[lit-ideas] Hereabouts

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 13 Sep 2015 12:29:13 -0700

I put two cobs out on the gravel. They still had corn attached. The two
biggest chickens, Rocky and Appenzeller, tried to stand over these prizes,
putting anyone else who wanted some at risk of their pecking, but Cheddar
apparently feels bolder and more wily first thing in the morning than she does
at dusk; she asserted her right to corn and found her way through their
defensive perimeter. Up came Mimo, fresh from laying an egg. Though Mimo's
normally a leader, she's lighter in stature than those three and on this
particular morning it was Big Girls First and Big Girls Only. Where Peccorino
was, I don't know. Off looking for the Northwest Passage possibly.
The chicken hierarchy's apparent fluidity contrasts with hierarchies of dogs or
cats or primates. Who gets to eat when is established with no more than a
quick peck and bit of feathery bluster. No snarling fights or caterwauling.

I asked the chickens whether they were in favor of welcoming refugees.
"Do they taste good?"
"You don't eat them, you share space with them."
"Like mice?"
"No," I said, "like men."
Mimo didn't catch that, "So these refuge horses, what do they eat?"
"Middle eastern things." I said, vaguely, wanting to avoid all mention of
chicken. "Nothing high up your list of favorites."
"Refuge *easts* sounds closer to what you have in mind," Peccorino offered.
Mimo, "Whatever. They're welcome to share both our abode and abudance. Right
Peccorino, "I might have reservations about maintenance of the pecking order."
"Don't we all?" said Cheddar.
Peccorino, "So in re. and viz, will it be properly maintained?"
Appenzeller, "If we get ref-huges?"
"Put it this way," I said, "If a horde of hungry and desperate men were to
come here, there might be a feast."
"Oh," said Rocky, "good. I trust they'll bring beef."

Afterwards, I cooked ribs. The dog's teeth are worn and marrow gives him the
runs. Since there were too few bones for stock, I thought it might be
interesting to put some out for the chickens. When I checked about twenty
minutes later, there was but one bone still in view. I'm guessing they dragged
them into the bushes, but who knows? It was week like that, mysterious in
several ways. On the eve of the holiday, while we were deep into convivial
dinner conversation with people around the table, L. reached over to the
doorknob to let Sonsie in. She failed to notice that his mouth was full of
mouse. Ever since then we've been hunting the critter--the mouse, not
Sonsie--with absolutely no luck. Nor scat nor scratching nor decomposing smell
betrays its presence. Later in the week when I was trying to get Sonsie in, I
heard a large-scale rustling in the woods. Not coyote large, I thought, but
maybe a bobcat, raccoon, skunk or possum enjoying what remained of the ribs.
Or an animal spirit come to commune with Wensleydale. When I made loud and (I
hope) threatening noises, it retreated, without revealing its terrestrial form.
I made a mental note to clean up after the girls.

When you're writing a play you often welcome dialog that seems to appear out of
the ether. Sometimes, though, it's more like an errant radio signal, drifting
in like the sports commentary I used to get in the car that only had a.m.
radio, from Texas or somewhere. The current play has only two characters;
there is no "we" and no one named Patsy.

Voice One: And what is your name?
Voice Two: Patsy.
Voice One: Oh excellent. We're always happy to welcome a patsy.

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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