The Chicken’s Just Fine

Right off the bat I want to tell you the chicken’s just fine. I know how you worry, Mary, and you’d want to know that straight up.

So now that’s out of the way, here’s what happened. Me’n George, we were out back. I’d say working hard, but you know us too well for that so the honest truth is we were hiding behind the persny bush with our suits off and chatting, letting the morning roll on by without doing too much.

I know you’ll fuss, Mary, but you‘n I both know those morning mists will fool a person with the shapes and whispers and the funny readings the suits give you that are all headache-making. No real work can happen till the mists settle for the day. You know it, I know it, George knows it, we all know it. Nobody says it because “work is the salve of the soul” and “morning work makes a merry heart” and all that, but we brought those ideas from another world, Mary. When ideas don’t fit the world, it don’t make no kind of sense to carry on with them. You have to find the new ideas that fit the new place.

Anyways, we can natter that out later but point being me’n George were waiting out the mists behind that bush, and the mists were doing that swirling kinda thing they do, and George was saying it looked sort of like a big peanut up on end, and I was saying it was more like the shape of a camel even though neither of us have ever seen a peanut or a camel up close but it was a friendly sort of argument.

Then the mists parted and there was the chicken pecking her way down the path. Our mouths dropped open, and the mist snapped shut and started roiling around making colors we’ve never seen before, like if a kaleidoscope was trying to sneak up on you from a rain cloud.

You bet we grabbed our suits and tripped over ourselves trying to get back into them, trying to get off after that chicken.

How’d she get out? I know you’re going to ask and I don’t know, us all being so careful with her and all. I mean, we all know that chicken is our meal ticket. A lot of eating has come off that bird and grateful we all are for it. We’d a been done for without her and we know it, so who would have missed the latch?

Didn’t matter then because we knew we had to get off after her. We scrambled down the path only we were lost right away in the mist, couldn’t even feel the path under my boots and lost track of George almost immediately.

I don’t know how long I floated like that. I stopped flailing right away like we’ve learned. No point trying to get anywhere when the mists get you. I hung there and just let my mind go blank like we’ve trained. Focused on my breath. In. Out. In. Out. I could hear my heart beating: ka-Thump, ka-Thump. Up or down, in or out, forward or back, I didn’t know any of them, never made their acquaintance. All there was was here. And here wasn’t too clear neither.

When the mist finally let go of me I didn’t recognize the place at all. George was there, sitting on the ground, shaking his head like he had something caught in his ear. He looked up at me with his face all gone white and let me tell you that was a shock with his usual color being somewhere around the caramel end of the spectrum. He didn’t seem to know me at first, and even when my name come out that was all there was: Joe. Joe. Joe. Like that. I don’t think he had his helmet quite all sealed up when the mist grabbed him, so, fingers crossed, he gets more back than that.

All around me were these trees I’ve never seen before and pecking at the base of one was the damn chicken. I went to go grab her but those trees grabbed me first. She looked up at me disinterestedly and went back to her pecking, ruffling her feathers out a bit to resettle them.

And here’s the weird thing, Mary: I think those trees were tending to her. And maybe talking because she’d look up every now and then and bok bok at something the way she does sometimes to check in, and I swear there was something coming back from those trees that made her feel like, well, all right then, everything’s fine, and she’d go back to pecking.

I got the sense the forest wanted us to see all this because then we all got swept up again by the mist and before I knew it, we were back at the station.

With the chicken.

Isabelle looked her over right away and pronounced her just fine. We all got her carefully put away in her coop again with the latch pulled down, padlocked, and checked by 15 different people. Isabelle checked George then and pronounced him not “just fine” but maybe would be after a while. The last I saw she was trying to teach him to use a fork.

Next day we were all around the coop at first light no matter what our work duties were. Couldn’t blame us.

And Mary, she’s laid an egg. Not a normal-looking egg. It’s sort of swirly patterned and glows a little bit, but it’s definitely egg-shaped and she sits on it. Won’t let any of us get close. I wouldn’t’ve said a chicken could hold off all of us with its fierceness but then on the other hand she’s always had a mind of her own.

So yes, the chicken’s just fine, Mary. But as for the rest of us? Well, I guess we’ll see when that egg hatches.