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For nearly a year, a mysterious free-range chicken has been spotted grazing alongside the interstate in Chattanooga.
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A blurry shot of Esmeralda strutting dangerously close to the yellow line.

We call her Esmeralda, a fitting name, we decided, for such a beautiful and mysterious chicken.

For the past 10 months, my boyfriend and I have had regular-ish sightings of Esmeralda alongside the busy interstate on-ramp near our home. She appears remarkably out of place there, this portly, black-feathered bird, foraging among the litter, unruffled by the constant rumble of traffic. We have become casually obsessed with her origins.

My boyfriend thinks she's feral, but "wild chickens don't exist," I tell him — and then make a mental note to research that later. Once, I spent an entire afternoon walking nearby neighborhoods, peering into backyards for a coop. Alas, nothing.

So we continue to speculate about her history. We wonder if others do, too. We take notes of our sightings like field scientists.

"Sunny, mid-morning. Saw Ezzy on the opposite side of the road, near underpass," I text him, attaching a photo of a black blur strutting dangerously close to the yellow line.

Sometimes, Esmeralda disappears for weeks or more. During that time, we become convinced of her fate: a hawk; a tractor-trailer. Then, one day, she's back, pecking crumbs off the pavement with a flock of crows.

"She's a survivor," I say.

"You should write a story about her," my boyfriend says.

"I should," I agree.

But what would I write? Esmeralda is but a flash, a quick question mark on my commute, that thing you mean to look up later but never do.

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Sunny Montgomery
Sunny Montgomery

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