[lit-ideas] Sunday Something

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 14 Dec 2014 11:00:51 -0800

We're headed towards end-of-semester student evaluations.  Just for fun I 
thought I might perform the same exercise with chickens.  It took some 
"Gather round," I called.  "This here's group W."
"Yes," I said, "in a bit."
"Would that be a big bit?  I'm feeling peckish."
"We're always peckish.  It's our perpetual state of being."
"Nothing perpetual about a tortilla!"
"Round, like the sun," said Cheddar, giving my hands careful scrutiny.
"Well now," I said, "isn't it a lovely day."  I began this way partly because 
it was no less than the truth, but also because rumor has it that some among my 
colleagues prepare the ground for the evaluative moment.  With gifts.  No doubt 
they picked the trick up from George Washington, who, as was customary, was 
wont to distribute rum before an election.  Since the students' responses have 
an afterlife in the college's peer review system and since we have but three 
tenured professors left on the payroll, I can imagine the rumor may have some 
solid foundation.  I pressed on, "We must review outcomes and dashboard..."
Cheddar was listening as carefully as she was watching.  "Dash *towards* a 
I apologize for slipping into contemporary administrative jargon.  "Maybe I 
should have stopped at, 'review our outcomes.'  Simple and short."
"Pooh, you mean?"  Rocky was trying to follow.
"Doesn't seem worth much *review*," said Mimo.  "I just step away."
"That's the normal thing..."
"... *in re.* pooh."
"Our contract," I continued, "is that I provide you with food, water, shelter; 
you lay eggs.  With me?"
They all took one step backwards.
"Are eggs actually an outcome?"
"*Qua* outcome?"
"Not...in perpetuity," said Appenzeller.
"Point of order..." Peccorino began.
"Oh look," Rocky exclaimed, "away under that bush."
And they all moved away from me.  
I had fun, playing with the pencils on the bench.

Up betimes--around dawn--I estimated when the danger of coyotes had faded and 
let the insistent cat out, whereupon the other came trotting downstairs, 
"Food?"   The dog was already gobbling breakfast al fresco.  He then trotted 
off to do business in the woods.  I checked the cat's bowl and mentioned to him 
that this is where food may be found, got the newspaper in, walked out to the 
chicken coop.  The girls peered through the wire.
"Morning," I offered.
"Is it?"
"We're not sure."
"On account of the white bit."
"Mist?  Comes with mellow fruitfulness, like pie and custard.  Quite 
natural...seasonal.  Nothing untoward about it."
If you've ever heard chickens being inquisitive, you'll know the noise.  It 
translates, "Is that so?"  Or, sometimes, "So *you* say."
I opened the door.  "There you go."  But actually they didn't; there was no 
crossing of the bar.  
"A mite too early?"  I asked.
Appenzeller elaborated, "It's the visibility you see."
"Could be predators, lurking in the white stuff."  
"The cat's out," I said.
"That," said Mimo, "is between the cat and nature."
Changing the subject I inquired after their general health.  Mimo said, 
"Peccorino has been living up to her name.  Very sharp beak on that bird."
"Did you do or say something to provoke her?"
"I may have mentioned the egg aspect."
"No one laying, you mean?"
"Senior management have held meetings on the subject.  We're agreed the lower 
orders must try harder."
"Lower orders?"
"We've instructed them to lay."
"That would make them...'layer orders,' surely?"
"Let's not split hairs."
"Or feathers."  I counted on my fingers, "Three managers... two workers?"  
Rocky and Appenzeller bobbed their heads.  "That is correct."
Godlike, I closed the door and disappeared into the mist.  Behind me there was 
a chorus of, "Oooh!"

The chickens decided that when they aren't laying they ought to contribute 
something creative.  They settled on drama and are at work on a play called, 
"Smug and the Tale of Utter Tosh."  It's apparently about a dragon, who lives 
beneath the ground, like Douglas Fir squirrels in winter.  The dragon 
terrorizes all who, like me, wear the ring.  I think there may be, as students 
write, "a metaphorical aspect."   The other god's coming home next week.  Since 
her bedroom is closer to the coop than mine, I figured the least I could do was 
establish a nighttime moratorium on rehearsals.

David Ritchie,
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