Post 68 — Tastes Like Chicken

Karen at Tafuna, before Elizabeth came into her life.

Karen at Tafuna, before Elizabeth came into her life.

Karen was bored. Second grade wasn’t particulary challenging for her and she frequently found herself sighing with exasperation. Her teacher had wanted to skip her to third grade but her father had vetoed the idea; something about her “lacking in social skills,” whatever those were. Idiots.

Everyone else in the family had been thrilled with the move into town, but Karen wasn’t so sure. She had had complete autonomy in Tafuna and had spent hours wandering around and visiting with neighbors, especially the ones who had no adorable little girls of their own. She was petted and spoiled and given way more ice cream than her sisters. She really wanted to brag about this to someone but suspected her mother would put a stop to it if she found out, so she kept quiet. It would taste so much better if Chrissie had found out about it — that would teach her to call Karen “snot nose.”

But there would be no more ice cream because she had been restricted now that they were in town. The front door was four feet from the road and everyone on the island drove like they were from Western Samoa, so crossing the street was forbidden. She could play in the backyard and try to climb up to Chrissie’s treehouse, which was a rotting piece of plywood shoved in the crook of a tree, but that thing was terrifying. The yard had tufts of scraggly grass that sloped up into a steep hill that eventually turned into a mountain. Houses were tucked amid the increasing vegetation and a Catholic church shone white against the greenery. One of Karen’s favorite things about Sundays was the call to mass that was sounded by the men of the congregation by beating on old oxygen tanks, the sound ringing out across the mountain. She thought she might like to live near bells one day.

On one side of the house, there was something that was either a drainage ditch or a raging torrent, depending upon how much it had recently rained. Right now it was quite shallow, which was fortunate because the neighbor’s pet pig was snorkeling around in there looking for scraps. Karen wished she had a pet. She didn’t think a pig would be a very good idea because she would want it to sleep on her bed and this one weighed about 300 lbs., but it would be nice to have one of her own that she didn’t have to share. Being the youngest of four was a constant trial.

Last week a chicken “followed” Karen home from school, so after the old “Gee, Mom it won’t eat very much” routine, I relented. It is a tiny yellow chick who has been named Elizabeth. She was right, it doesn’t eat much, at a time; just constantly. 

Jean

Elizabeth was a pretty formal name for such a tiny chicken, but Karen felt she had regal bearing and could live up to it. The chick was devoted to Karen, following her around and playfully pecking at her toes. Karen had made a little bed for her out of a cardboard box that she placed in the corner of her room. She had wanted the chick to sleep with her but changed her mind pretty quickly when she woke up in a bed full of squishy brown stuff. The chicken showed no interest in being housebroken and was therefore allowed to go in and out as she pleased, much to the annoyance of the house girl who had to keep opening the screen door. She never voiced her opinion about having a chicken living in the house, but her body language was clearly saying “crazy white people”.

Elizabeth had few talents that would endear her to normal people, save for one: she was a hunter. The sound of her tiny talons clacking on the wooden floor would suddenly speed up, followed by a satisfying crunch as she captured a roach and bit it in half. This was quite an accomplishment considering the roaches were almost as big as she was. She ate constantly, devouring bugs and seeds and anything she found on the floor, including bits of chicken that Karen cluelessly dropped from the table for her as a treat. The irony was lost on both of them.

After a few weeks, the thrill of having a chicken follow her around had waned a bit, and Karen didn’t realize she hadn’t seen Elizabeth until almost a full day had passed. A search party was formed and sent out to scour every inch of the yard. The girls were looking in the back while Larry trained a flashlight under the house, which was built up on stilts in case the drainage ditch flooded. This was the dry season so there was mostly dirt and garbage under there; and unfortunately, the lifeless corpse of the beloved Elizabeth.

From the condition of the body, which appeared to have been separated from the head in a grisly matter, Larry surmised that a stray dog must have gotten to her. It could also have been the pig next door, but Elizabeth had been pretty fast so that seemed unlikely. Wrapping her up in a handkerchief, he quickly deposited her in a garbage can and then went to break the news to his youngest: her chicken had crossed the road and was now on the other side.

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