The other chicken god, my daughter, is thinking of getting her own place. She
asked whether I want to keep the chickens. While I was mulling this over I
looked out the window and caught a squirrel helping himself to kibble. I
rushed out to explain that those who do not contribute to the common cause are
not welcome at my trough. He gave me the evil eye, as if to say, “How many
eggs you had recently, then?”
The girls have indeed become a burden on the common purse, freeloaders. I sat
down to weigh options. Possibly sensing, as animals can, the precariousness of
their position, the chickens gathered round and scrabbled industriously in the
gravel. “Look,” they seemed to be saying, “we’re fending for ourselves."
“Tell us a story,” Cheddar suddenly suggested. They all nodded, “Good idea. A
I saw through the ploy but nonetheless responded with the first thing that came
into my head, “Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet, eating her curds and whey.
Down came a spider and sat down beside her, and frightened Miss Muffet away.”
Rocky wanted to know why she didn’t eat it.
“Eat what?” I asked. “The curds?”
Rocky sighed. Gods can be so slow, “The spider!"
“Gods don’t eat spiders.” I explained. "They eat…whey.”
Mimo was intrigued, “What do they taste like, these ways of which you speak?”
What do curds and whey taste like? “Yoghourt maybe? Cottage cheese?”
Mimo pounced, “You hesitate.”
“Well,” I said, “I’ve tasted curds, at a cheese-making place. Probably whey
too; I can’t remember much flavor at all.”
Rocky, “So you, a god, do not know the Way?”
“You might say that.”
Pecorino was not going to stomach such prevarication, “It’s binary: you either
are or are not a chicken; you are or are not a god.”
Cheddar rescued me for this philosophical problem, “What’s a tuffet?”
“I assume it’s like a tuft. Or maybe a piece of furniture. A milking stool?
A grassy knoll?”
Appenzeller was losing faith, “He doesn’t know anything!”
“No,” I said. “I’m not a god so you can leave any time you want. Hop over the
fence and off into the wide world you go."
“Tuft,” Cheddar nodded in a conciliatory manner. “I can see that.”
Appenzeller looked around, “Where? Show me.” It came out as a challenge. I
thought maybe I might have a rebellion on my hands, which could provide a
solution to my problem. I imagined a news item on refugee chickens hiking
along Interstate 84.
But no. My reverie was interrupted. “What’s a Muffet?”
“It’s a name. Like…Wensleydale.”
Mimo came running up. “Wensleydale?”
Cheddar said, “Wensleydale was a Muffet.”
I then put my foot in it, “There are also muff*in*s.”
A tangle resulted. Eventually we established that there was nothing new to eat
imminently or in the immediate vicinity. I promised that next time we had
muffins in the house I’d be sure to let them try some. Ditto curds or whey.
Everyone relaxed. I wondered what future I was agreeing to. The squirrel
returned and sat down on the edge of our circle. Had I attached a “sucker”
sign to my own back?
“Nice bit of sunshine,” I said.
“General nodding, “Yes, yes.” Were they thinking, “Got him figured?”
Cheddar offered, "I like the sound of ‘tuffets.’ Tuffet… Look, I’m being
buffeted by tuffets.” She staggered around, miming being buffeted by wind.
I said aloud, “Now there’s a god you might want: Warren Buffet. Ideal for a
chicken—buckets of bucks, lives where they grow corn. If we go one god down
hereabouts, why not mount an expedition to Omaha? I could give you directions.
Make your case to become Warren Buffet’s chickens.”
Mimo was not delighted by the proposal, “Warren? That’s rabbits!”
I warmed to my theme, “Corn as far as the eye can see. Just a few miles up
They weren’t buying it.
Rocky spoke for all, “Home is where the heart is. Also the food sources.”
They started muttering about a diet of worms. I could work out if it was a
complaint or a promise. Eventually they tired on my silence and wandered off.
Reluctant to leave the sunshine, I sat for a while and enjoyed the sound of
their scratching in the forest and general chit chat. Other birds were doing
their thing. Spring seemed to be in prospect. It was very pleasant. When I
returned to work I decided to take the food container in with me. Why give
everyone bits when there was a more natural solution?
About an hour later, there came a polite knock on the window. Mimo led the
delegation. “I wonder if you’ve noted that squirrels have a tendency to steal
“Indeed,” I said, “I have.”
“Well,” said Mimo, “you’ll hardly believe this, but they’ve stolen the
Appenzeller exhibited impatience, “We need Poirot!”
Rocky shouted, “Poirot for pellets.”
I was flabbergasted. How could they know that name? I tried asking, but the
girls were not going to be diverted by trivial questions concerning which
little bird said what. “Poirot’s the man for pellet theft,” Mimo assured me.
“Very sound on buckets.”
“Sound,” Cheddar echoed.
I spotted the squirrel halfway up a Douglas Fir, “Look, that’s him, right
They ran to the base of the tree and yelled up, “Poirot! Poirot?”
“No,” I said, “I what I meant was...”
I put the food back out.
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