The Chicken Farmer

The chicken farmer inherits a chicken farm from his grandfather.  With it comes all the necessary implements for seeing chickens through from fertilization to soup.  Chickens, young and old, smell bad, especially when there are thousands of them, all new, yellow and fuzzy, chirping and farting in unison in the top story of the barn.

Somebody is going to have to go up there and feed those chicks.  So the chicken farmer takes his wife out to a nice spaghetti dinner, with wine, garlic bread, and everything, and says to her, I think it is time.  Together, the chicken farmer and his wife have eleven children, all of whom are, in no time, old and eager enough to climb the narrow stairs to the second floor of the barn, which is essentially a giant incubator.

People like chicken and so the business takes off.

Children and chicks are cute.  Sometimes all eleven children go upstairs and fawn over the chicks, pick them up, stroke them and cradle them, while nine times out of ten they accidentally break the chicks’ necks or backs with their affection.

Each time a chick breaks a child cries, and because it is so frequent, it is not uncommon to hear a choir of astonished and terrified children wailing in a fit of sorrowful guilt.  The whole barnyard becomes distraught.  The full-grown chickens, roasters, and capons, all in the pen below, many of them running around in circles with freshly separated heads, quake and stammer at the children’s cries.

It becomes apparent that the rate of lost chicks rivals the booming demand for chicken.

One night in bed, after everyone has dried their tears and fallen asleep, the chicken farmer’s wife says, the business cannot go on like this.  The chicken farmer rolls onto his back and admits, yes, we are losing far too many chicks.  He blames the children.  She replies, they just get excited, Jim.  They can’t help themselves.  The children love those little chicks so much.

The next day at breakfast, the chicken farmer says, no more chicks.

But! But! But!  The children reply, But!  We are now grown, father, and we are much more mature, and no longer in love with the chicks.  Now we are going off to law school and to join the army and to make paintings on the street.  The oldest child speaks up, urging the father to keep the chicks, to produce even more chicks.  Together, they insist his worries are over.

The chicken farmer is elated by this news and with tears rolling down his cheeks he stands and tightly embraces his oldest child whose back yields with a resounding crack.

- originally appeared in the story collection My Understanding © Pressed Wafer