[lit-ideas] Sunday Something

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 8 Mar 2015 12:34:35 -0700

When I go out into the back garden (or yard) the chickens come running up.  
This is not about sociability; food is on their minds.  They make lots of 
noises.  There's a kind of a long, "Whaaaaat?" sound, a sound that others have 
characterized as "chook, chook," and an ululation.  That's a fancy word to use 
to describe chickens, but I can't think of another.  It's low, it's warbling, 
it interrogates.  
"Banana, strawberry tops, pizza, leftover bread, what's it to be?"  Wooola, 
wooola, wooola?  
I keep my hands in my pockets, stand still, listen.

It's been quite a week for the chickens.  The weather has been fabulous; their 
hours of freedom have not.  Wednesday was a hard day, out from seven thirty 
till ten in the morning and then shut up for the rest.  Had the day been drear 
and rainy, I might have been judged less severely, but Wednesday, like much of 
the week, was sunny.  L. opened the coop on Thursday morning.  I asked if there 
had been complaints.  She said, "No, they seemed fine."
"Ha!" was my reaction, but actually she was right.  When I stepped out I found 
the chickens had new concerns.
Mimo came up.
"I'm not interrupting you?"
"No, no," I said, lying as one does when a student needs help.  I actually 
wanted to think about what to write in my annual self-evaluation.  It's a work 
ritual.  "Now is a good time."
"I've been wondering, you see..."
"...whether gods have problems.  I mean when you've all that power and...access 
to food...do you even feel the cold?"
"Have you been cold?  I could close the inner door at night?"
"I was merely giving a for instance."
I thought before I spoke.  She walked up and down, patiently, like someone 
outside a courtroom waiting on a verdict.  
I tried, "We also have gods in our lives."
"Gods for gods?! How extraordinary."
"No," I said, "it's the way of things.  There are those with power over us in 
the way I have power over you.  Well not exactly the same, but...close enough."
"Do they throw pizza?"
"Metaphorically...I suppose...from time to time."
"I bet it's twenty foot across."
"What is?"
"Metaphorical pizza.  Is there any to spare?"
"Where do you think yours comes from?"
"You mean I've eaten a god's god's pizza?"
"You have."
"But it wasn't metaphorical.  I'm sure I'd remember a pizza that was 
"No, it wasn't metaphorical."
"More, sort of spherical?"
"Round, anyway."
"You're right, spherical's entirely wrong.  What was I thinking?"
Pecorino came up.  "I dunno.  What were you thinking?"
Rather than explain, Mimo lied, "I forget."
Pecorino wasn't fooled, "I hope that's not a lie.  In a tight community must be 
able to rely on one another.  We must  trust."
"Solidarity of the roost," Mimo intoned.
Cheddar ran up, "Solidarity of the roost."
Appenzeller appeared, "Natural Order!"
Cheddar had been waiting for this, "I was wondering how any order can be 
natural if we voted on it?  We don't vote on trees, or rain?"
Rocky, "Wish we could.  All those in favor of rain?"
I asked if I could vote too.
Apenzeller looked at me with suspicion, "Who makes the weather, if you don't?"
Mimo offered, "There are gods for gods."
Four, "Whaaaaaaaaat?"
Mimo, "He said so.  Gods for gods."
Cheddar said she thought the theological implications alone were staggering.
I said, "That's an old line from Peanuts."

"Yes," said Mimo, later, "objectively speaking there are differences."
I asked, "Between what and what?"
"Between that which a beak can penetrate and that which is of no use at all.  
Take this last lost of pizza, for example."
Appenzeller, "That which the dog stole?"
Mimo was not to be interrupted, "Speaking for myself..."
"Always a good idea," Cheddar interjected.
"...I was happy to let him have it.  Kant, was my verdict.  Impenetrable."
Four: "Whaaaaaaaat?"
"Maybe I meant can't."
Cheddar nodded, "Can't is what she meant."
Appenezeller asked if better beak sharpening tools might be the answer.  
"Where," I wondered aloud, "would I look for beak-sharpening aids?  Raptors R 
Rocky told me not to be snarky, which I thought was a bit rich, coming from 
For want of something better to contribute, I suggested they all try a week of 
John Stuart Mill.
Pecorino, who you'll remember is a bit status-conscious when it comes to the 
pecking order, wanted to know whether this Mill was well-regarded.
"He is respected," I said.  "Very good on liberty.  'Freedom for the pike means 
death for the minnow.'"
"Nice," said Mimo. "What's good for pikes, will work beaks."
Cheddar wondered what a minnow is.

David Ritchie,
Portland, Oregon

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