[lit-ideas] Sunday Something

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 12 Oct 2014 12:54:33 -0700

Cheddar and I are have had a fortunate week.

It's common knowledge that your quiet ones can be surprising.  I find with 
timid students you have to make auditory space, not just give them a chance to 
talk but strew the chips around so that the others, busy eating, with mouths 
full shut up.  So when I went out with a bowl of squash seeds, bananas and 
soggy tomatoes I put it on the gravel and stepped back aways.  Where I found 
Cheddar, surrounded by feathers.
"Eh up," I began, deploying the patois of Derbyshire.
"Nice day," said Cheddar.
"Autumn seems to have given us a harvest of feathers."
"No," she said, "they're mine."
"Molting time, is it?"
"I noticed that when I distribute bread of an evening you are reluctant to join 
the rush."
"One has to come to terms with one's position in the world."
"Which is?"
"Have you heard of totem poles."
"Indeed I have.  Lovely things.  But where would you have heard about them."
She became vague, "Wensleydale, owls, ravens...so on and so forth."
"Well I always thought the figure on the bottom must be the strongest one.  I 
mean, it must take quite an effort to hold up that entire column, right?"
"You're echoing.  I do that sometimes."
"Go on."
"Well it turns out that in reality the figure on the bottom doesn't get all the 
gratitude you might expect."
"Quite the contrary.  The figure on the bottom gets pecked."
"Who gave her that name, Rocky?  Very bad idea.  It's gone to her head.  And 
Peccorino?  She takes the first syllable a little too literally, is my view.  
Back when Wensleydale was alive..."
"You think she's dead?"
"What do you take me for, stupid?"
"No, no, no."
"Back when Wensleydale was alive the two of us offered one another mutual 
support.  But now look...  Madam Mussolini over there..."
"Where on earth would you have learned that name?"
"One of the dogs below is named Da Vinci.  He claims to be Italian."
"You're a dark horse."
"No, I'm a Buff Orpington.  I think you'll find that horses are bigger."

On the egg front things have gone strangely quiet.  No triumphant trumpeting; 
very little production.  Appenzeller is broody, but that can't be the whole 
tale.  I walked the yard over, looking for some place where the girls might 
have set up a dead drop or something similarly le Carré, but surveillance and 
scrutiny revealed nothing.  Under the wheelbarrow, nada.  Behind the surplus 
cedar fencing, nothing.  In the woods near Wensleydale, not a thing.  Down from 
four eggs to one a day, I called a conference.
"Have some tortillas.  They're stale."
"Very nice," said Captain Mimo, "we like those."
"Everything fine?  Bedding perch set to your sleep comfort number?  Endless 
supply of food exactly to your satisfaction?"
Peccorino gave me the stare.  "What have we done?"
"It's a free country," I said, "and you're free range chickens.  I was just 
wondering if you've...well you know when you require privacy?"
Rocky saw a moment of rhetorical advantage, "I hope you're not going to mention 
pooh.  That's not what we dwell on."
"I poopoo pooh," said Captain Mimo, demonstrating exactly what she meant by 
walking away from fresh evidence.
"No," I said.  "I was merely wondering whether Appenzeller continued presence 
in the bedroom was maybe putting you off laying."
"Laying what?" asked Cheddar.
"Eggs," I said, "eggs?"
"Eeeeegs?" they chorused.
"Yes," I said, "they're the point."
"Oww no," said Mimo.
"No, no," Rocky confirmed.
Peccorino offered, "There's no point to an egg.  Everyone knows that!"
"Completely pointless," I agreed.

The girls were headed towards the compost pile, as was I, when overhead there 
came a V of geese.  Rocky stopped and gave them the stern eye, that long look 
chickens have, head turned completely sideways.  "Probably not a threat," she 
"They're geese," I explained, "migrating..."
A memory stirred in her head.  You could practically see her unwrapping it, 
"Like dog food?"

Cheddar has become an increasingly lonely figure, ever hanging back when the 
others rush forward to gobble a new offering.  With an afternoon appointment 
which might stretch to the early evening, I decided on Friday to close up Fort 
Squawk before I left.  Accordingly I called and three came running: Peccorino, 
Rocky, Mimo.  I looked inside.  Appenzeller was brooding.  So where was 
Cheddar?  I spied her deep in the brush.
"I'm not coming out,"
"Not even if you offered me my own tortilla."
"But I have to go," I explained.  "The others are all inside."
"I hold Wensleydale in my heart."
What could I say except, "Be careful."  I returned much later than expected, 
told L. the tale, went with flashlight in hand searching the bushes for either 
a bloody pile of feathers or a sleeping bird.  I reasoned that she would roost 
off the ground somewhere close to the others.  I found her almost immediately, 
perched on a piece of wrought iron gate someone had given us.  She mumbled when 
I lifted her up, as children sometimes will when they fall asleep on the couch 
and you carry them to bed.  
It's probably coincidental that we were woken in the night by coyotes yipping 
down in the valley.  Not howling, yipping.  All the dogs in the world 
responded.  And then an owl added comments.  

I rose at five thirty to go crabbing. We loaded up and pumped the trailer tires 
because it has been a while.  We did our usual trip check after half a mile or 
so, to see if the trailer was seated right and whether we'd done something 
stupid like left a life jacket where the wind could blow it away.  All looked 
fine.  After a wet start, the weather improved.  As you near the coast you 
climb steeply, get through the pass, drop down to the manure smells of 
Tillamook.  We bought top grade fuel for the boat, drove to the boat ramp, got 
ready to put the bung in and launch.  It was at this point in the proceedings 
that we noticed a droop in the trailer's tongue.  The metal had rusted from the 
inside out and has cracked through.  We aren't going crabbing.  The boat 
returns to town on top of a flatbed truck, courtesy of AAA.  Had the tongue 
snapped on an uphill or downhill stretch...

As I said, it's been a lucky week.

David Ritchie,
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