for a tree
Feral chickens, the main ingredient, proved to be harder than he'd calculated. Having never heard of a hen-coop, the Scareman hopped over picket fences and skimmed fish ponds until he found some roosting, found them by kicking one over in the dark. Florentin stuffed it headfirst into the burlap sack and tied the mouth closed around its ankles.
It suffocated by the time he got back home, which saved him the trouble of wringing its neck, at least. He prepared it in the dark, afraid that a late light would arouse neighbors, boiling off feathers, decapitating and amputating, then spent nearly an hour by candlelight figuring out how to butcher it from the cookbook. He couldn't handle the first try, dry-heaved over the sink with the chicken in hand like a paper bag. He finally managed to flower and bake it.
Teeth that hadn't tasted flesh in generations bit into a vein of blood–-at that tonguing, Florentin realized something that no other currently-living human had. Bloodlust. Primordial hunger from a time when anything and everything was meant to be eaten.
Pain was the first thing he noticed after—toothaches for one, but also stomach pain.
Florentin calculated in his head—he'd eaten the whole thing, which was about the size of a medium bouquet. He buried the remains. If he could keep this up, it would be the end of the police visits.
Until they bred chicken-chasing butterflies.
At least, that was the plan.
They came with a roar of wings the next day, not bothering with the bell or petunias, dozens of white-hatted men packed so tightly in the parlor that for a moment Florentin had visions of them taking him by the elbow and all levitating in harmony, being dragged to the sky by a pair of wings in the heart. The city's lead inspector was there, death's-head moth solidly affixed, to clap the irons himself. They took him from the crapper, where he'd been the entire night and morning, straight to jail.
They—police, pigs—dug up the bones from the garden, inducing hysterics in the neighbors who averted their children's eyes and cried for the TV cameras. "He was such a nice man, a nice man," they insisted.
Their tears, the chief inspector's smile, matched—nobody ever saw him smile in public because he only smiled at criminals. A smile like that to a Private Citizen would be rightfully considered illegal. The chief inspector said, "Look at you—the Scareman, caged. Know how we caught you?"
Florentin felt down. "It was probably Ven. Got sick of putting up with me. Don't blame her."
"Your wife? No, it was that bookseller. We paid him more than you did."
"Yeah? What'd you get for it?"
Chief Inspector leaned in close to his prisoner, nearly putting an eye out on Florentin's clove cigarette. "Something worth more than Venus Florentin's little bribes. Audacious bribes, like putting out a platter of cocaine for the DEA."
Florentin let a crack of a grin out with the next cloud of smoke. "Almost worked, didn't it?"
"Nothing can mask what you did! Willful death of a living creature! There's only one punishment fit for that."
"Flowers are alive too, you know that?"
"And it's not the worst—we've got you tied to grave robbery. Armed robbery. Terrorism."
"Can you imagine this society evolving any further? When plants are protected life?" Florentin looked at the cigarette. "Can't smoke tobacco, can't eat flowers. How would you feed the world? Give them dirt?"
"They're calling you the greatest criminal in the history of the city." It was a conversation where nobody listened. "You're going down as an example, Florentin. If we show any mercy, there'd be anarchy! People would be bathing in blood again, to get their eternal youth."