This morning, I skipped down the backyard stairs at 6:50 a.m. and saw an unfamiliar bird chickening outside the lines. My feet felt flat. I didn’t believe my eyes. I turned toward our chicken run and didn’t see anything unusual. The gate was closed. The roof was tacked down. I looked around the fence corner and there was still a chicken I didn’t recognize running next to the maple tree at the back of the yard. I walked around the tree and there was a second unfamiliar chicken running away from me. Now I am either having two separate chicken-based hallucinations or –
I spun around toward the chicken coop in the neighbors’ yard. The door was open. We’ve had trash cans turned over, so Pete and I know there’s a raccoon in the neighborhood. I did not want to see any of the chickens tartared across the lawn, so I turned back to our coop and called for the chicken we now call Cat, or the Artist Formerly Known As Other Chicken, either way. After a few seconds, she climbed down out of the coop and I poured cantaloupe guts where she likes to nosh. She complained briefly about the inferior service in this joint, but that was somewhat reassuring. I shooed the unfamiliar chickens through a rose bush back to their own yard. Inside the house, I fretted.
Tata: Hey, the door to the coop of the People of the Chickens is open and the chickens are running loose. Are you in contact with any of those people?
Pete: Nooooo. I hate them!
Tata: Do you think I should tell them about their loose chickens?
At 7 a.m., I found myself standing at the one breach of our fence between the two yards. Unfortunately, there was no breach in their chicken wire and overgrown pokeweed beyond the edge of their garden, and in the corner, only a composter would provide me any support. For a minute, I stood there, wishing like mad there was some other way to alert the sleepy people, but there wasn’t. My Heroic! plan was to knock on the back door until someone answered and rescued the clamoring chickens, who were at that moment gleefully tearing up the lawn. At least they were happy! I briefly considered my dignity, remembered I didn’t have any and climbed over the fence, leaning on the composter.
My feet landed in someone else’s garden bed. I hopped in circles between rows and toward the edge of the garden bed. Suddenly, I saw the very old, very deaf dog asleep on the back porch. I like that dog. She barks all day at falling leaves. But she was a dog and I was invading her turf. So I marched a quiet, careful path down the driveway and up the front steps. I knocked and nothing happened. I knocked. Knocked. Knocked. I could see lights. These people have a baby that cries all the time so they weren’t asleep, but they didn’t answer. I rang the doorbell, knocked some more and admitted defeat. I abandoned my Heroic! plan, walked around the block, up my back steps and went to work, where my co-workers expressed surprise that I might still be able to hop a fence. It’s a gift, I told them, like knowing when to leave a party or which Senator is lying, as in all of them.
This afternoon, all the chickens of the People of the Chickens are safely behind bars, and I am glad because I am not climbing that fence again without dog treats in my pocket and a better plan.