“Hey! 5-1-3, where we goin’?” 5-1-4 asked even though he knew his cage mate slept through the excitement. He wiggled his tail feathers trying to get 5-1-5’s beak out of his ass. Craning his tiny neck, he watched the scenery change from farmland to forest to tall concrete structures. Giving up on enlightenment, 5-1-4 tucked his beak under his wing and allowed the sway of the truck to lull him into his favorite dream. The dream where he had a real name, a family, his own nest.
Screeching tires, squawking birds, and the smell of something burning woke 5-1-4. He added his own lungs to the cacophony as his cage tumbled to asphalt, shattering into pieces. Landing on top of 5-1-5 saved his life. 5-1-3 thumped down on top of him making him the meat in the sandwich. Wiggling to remove himself from the dead – literally dead – weight off him, he pulled and pulled until his tiny foot broke free. Fluffing his feathers, he looked around. Dead chickens littered the road. People behind the mess shouted and honked loud horns. Understanding this might be his only chance, 5-1-4 darted across the highway, forced his wings to flap. His toes scraped across the concrete barrier and he landed with a flump in the tall grass. He shook himself to clear his muddled brain and ran as fast as his plump body allowed.
When his lungs protested, he slowed and took in his surroundings. Not farmland. No white clapboard house. Instead he saw large brick homes surrounded by green lawns. He tiptoed up the white path, scooted to the back and discovered a long rectangle filled with water. Moving closer, he tipped his head into the water. Slurping a mouthful, he stood choking on the taste when a fierce looking cat charged his direction.
Adrenaline surged and 5-1-4 managed to take flight again. Up and over the tall bushes into the next yard. No big water bowl. Instead 5-1-4 landed underneath a piece of board with two long cords reaching into the sky. Curiosity called. He extended his wing upward, tapped the board and sent it swinging. He pecked his way around the yard but found nothing to slake his thirst and hunger. That’s when the kids arrive – little snot-nosed kids who like to pluck chicken feathers.
Maneuvering underneath another large bush, his beak plowed into a fence. Shifting around, he put his eye to the small space between posts. Chickens. Oh sweet friends. 5-1-4 walked the length of the fence until he found a space he hoped big enough for his rotund butt.
Squeezing, squishing, pulling, he managed to get most of his body into the chicken yard. Most, but not all. He wiggled his ass but remained trapped. He lifted his head to find twelve beady eyes staring at him. “Hey, guys, help me here, would ya?” 5-1-4 said.
“What are you?” the biggest one asked.
“Me. I’m a chicken. Like you. Can you grab my wings and help ----.”
The slamming door caused all the animals to jump. A woman in overalls sing-songed her way into the yard, spreading nuggets of goodness. 5-1-4’s mouth watered and he struggled harder but remained stuck. He squawked.
The woman turned his direction. “What do we have here?” she asked as she walked closer. “Are you stuck little one?” She stooped, patted his head and then placed her hand on his backside, pressed down and presto, he was in her yard. “Where did you come from?”
5-1-4 shook out his tail feathers and danced his excitement. The other chickens came closer.
“Are you hungry?” the woman asked even as she tossed him a handful of food.
Gobbling the grub, he peered around the yard. In the far right hand corner stood a coop. He quickly counted the number of chickens. With him there were seven. In his old life, a coop that size would hold 100 chickens. Nirvana.
“We have a new one?” a man entered the yard and asked. 5-1-4 dropped the morsel out of his mouth and stared. The man had a noose around his neck and his shoes were not caked with cow shit.
“Yea, he just showed up, looking hungry and scared,” the nice woman replied as she tossed another handful of the spectacular food his way.
“You keeping him?”
“We have plenty of room and the ordinances say we can have up to ten.”
5-1-4 stopped his dance, held his breath. Oh please oh please oh please. He turned what he hoped were pleading eyes her way. “I’ve decided to call him Buck.”
5-1-4 looked up, eyes wide, mouth open. Buck. I have a name. Buck. He pirouetted in circles and squawked his delight.
The man laughed. “You’re naming him?”
“Yea, all our chickens are named.”
“Honey, he’s a special chicken.”
Buck strutted around. I’m a special chicken. Special special special.
“I’m not sure you want to name him.” The man stared down at Buck and Buck tried his best to glare.
“That’s a Naked Neck.”
Buck tried to look at his neck but found it impossible.
“So?” the woman asked as she glanced at Buck’s neck.
“He doesn’t give eggs. He gives meat.”
Be grateful for what you have – and careful what you ask for. Have a great week!
In April 2012 I had a mental breakdown. The real thing. I have about 36 hours that I don’t remember....