The Terrifying Chicken Freak Show

On the back cover where reviewer’s comments belong, I didn’t have any reviews from people, so my chickens provided their own reviews for “The Bottle Cap Lady” and “How to Explain Christmas To Chickens.”

Emily had this to say: “I enjoyed the whole book. Pearl’s Comedy Coop was the funniest, but The Chicken Freak Show was the scariest. I always had to hide my head under a wing when we got to those parts.”

This chapter was one that almost did not make it into the final story because what happened in Pearl’s dream can be scary, at least to chickens, but I believe it has a lot to say about a special kind of love that gives everything it has to give.

I just wanted everyone to know in case they have sensitive young readers or story listeners (like my Emily).

The Terrifying Chicken Freak Show 

Sorry, but“The Terrifying Chicken Freak Show” proved to be a little too terrifying and a little too jarringly inconsistent with the rest of the book. Rewriting is a must!

 

Here is a huge “THANK YOU!” to everyone who read Saturday’s posted chapter and commented. Sunday I reread all of the way back from the beginning and when I got to that chapter, it truly felt out of place and very jarring. It was a bit as if someone else had inserted a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm, and so I worked on a rewrite which you will find below. It keeps the good parts, cuts out the scary parts and also helps to make some connections to things which happened earlier in the book and prepares for action to happen later. There was also nothing in the original version to help anyone who has bad dreams, so I’ve tried to include advice there too.

How Gracie Got Her Name

It was late winter, not quite spring yet. Not wintery cold, but not springy warm. Just in-between. Gracie had hurt her foot, she had spent most of the day before sitting at the food bowl. I had only realized she was not well when I got home and saw her in almost the same place she had been when I had left for the day. I thought she was just being cute by sitting down in such easy reach of breakfast since they always stand to eat. I regretted being in too much of a hurry to really check on her.

But that in-between day, and for as many days as needed, I was going to stay home with her. She spent hours in my lap, snuggled up inside my soft warm cottony jacket. We would talk and look out over the garden. We would be silent together. Those are not easy days to write about because I was afraid I might lose her as we had lost Blanche.

I did not ask how her foot injury had happened. She may have landed poorly when practicing some new ballet choreography. (She would not have wanted me to think she was less than perfect as a dancer.) She may have jumped down from the roosting perch while it was still too dark for her to see clearly because she was eager to meet the new day. (She would not have wanted me to blame myself for being slow in getting up and going any earlier than I had.)

Sometimes it takes a mishap, an unexpected change in the routine, or an almost tragic event to cause us to appreciate what we have. In that uncertain time, Gracie and I stopped everything and focused on what really mattered.

“Do you know when I first had an idea you wanted to be a ballerina?”

“Was it when I stood on your shoes en pointe for the first time?”

“I remember that day so well. That was when you let everyone, not just me, know your dream was to be a ballerina. You must have been practicing that for days and days, and I imagine it took a great deal of courage to let everyone know your greatest heart’s desire.

“But I knew you loved to dance before then. Maybe before you even knew it yourself or knew the words ‘ballet’ and ‘ballerina.’ It was the day when I named you ‘Gracie,’ another day I will always remember.”

“Will you tell me about it?”

“It was one morning when I saw you coming down the chicken ladder when you were still so young with hardly any comb or wattles. You pointed your toes so perfectly as you moved down the ladder. You spread out all of your fluff feathers like they were the finest tutu ever. You stretched out your neck and head, ready for whatever joys and triumphs…or sorrows…the day held for you. And if there were sorrows, you knew you could dance through them as effortlessly as you had glided down the chicken ladder.”

Gracie turned her head to look at their first original coop in the side yard. “I miss those days so much,” she said. “Things were different then.”

“But we are still the same, you and I. And you still come down the chicken ladder that way after you’ve laid an egg.”

“I do my best,” she said, looking up into my eyes.

“That was before I ever brought out my old record player so you girls would have music to use for practicing ballet. I went to every thrift store in this neighborhood and the next looking for old classical record albums. But you danced even before we had those records, and then afterwards, you and Bessie worked out a remarkable Chinese Dance from The Nutcracker Suite.”

“We made you play that song so many times, we thought it was going to wear out.”

“And if it had I would have found another and another still. But that moment when I saw you coming down the chicken ladder was special. It was when I knew you could hear The Music Of The Morning. It was music I could not hear with my ears. But you, Gracie, you could hear it with your heart, and your heart let out that music through the way you moved. And as I watched you moving so gracefully, I could hear the music with my heart too. And that is why I named you Gracie.”

“Will you still call me ‘Gracie’ even if I am not able to dance gracefully again, even if I am not able to dance at all ever again?”

“Gracie, don’t even think such a thing.”

“But it could happen that way. I may not heal properly.”

“You will always be ‘Gracie’ to me. That is your name. I will always be able to hear the music of your dance in my heart, even if you are never able to dance again.”

“I know. I just needed to hear you say it.” She paused as if relieved of a burden. “Can I tell you something?”

“Of course, Gracie.”

“All I have ever wanted was to matter to someone. You gave me a name, a beautiful name, and every day you have let me know I matter. That is all I have ever wanted. What more could anyone ever want?”

