[lit-ideas] Sunday Something

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 1 Feb 2015 14:02:09 -0800

I stepped into the glorious winter sunshine, a cup of coffee in hand, taking 
time to think about how to teach in sixteen weeks the history of the world in 
the twentieth century.  Not a small problem.  At my feet chickens gathered, 
tip-toeing about.
"Shush," he's thinking.
"Is bread involved?"
"Or pizza?"
"Can't see."
"What's that in his hand?"
"Don't think it's edible."
"He's drinking.  Maybe it's white water?"
I looked down.  They were making quiet interrogatory noises, respectful, 
earnest.  I turned my attention to a different problem: what part of Burns' 
life to address on Saturday night.  When we host a Burns supper I try to 
illuminate, each year, some aspect of the poet's career.
"What are you thinking about?" Mimo inquired.
"What are they?"
"It's the name of a poet."
"We quite like those," Cheddar affirmed.  "Did he write about chickens?"
There are times in everyone's life when an ethical challenge proves too great.  
As they looked at me eagerly, in the happiness of the moment I couldn't find it 
in my heart to deny them.
"Of course," I lied.  
Everyone who has ever lied will know what happened next.  A sink hole opened 
before me.  
"Recite some," Mimo commanded.
"Recite some, please, is what was meant," Appenzeller corrected her less polite 
Suddenly a synapse did whatever synapses do.  I knew not only where the 
twentieth century course would begin but also that I was going to explore why 
Burns did not become a dramatist.  You'll recall, of course, one of Scotland's 
first staged plays, John Homes', "Douglas," was performed just before Burns' 
birth.  The rise of Scottish theater coincides with the development of Burns' 
talent.  I made a note to check whether he'd ever written anything for actors 
(I later found two prologues).  It's a funny thing with minds; you might 
imagine that solving two problems simultaneously might drain the thing 
entirely, but no!  Like buses in my youth, solutions sometimes travel in 
convoys of three.
"It's not in English," I said, "because Burns often composes in Lallans...but I 
think you'll be able to follow.  'Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim'rous beastie, O 
what a panic's in thy breastie!  Thous need n start awa sae hasty Wi' 
chickering chattle!"
"Chickering chattle..!"
"I like that."
"Look at me, I'm chickering!"
They ran away to play.

But not to play sport.  For a while I thought the chickens had given up that 
particular aspiration.  Hiding eggs seemed to be as close as they were going to 
come to a game.  E. modified that behavior by lifting eggs she discovered and 
returning them to the nesting box.  By force of example the girls were 
persuaded to resume their former routine and we're now back to an adequate 
supply.  With the Superbowl imminent, the Australian Open Final too, I dropped 
hints in conversation, trying to work out what kind of sport may have taken 
their fancy.  I mentioned Arsenal's recent successes and how the golf was 
going.  Nothing seemed to pique their interest.  The only sign that all was not 
normal came when I took the recycling past Rocky and to the bins.  As she 
scratched, I could hear she was whispering something. Returning with quieter 
steps, I was just able to catch what she was saying.  As she bent forward to 
push gravel backwards and out of the way, it was "Hut, hut, hut."  Of course it 
may mean nothing; she was facing the coop at the time.

David Ritchie,
To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: