In “Arkansas Chicken Apocalypse,” by Micah Dean Hicks, it is evident that all humans are controlled by money. This obsession with making profit often motivates people to behave thoughtlessly. Because life is an endless cycle of “clocking in and clocking out,” this pattern and mindset accompanies us “into the grave.” By constantly mentioning money/death and providing detailed descriptions of the fallen chickens, Hicks creates a compelling plot with an important moral payoff.
The detailed description of the dead chickens creates an emotional investment in the immediate action while preparing one for the closing of the story. Hicks explains that he and the other children “threw the chickens at one another…prodded them with their fingers” while others “ate the dead chickens.” He then goes on to describe that the meat “smelled like deli odor mixed with cigarettes” and made the children feel ill. The graphic description of the cleanup scene highlights the darkness of the situation. Most individuals would not agree to such a disturbing task, but these children are all in desperate need of money. This motivates them to arrive and act inappropriately, objectifying the chickens as “footballs” and “meat” instead of addressing the loss of life. It is evident that money in this instance has pushed these children into an unhealthy position. But this is not where the story ends. Hicks’ main goal is not to just recount a horrific childhood memory.
He goes on to use pointed word-choice to highlight the importance of death and money. The words used evoke the idea that death surrounds him. There is “dead grass,” “dead ground,” “dead chickens,” and death “welded to his shoes.” We are repeatedly reminded that death is one of the central elements of this story; all humans die eventually and continue to work even when they arrive at their grave. Word choice also emphasizes the power of money in the story’s plot. The author repeatedly mentions being paid. By emphasizing this idea, it becomes clear that money is controlling the speaker’s motivations. Hicks alerts the reader to pay attention subconsciously to these themes and this allows a moral argument to be made in the conclusion. Because these ideas have been referenced so explicitly throughout, the ending falls into place.
Hicks has mastered the idea of an inevitable yet surprising ending. The piece does not attempt to provide any morals or broader ideas until the end of story. To do it before would feel undeserved. But because we are alerted to central ideas and the brutal ways in which the chickens were treated, we have a moral investment. We need an explanation as to how these teenagers could treat the bodies of living things with such little care. What motivates them to act in this way? Imagery and word choice guide us to this question. All the details included serve a very specific purpose. This story also does more than just entertain the reader by describing a disturbing situation. It uses that information to create an important moral argument. Non-fiction is effective when it takes the writer’s personal experiences and adds a message or idea that can be of value to others. Hicks achieves this in “Arkansas Chicken Apocalypse.”