I readjusted my jacket over her body and snuggled her closer to my chest. She looked out into the garden nodding her head gently from side to side, side to side, up, down, up, up, down. As I watched her, I could hear The Music Of The Garden, music only the two of us could hear. And so we sat together, mattering to each other, even if to no one else.

All I ever wanted was to matter to someone. What more could anyone ever want? – Gracie

My Life With Gracie…Every Egg Tells A Story

Every Egg Tells A Story

There it was in the middle of the breakfast salad, a single just-laid egg.

Now this is unusual. Chickens may do many things in “just any old place,” but laying an egg is not one of them. That is done in the dark privacy of the nesting box. They are safe there. Their egg is safe there too.

So you see, this was definitely an unusual event. But I didn’t have time to ask “Who?” or “Why?” before heading off to work. There was only time to ask, “Is everybody okay?” No one said anything, and so I assumed all were well.

It had been a busy Wednesday morning. While I put down their breakfast salad and welcomed everyone to their new day, I mentioned next Wednesday we would have the whole day together because I wouldn’t be going to work. Then I gave them the weather report so they would know what to expect, though I had a feeling they already knew it was going to be an unusually warm day.

But that was all there was time for. No leisurely second cup of coffee. No discussions of what would be blooming next in the garden like the Japanese iris.

There was just enough time to get ready for work and to tell everyone what I always tell them. “Take good care of each other. Remember I love you more than anything here.”

I did wonder about the egg though. Since Gracie’s foot mishap, I have tried to be extra vigilant. What if something was wrong? What if they were too scared to say anything?

At least those questions kept me from wondering about other questions, bill-paying questions. The reason I would be home the next Wednesday and many more Wednesday’s afterwards was simple. With the economy the way it is now, I am moving to part-time. That means an extra day at home each week, but also twenty percent less pay.

But chickens don’t understand people economics. Nor would I want them to. They only understand chicken economics. We are the richest family on our entire street because we have more worms than anyone. Now we have more time to be a family together. Life is good!

Somehow all will work out fine.

That night as I went out at dusk to tuck everyone in for the evening, I heard the lightest two chicken feet land on the coop floor after hopping down from the nighttime perch.

It was Emily, of course. I know her sounds as well as I know her eggs by their shape and color. In the dimness, she made her way down the chicken ladder and hurried to me.

I scooped her up into my arms.

“That was me,” she said. “I laid the egg in the middle of the breakfast salad.”

“I know, Sweetie. Don’t worry. Sometimes things happen. But you are okay, aren’t you?”

“I am fine. I am just a little embarrassed. It was a very unseemly thing to do. I had to tell you or I would not be able to sleep at all tonight.”

More than any of the others, Emily is a proper lady with impeccable manners. Egg laying must, absolutely must, be done in the privacy of the nesting box and in the most ladylike manner possible and with hardly a peep.

“It’s just that I was so excited for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You get an extra day to enjoy us even more!”

I held her close and kissed the top of her head.

“You are so sweet, Emily. Yes, I do get even more time to enjoy you.”

She wasn’t excited about having more treat time or more backyard free range time. She wasn’t even excited about being able to walk through the garden more often. Emily was excited about being able to see the pleasure on my face from being with my chickens. She didn’t even realize that she herself was a huge part of why I look forward to spending time with them.

This is the heart of innocence.

“I just do not understand why you enjoy us so much. We are just little chickens, and I am the littlest of us all. Why do you even bother with us? You already have everything we see here. You are so big. When you stand close, I cannot even see all of you.”

I was unsure what to say.

“Why do you enjoy us so much?” she asked.

Again I was unsure what to say, but I knew this was an important question deserving an answer.

“You know, Emily, that is a question people have asked as well, just in a different way about themselves. Not about chickens, but about themselves.”

“What do you mean?”

I carried her over to where we could look up into the evening sky. The first stars were beginning to shine.

“Many thousands of years ago, someone wondered something like what you are wondering right now and even wrote it down.”

“What did they write?”

“They wrote, ‘What is man that you are mindful of him?’”

She thought about these words carefully.

“Did that person ever get an answer to the question?”

“If they did, they didn’t write down that part. But sometimes a question is best left unanswered. Sometimes a question is just meant to make us wonder with eyes as big and as wide-open as yours, Emily. Sometimes we have to find the answers to those kinds of questions for ourselves. No one can tell us the answers, and if they do, we are unlikely to really hear them. Some answers are best found in our own hearts.”

She seemed satisfied with this.

“Sometimes it’s best not to know all the answers,” I added because that seemed like an awfully long speech.

“Nobody likes a know-it-all, right?”

“Or a tell-it-all.” We smiled together. “But I am happy you told me about your egg and even happier you understand how much joy you give me just by being you.”

I placed her back in her favorite roosting spot, back in a corner next to Gracie. Her life and her heart were now secure for the night.

Perhaps this is a part of how the universe is intended to work. I cannot imagine a world where Light and Life and Love would not be looking forward to enjoying each person. Equally. Delightfully.

And if Light and Light and Love can do that so intensely with each one of us, can’t we do that too, even just a little, with each other? Even when we are different?

Yes, every egg tells a story.

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