[lit-ideas] Sunday Something

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 5 Oct 2014 11:22:06 -0700

Being in sole charge of the chickens is not normally onerous; you give them 
fresh water, check the food supply, say "Good morning," let them out.  In the 
evening if it's not raining and there's time, you have a bit of a chat, watch 
the light on the trees, chuck bread or chips on the straw under Fort Squawk, 
close the outer door and let them put themselves to bed.  One day this week, 
things were different.  Having done all of the above except put the girls to 
bed, I fetched the chips bag and crackled it.  All save Appenzeller came 
running up.  Where was she?  To the irritation of the four, I waited, repeating 
the noise.
"Yes, we're here."
"Look down if you would."
"Right at your feet."
"Your feet."
I walked up the steps and around to the concrete patio, four in tow and 
muttering.  I let out a shout.  The side gate was open.  I'm guessing that 
someone going door-to-door to sell windows or to raise money for some cause had 
decided our back door was actually an entrance.  Maybe it was someone casing 
the house.  You can imagine that conversation.
"Hello," says Peccorino.
"Are you a burglar?"
"What's a burglar?"
"It's what the dog's for."
Maybe we should put up a notice?  "This is not an entrance."  But then there'd 
be the Magritte problem; burglars might think it was art.  These thoughts 
helped me cope with a rising sense of fear that Appenzeller had been eaten and 
that I'd find a pile of feathers somewhere.
"Shall we step out?"
"No," I said, "I'm going alone.  You stay here."
"Be careful.  We were out earlier." 
 You could see signs all along the side of the house; they'd scratched between 
the willows and worked their way past the celtic stone circle and into the 
front garden.  It was, I realized, a sensible route; they'd stuck to cover, 
working their way like an infantry patrol in enemy territory.  I shook the bag 
of chips and then tried, "Bu, bu, bu, Bob," which is my imitation of one kind 
of chicken call. 
Came the advice from behind our gate, "Actually none of us goes by 'Bob.'"
Jeeves appeared, maybe thinking I had forgotten how to call him.  He took one 
look at the cluster of chickens behind the gate and decided the front door 
might be a better option. 
I asked, "So where's Appenzeller?"
"No idea."
"Did she cross the road?"
"Why would a chicken cross the road?"
I decided to lock the four in and go off in search.  I checked one final and 
unlikely possibility--that Appenzeller was already in bed.  Sure enough...there 
she was, nicely tucked up.  Must have been an exhausting excursion.

For days now I've been waiting for the last guppy to die.  The tank is down to 
the equivalent of one Confederate widow clinging on.  When she floats sideways, 
all will be gone.  They've had a good run, or swim.  I wonder if I should make 
a memorial plaque.

Refried beans, runner beans and beets went out on the gravel together.  Sounds 
like the beginning of a joke.  The chickens were sheltering from unseasonal 
heat, deep in the shade of the juniper bush, all except for Appenzeller who has 
gone broody.  Post traumatic front garden experience disorder?  Peccorino was 
the first to investigate the offering, with Mimo and Cheddar not far behind.  P 
and M each took a try of the refrieds and then set to wiping their beaks clean. 
 Cheddar had a go; same response.  Rocky came running up and officiously told 
them all to stand back.  She's become quite the bully, also since the great 
escape.  If a chicken can laugh up its sleeve, that's what the three of them 
were doing.  Sure enough Rocky got beans stuck on her beak.  The others walked 
off, ignoring beets and runners.  Cheddar circled back.  Later I asked Cheddar 
whether she had found a dignified solution to the sticky beak issue, "Bugger 
dignity," she said, "it's FOOD!"

After twenty four hours of fermentation I gave the Riesling grapes one final 
press, closed their juice in the carboy and wondered what to do with the skins. 
 I figured they might make a good evening treat for chickens.  Appenzeller was 
already in bed but Rocky, Mimo, Peccorino and the lagging Cheddar followed me 
to the compost heap where I dumped my cargo in a single pile.  Rocky climbed on 
top of the pile and challenged all comers.  I chased her off and divided the 
stash into smaller piles.  Rocky tried rushing from one to the next, claiming 
all.  Cheddar and the others just kept moving.  Soon they were all enjoying 
happy hour.  It occurred to me that even a small amount of alcohol might not be 
good for a chicken, so I cut them off by rattling the chip bag.  They followed 
me home to Fort Squawk singing "Tipperary," which has become a favorite.  
Appenzeller greeted them like Tam O'Shanter's wife.

David Ritchie,
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