Another smiling face peeks in through the nettings, the fourth, since morning. I nod in acknowledgment when I am being pointed to, yet again for the fourth time. Care Mistress shakes her head in refusal and attempts to open our home as though to prove a point, but she is stopped by the forth smiling face, she mouths some words but I am too far apart to tell what and too fed-up to attempt moving closer. Whatever she said seems to please Care Mistress…as she casts one happy glance at me and moves away. I haven’t lived long enough, but if this is the treatment I get every day, then I wish this season would last forever. In just a few days…everything has gotten better. Our food, our freedom, and even our treatment. Just yesterday Care Mistress slapped bony Bertrand for throwing tinning-mally as opposed to moving him like she asked. That was a big deal because three months ago after we first came, we have been thrown and pushed.
Meddling-maggie drags to the water can. “Reserve some in your beak for me,” I say, half meaning it because I’m too lazy to make it to the water can, and half trying to get her attention. She has been too quiet lately. Brooding. Which is awfully stupid, given this is the best period of our life.
She raises her head and gulps down water like she doesn’t hear me. Down…down…down, I watch the water glide down her throat.
I look toward the last crumbs on the food tray. I should have left more for someone else, if I had, at least I would have had some damn water to drink.
I look up and she is staring straight at me. “Aren’t you even bothered?” she asks.
“Why should I be?” I ask. Eager to know how such a positive experience would have such negative effect on her.
“Aren’t you bothered about the others?”
“Oh, I should have guessed,” I say, shaking off the sudden itch on my crown. It is at times like this I wish I had hands that grabbed things like Care Mistress and her horrible horrible offspring. Meddling-maggie seems to be upset that beaking-bunny and twenty others were taken to a different place. I keep telling her that they were taken to make space for both them and us, and it was all part of the seasonal change and they would be brought back from time to time to visit.
I am about to tell her this again, when two new faces appear, not smiling this time around. But Care Mistress is, smiling as though she wants to make up for all the times she frowned at us. She points to Dindy, Urol, Milly, Tindy, Viru, Reew, Mew, and Litty. Leaving just me and Maggie. Which doesn’t make sense. There is enough room for the nine of us, when there were thirty of us, dividing us did make sense.
“Where are we going?” Milly asks.
Litty reproves him, “Don’t be silly, you know they can’t hear you.”
“Who cares, I could you a little fresh air.” Tindy chips.
“I could too,” I say, not meaning it. I’m way too tired to walk.
Just then, meddling-Maggie raises herself and aims directly for the hand of the unsmiling man closest to Litty. Swiftly he snatches his hands two whole seconds before her beak comes in contact with the ground. I expect the unsmiling man to do what bony-Bertrand would have done if indeed he was the one she tried to take a pinch off; roughly push her, but what he does next surprises me. He smiles. Then the previously unsmiling faces break into laughter. And I am tempted to laugh along with them, but meddling-maggie wouldn’t like that.
“You see…even the humans are chirpy.” I tell her. I pretend to nibble a flee so she doesn’t read the humour in my eyes.
“Goodbye Dindy, Urol, Milly, Tindy, Viru, Reew, Mew, and Litty.” I call out, “Enjoy your new home.
“Gone to a better place. You’d say.” I hear her say, sounds from her heavy steps recedes as she moves to the farthest corner of the room.
Meddling-maggie excited flappings stir me from my short slumber- well, not so short given the day is dark now.
“What is it?” I say, standing for the first time in hours.
“Look! Litty’s back.”
The pen door opens, and in comes bony-Bertrand, rudely carrying an exhausted-looking Litty. He flings him in, and hurriedly shuts the door.
“Welcome!” I say.
“Why did you come back?” Meddling Maggie asks, at the same time. She has no manners.
Litty stares at the ground for three seconds longer, and slowly makes his way to the center. He could be a drama cock sometimes.
He looks from Meddling Maggie, to me and then back to her and whispers, “It was a conspiracy.”
Meddling-maggie does a quick run around the room, even though I am sure she has no idea what the word means. Litty surprises us, even though we grew up together, he has always been far ahead of us.
“What was a cospricy, and what does that mean?”
“It’s conspiracy, not cosprisey. The humans have deceived us.”
“I knew it. I knew it. I knew…” Meddling Maggie keeps repeating.
“Tell us,” I implore, “what happened?”
“Do you know what this period is?” Litty asks.
“They say it’s Christmas,” I reply languidly, proud of my own memory. I must have overheard bony Bertrand mention it.
“Well, do you know what Christmas is?” He asks. Meddling Maggie answers this time. “Whatever it is, I don’t like it. Today was the worse day of my life. I had absolutely no one to pick on, I mean, talk to.”
“Don’t be silly Maggie, I was here the whole time.”
“You were asleep the whole time.” She fires.
“That’s only because you refused to talk to me.”
Litty, noticing he is losing his audience comes up with the perfect liner to shut us both up. “We are food.”
It’s the perfect liner because it’s silly, and about the funniest thing we’ve heard him say. Maggie and I burst into laughter.
Why would they feed us food, if we were their food? Surely they should have just got on straight to eat the food? “Why waste food on food?” I ask him.
“Yes, why?” Meddling Maggie joins in.
“Why else would they refer to us as tasty?”
“They? Who?” Meddling-Maggie asks.
“The humans at the market. The ones who came to buy us. We were being bargained for and handled with utmost disrespect. Thank Goodness I read their true intent and acted out on it, else I wouldn’t even be here.”
The joke doesn’t seem funny anymore. “You mean the others weren’t transferred to a new home?”
Litty scoffs. “Transferred my beak. The humiliation of being stuffed in a crate head to arse was nothing compared to the man-handling we receive from those people. Imagine plucking at our feathers to weigh us, and then turning us all upside down held disgracefully by our feet.
“Care Mistress would never allow that,” I say, certain he must be mistaken.
“It is a conspiracy,” Meddling-Maggie adds.
“Care Mistress sold us.”
“And why are you still here?” I ask, “You are one of the weightiest, surely you would have made first choice if any of what you’re saying is true.”
“See this,” Litty raises his left wing and gestures with his right to empty spots, which should obviously have been covered with his white feathers. “These are areas I was plucked. See this,” he gestures to his legs, see that imprint? It was from the rope I was tied with. But these humans tsk tsk tsk, I played my own tricks, they couldn’t get me.”
Fear overwhelms me. “But they can’t mean to take all of us. Why am I still here, why is Maggie still here?”
“Because the both of you were reserved.”
“What does that mean?” Meddling Maggie [url=http://everythingfiction.com/christmas-chickens-tale/] asks[/url] .
“It means you don’t have to go through all the trouble we went through to get chosen.”
“Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” I ask.
“With us at the end of the bargain, nothing the humans do is a good thing for us. But not to worry, I have a plan.”
“Would it work?” Meddling Maggie asks.
“I am here, aren’t I?”
It’s the craziest idea we have ever heard, but the three of us do it anyway, and by morning, we are bruised, scratched and maimed. Litty was the most enthusiastic of our lot, he even has half his crown falling off.
Bony-Bertrand sees us first and yells out to his mother, who hurries over and meets us at our staged positions. Sitting head bent, eyes half closed, and fallen feathers scattered by our sides.
“We can’t sell them looking like this.” She announces, and turns to bony-Bertrand, “How could you mix the dying chicken with the rest of them?”
For a second, I think Litty’s plan worked until I hear the next sentence.
“Take them into the kitchen before they die. It’s Christmas, we can’t waste the chickens.”