sweet hen

Monday, June 22, 2009

I went outside to the chicken coop this evening to gather eggs and let the hens roam in our yard for a little bit. It makes me feel better calling them free-range chickens if they mosey about everyday. When I opened the door, they scampered out in a hurry just like always.

I looked down and said to myself, “Oh dear, we have a problem.” One of the five had not left the coop. She was laying on the ground. This did not look good. I gently pulled her out where I could see her a little better. Upon closer examination, I realized her neck was broken and she was dead. How she sustained this injury, I have no idea. As I moved her further into the light, the last breath of air that was in her lungs exhaled through her beak. For a brief minute, this gave me false hope that I could somehow revive her, but there really was no life left in her. The other hens were scattered beneath the fig tree eating bugs, scratching up the earth, and not noticing their fallen comrade.

Now, episodes like this only seem to happen when G is out of town for work. Times when I am left to handle these situations entirely on my own. There was the time an entire section of our fence blew down. The time a huge oak tree fell – broke at the root and collapsed. The time that our contractors “accidentally” broke our main water line.

When he is gone, the girls come down with ridiculously high fever or delightful stomach ailments. My car won’t start. Tires mysteriously go flat. The gate won’t open. You get the picture. These are the times I know my faith is being tested. That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The chicken didn’t pass that test; the chicken had been pushed beyond her limit. This didn’t make me want to yell or kick or scream, it just made my heart sad. And for a minute, I cursed G in my head for not being there to help or to figure out what to do with the carcass. 

As attached as I am to my chickens, I can’t tell the black and white ones apart because they look the same to me. I would not do well with identical twins. The red ones, Big Red and Little Red, are obviously easy. The others are Dora, Jack, and Coke. I feel it is important for pets to have names. It gives them a sense of identity, even if it doesn’t help me with their identity. After careful consideration, I decided that it was Dora who was laying lifeless by my feet.

Left to my own devices, I got a trash bag and gently laid Dora in it. This prompted a reaction from the other hens. They came over to watch as I tied the bag into a knot. This was their way of clucking a final farewell to her.

When I told the girls what had happened, they were very curious and ready to help. We decided that we would take her to a special, serene resting place. I think we were thinking of the same perfect scene: sunset, by a lake, and doves would fly skyward as we laid Dora to rest.

Not so. I realized that there was no way I was putting a decomposing chicken in a trash bag on the leather seats of my car. My eyes darted quickly around the garage and I settled on a pink Hello Kitty suitcase that had been partially destroyed in a golf cart accident (reverse can be a bitch). I zipped Dora into the suitcase and then I felt alright about putting the suitcase on my leather seat. It would be a short drive.

We loaded up in the car and drove solemnly out of our neighborhood. I got a little edgy as the smell started oozing out in a slightly nauseating way. That’s a smell your nose won’t soon forget. I made the executive decision to forego the pristine sunset burial and instead opted for the first large dumpster I saw.

It was in front of a construction sight, and there were three guys still outside working, laying rocks. Damn it. I would have to explain myself.

I parked and ignored the girls questions of “Mommy, why are we stopping here?” and “Mommy, what is that smell?” and “Mommy, what are they building?”

I walked up to one of the men and said, “Hey there. I was…”

The man said, “No habala ingles.”
{I don’t speak English.}

I am prouder of my Spanish than I should be, but I went for it. “Hola, senor. Me habla poquito Espanol. Como estas?”

{Hi, sir. Your two year old niece probably speaks better Spanish than me, but I am going to try. How are you?}

He smiled. He either understood, thought I was an idiot, or was getting ready for some linguistic entertainment from me, the Gringo.

I continued, “Ahhh…me pollo es muerte, me pollo es in me automobile. I use la basura?”

{Uhhh…me chicken is dead, me chicken is in me car. I use trash?}

I pointed to the large, green industrial dumpster.

He looked confused, as if that wasn’t a request he heard on a daily basis.

 “Me pollo es muerte, por favor tu basura?”

{Me chicken is dead, please your trash?}

“Ah. Si,” {Oh, yes.} Sweet. He apparently understood and waved his hand toward the dumpster, indicating that it was alright with him.

So I grabbed the pink Hello Kitty suitcase out of my front seat. Who the hell knows how to say “Oh and by the way, the dead chicken is inside the pink Hello Kitty suitcase that my father-in-law backed over in our golf cart”?

I felt my face turning red and not from the heat. I could only imagine what the guy was thinking at this point. Was I a serial killer disposing of body parts? Drugs? Laundering money? Was I a secret agent delivering an incognito message? I heaved the suitcase (and Dora) into the dumpster. I was really glad I made it in on the first try. I walked back to my car, smiled at the guy, and said “Muchos gracias! Buenos noches.”

{Thanks so much! Good night.}

He stared at my tail lights with a crumpled brow as I drove off. I thought I better hurry just in case he got suspicious. Jay started to cry. Which made Cee start to cry. I asked why they were crying.

“Because we threw the chicken away,” Cee said.

“Because we threw the Hello Kitty away,” Jay said.

“Would you feel better if we said a prayer?” I asked.

 They said they would. After explaining that I couldn’t close my eyes or do my prayer hands since I was driving, we prayed.

“Dear God,” I started.

 “Dear God,” they repeated…this is how we do it…small phrases, repeat after me.

 “Thank You so much (“Thank You so much…”) for blessing us with all…of our chickens. We are so sorry…that Dora died…and we are really going to miss her. We hope…her friends…aren’t too sad. We hope…You are taking…good care of Dora up there in heaven. We are sorry…we had to throw her in the trash can…and we hope…You will forgive us. We hope…the Hello Kitty suitcase…made her feel better…about being dead in the trash.”

“Anything else you want to add, girls?”

“Please don’t let any of our other chickens die because we love them so much,” Cee said.

 “And thank you for Noah’s Ark,” added Jay. She loves Noah’s Ark, and this is her standard addition to every prayer.

 “Alright. We love You, God. Rest in peace, sweet hen. Amen.”


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