law-giver for roosters and Guinea hens. They're just birds, and anyway, they're happy."

Years flew by. Betty and Dupree lived in chicken sin into their old age and expired within hours of each other. Melissa met Ray at church. They snuggled and kissed on hay rides. They turned eighteen, and Raymond bent his knee to her. Melissa danced in her room, watching the light flash from the ring on her finger.

Then on her nineteenth birthday, she saw Natalie, walking in the road, scuffing bare feet through the dust.