Excerpt from a novel in progress:
Growing up with a traveling circus has its advantages. One sees much of the world, for one thing. Adelaide traveled with her parents month after month, year after year, usually staying longer in one place during the winter season, when sitting in a freezing tent while watching performers zip around and work up a sweat did not appeal much to the general public. During the colder months, the circus performers and workers would learn and rehearse new tricks, plan their spring route, and play accordion tunes around campfires to keep their fingers warm.
Occasionally they would be mistaken for traveling gypsies, who were considered to be bandits, thieves, and up-to-no-gooders. It was more difficult to prove they were not gypsies than to simply pack up and move somewhere else, so this is in fact what usually happened.
“Gypsies! Off with those bandits!” a local baker would cry as he walked by the wagons and tents set up in a nearby open field.
“Thieves! Gypsies are thieves!” the local butcher would cry in response.
“Gypsies? Why, everyone knows gypsies are up to no good! We must send them away!” the butcher’s wife would respond.
And since the butcher’s wife was usually related to someone like the local chief of police, it wasn’t worth trying to prove otherwise. Not many people will protest an angry butcher’s wife, even the chief of police, even if he is her brother. So the circus usually packed up and moved on.
Egg Sofa (written during a primary school writing club meeting in 2013)
The ducks and chickens felt offended that so many feathers were used to produce pillows and mattresses, cushions and down-quilts. Why should their dearly beloveds go bald, even after death, simply to comfort a human? The casket viewings at these fowl funerals were becoming embarrassing. At their memorial services, no one could discern dear Captain Crowwell from Little Red Hen nor Mr. Ling from Jemima Puddle. Each bird simply lay in the casket with translucent pink bumpy goose (or, in certain cases, chicken) flesh. It was the height of embarrassment when the neighboring roosters gave the traditional rooster military crow salute unawares to Little Red Hen and Chicken Little began the opening obituary at the Captain’s funeral with the words, “I’ll never forget the motherly comfort that she gave every time I panicked…” Chickens in particular have never been considered the most intelligent creatures and this may have made it more challenging for them to understand whose funeral they were attending, but the point is, their corpses were plucked and they felt the shame deeply.
“We must do something about this!” they clucked. They had the support of the ducks, but the ducks, by their nature, pretended the issue didn’t exist. They would turn their rears up at the conflict and simply dive for fish.
“What quacks!” murmured the chickens, whose existing feathers were quite ruffled at this point. “We’ll solve the matter ourselves!” So the chickens came up with what they considered an ingenious plan, although ingenuous might be a more apt description. Chicken logic is, to even the most generous and kindly human mind, questionable.
What the chickens figured was this: humans would certainly not stop sitting on sofas or sleeping on mattresses. This was inevitable. Even chickens could figure that homo-sapiens, not possessing downy rumps on which to rest their haunches, would want something to rest on. So there was no point in simply trying to do away with sofas or mattresses or pillows.
“Aha!” cried Zorro, a Spanish fighting cock with a colorful plume. Chicken fights had been outlawed in most countries in recent years, and the fighting instinct, not having an outlet, seemed to choose the path of vanity in many roosters. Zorro was one—his colorful tail sent many a lady clucking and chirping with excitement when he strutted by and this boosted his confidence so much that he thought himself not only suavely handsome, but mentally capable of solving the problem at hand. “We will replace the feathers in their sofas with something else! Haha! Then they will be sorry!”
“Hurray! We’ll show them!” cheered the chickens at this speech.
A few ducks were present at this gathering and one elderly mallard, unimpressed by the over-excitement of the chickens, lifted his green head and quacked out a simple question, “What will you use to replace the feathers?”
A hush fell over the chicken crowd, which is impressive in itself, for chickens are rarely silent—only when sleeping, and even then they are known to cluck as they dream. The silence only lasted momentarily, for the birds began chattering worriedly.
“Oh yes!? What shall we use?”
“Oh no! Our plan has failed!”
“What can we do?”
“Oh, we didn’t think it would come to this!”
“How will we ever succeed?” and so on and so on.
Even Zorro was unsure of how to proceed—his initial plan had seemed brilliant, but to iron out such details was now daunting. Fortunately just then, Rhoda Red came hopping in, as proud as punch, crying out, “My eggs are hatching! Oh lovely! Sextuplets! Oh I am sure of it!” Adither she rushed out again—a good mother would not abandon her newborns and Rhoda was no exception. In the din of fretful chickens her voice had barely been heard except for the words “my eggs”. This caught the attention of many a cockerel and banty, including Zorro.
“We could use my eggs!”
“Or my eggs!”
“Yes, eggs! That’s it!”
“Oh our problem is solved!”
“Eggs will replace them!”
So that became the plan. One has to admit that it was a creative plan of revenge on Farmer McDonald, who was completely unaware that his home upholstery so offended the fowl in his fields. It took several months to carry out the plan—several weeks to work out the details, and several more weeks to secretly stock up on eggs.
The night of action was a daring and dreadful one, involving much risk on the part of the chickens and, fortunately for the birds, foolishness on the part of the Bingo, MacDonald’s trusty corgi. Earlier that week, Bingo had chased an obliging cat through multiple fields and fences and ended up tearing his paw so badly that he had to wear a large collar shaped like a megaphone to stop him from chewing on his paw. This coned collar is the height of dog-shame and Bingo chose to hide himself in a corner in the shed rather than march around and perform his usual self-imposed guard dog duties.
So the chickens were able to swap out the sofa for their crates of eggs, in a feat unheard of before or since. Farmer McDonald was so flabbergasted the next morning when he wandered into his living room that he took pictures and posted them on the internet—Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and many more. The world, as it does, took notice swiftly but briefly. The fame lasted a few days and then the photos became lost in a sea of other images and data in the ocean of internet, as well as folks’ interest. The image did float up one day when two teachers were looking for images to use as prompts for a student writing club. One teacher was so inspired she took it into her own hands to record the history of the Egg Sofa.
The chickens felt appeased, at least until it dawned on them that they had not really gotten mankind’s attention. However, they ceased to fight not only because their sense of determination and justice is not only as short lived as their memories, but also because Farmer McDonald, out of delight for his “magical chickens” as he called them, fed them A-Grade corn from that moment on.