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An indentured man heads toward the exit of the barn after performing his morning chores. The horses are nose-deep in their oats and hay. The bay mare and her colt are doing fine. The stalls were mucked. Water changed. The pigs are waking up and wandering toward their outdoor pen. The man turns his head and greets a barn cat dozing on a stall partition. He pauses to give the cat a few pets and a scritch behind the ears, murmuring what a good girl she is. Moxy is their best mouser, and keeps the barn free of infestation. Moxy begins to lick her paws, so the man continues on his way.

Next job is to first wash his hands, then go collect eggs from the henhouse and rouse all the chickens. The eggs will be brought to the main house for breakfast. His stomach grumbles at the thought of breakfast. Breakfast is his favorite meal. There was never enough breakfast left in the foster home he grew up in, and most of his memories of school were waiting out hunger until subsidized lunches were available.

He pauses at the barn entrance and looks back. It still feels weird to him to live out here in the country, to be trusted with these animals, to not see miles and miles of concrete and brick and cars. To hear the grass move in the wind instead of horns and feet on sidewalks. In a funny way, he reckons that getting caught after committing that string of ATM thefts was the best thing that ever happened to him.
Back in the city, the gang he was in was obsessed with territory, power, and money. Well, out here, the man had his own territory. Power, not so much. Money, not so much. Small government stipend in the bank every month. But territory… this is his place. This is his barn. The loft is his bed.The man smiles. Not too shabby.

He glances down at his naked form. Also, getting fit and ripped as hell was a pretty damn good unintended consequence too. A rooster crows loudly, reminding the man not to dilly-dally. He was generally left alone to supervise himself, but one step out of line and the ranch master would appear out of nowhere to put him back in it with that awful whip curled at his side. The man crinkles his nose. Why ruin a fine morning that way? He walks over to the hen house and opens the wooden doors. Fluffy, brown and white chickens spill out to eat new bugs in the dirt, clucking and shaking their feathers.

“Hello ladies, good morning, good morning. Fine day isn’t it?

______________
Captions are fictional.


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