The Chicken Begins Running With Her Head Off

In eight days, I will be in San Francisco, in advance of a writers’ conference I signed up for last year.

I had good intentions. I paid for the conference back in March. I paid for my plane ticket back in September. I have lined up a rental car using gift certificates, so that’s taken care of. I even have my son dropping me off at the hotel location, because it’s in a very congested and chi-chi area of downtown and parking is $80 a day.

I have toiled at my novel full steam since the first of November. I’ve somehow managed to add an additional 100,000 words since then. There are three, maybe four more chapters to go. I’ve been good, even though I’ve done other things, like work, eat, play the violin, make jewelry, etc. There was the holiday and the extended stay of Ms. MiniD, always a disruptive influence. I’ve even had time to be sick.

Now comes crunch time, and I feel like a chicken with her head cut off.

I have been working with an online business card company that specializes in authors. I had trouble sending in my photograph (actually, the real trouble came finding one that doesn’t make me look like a serial killer) and my emails kept bouncing back. It’s been ten days, and so far no word. In a panic, I emailed again on Saturday. Nothing.

I still need to get with an attorney so I can wrap up the novel. That’s because an attorney plays a prominent part in the ending. I have emailed our business attorney, hoping for some free input. The guy is nice, but he’s one of those super-slick shyster dudes, and his office, in a very trendy neighborhood, likely has a high lease. However, I feel comfortable with him, so I even promised to pay. Hopefully, he’ll be like my other advisors and will take a mention in the beginning of the book instead.

Finally, I have new clothes and have been exercising like a fiend to fit into my old ones. Some writer who sends me newsletters suggested I get a smokin’ hot red dress. I don’t want to look like a hooker, so I bought some red cashmere sweaters instead. After my daughter returned to school (that was the longest six weeks of my life), I found out she raided my bathroom and all my cosmetics are GONE. (I might slap on some make up once in a blue friggin’ moon, so I expect it all to be there when I need it.)

I hope I don’t look like a boob. There’s always the possibility I might laugh too hard, look needy, or become unexpectedly mute.


A Word About the Second Best Pet I Ever Had

In case you missed it, this post is about the best pet I ever had. But then all the talk about chickens got me to thinking about the second best pet I ever had.

When I was 14, I came into possession of a chicken. I think it was one of those misdirected Easter chicks that somehow got into the Easter basket of a friend’s little brother. My friend’s little brother was almost our age chronologically , but since he had Down’s Syndrome, he was forever three years old. After the blush began to fade on the baby chick, as it usually does within a couple of weeks when the pin feathers come in, there came to be a dilemma as to where to house it. My friend lived in a housing development, and had a fairly small yard. We lived outside of the area and our yard was over an acre. We had a huge garden, and at various times, chickens, geese and a pony. That’s how I inherited the chicken.

Eventually, my chicken grew up to be a red rooster. I think he was a Long Island Red. I’m not sure where that particular breed of chicken got its name. I can’t imagine chickens in New York, much less Long Island. However, I can imagine iced tea in Long Island, which is why that drink is one of my summertime favorites.

But I’m going completely off track here.

I named the chicken Charlie. Get it? Charlie WOO-ster. Charlie was a beautiful chicken, mostly brownish red with a magnificent splay of multicolored tail feathers. He was just a few pea gravel bits smarter than the hens. Besides waking us up every morning, he was pretty feisty too. He’d chase the geese around the yard, which was more than I could do.

Even though he was a chicken, and chickens are stupid, Charlie was a favorite pet. He ruled the roost for two years.

One day, I came back from high school, and my chicken was gone. I asked my mother where was Charlie? She said we were having him for dinner.


[Yes, there was a heavy thud.]

Charlie was two years old and well past his prime. However, I think my mother was weary of dodging rooster beak every time she went into the garden. So she twisted his head off and plucked him clean. (Before you start “ewwing”, we raised chickens so this was a common occurrence.)

That night, she made fried chicken. I was despondent. I wanted to remember Charlie in his splendor, not cut into eight pieces and coated in Bisquick batter. I couldn’t be forced to sit at the table, and went to my bed crying, where I stayed for a good three days before I felt better.

My father ate Charlie, but proclaimed it the worst chicken dinner ever. It appears that age and free-reign over the garden had made my C. Wooster very tough indeed.

I’ve since distanced myself from feeling chicken love. It was too painful the first time.


I love the word. I don’t know why.

It’s a weird little word that brings back memories of Rickie and Lucy Ricardo, or Fred and Wilma Flintstone. Not that either of those two husbands were “henpecked.” At least, I don’t think they were henpecked.

What I find fascinating about the term is that in the real world hens don’t henpeck their rooster husbands. I know this, because we raised chickens. This is the pecking order as I know it: geese will peck on everything, so they are the kings of the yard. They will even peck dogs and children. Then next in line comes the rooster. Roosters peck all of the hens. The hens then pick one scrawny chicken to peck, and all of them peck at that one, until its head is completely bald and there are few feathers left on its back.

Chickens are completely strange animals. For birds, they are totally stupid. This is a great disappointment for a bird lover like me. My lovebird is MENSA level compared to a chicken. I once conducted a chicken intelligence test. I placed chicken food on one side of the coop, right in view of my chicken. Then I opened the door. The hapless chicken almost killed itself trying to got through the metal wire to get to the food. It never did figure out that if it had taken a few steps to the right, it could have found freedom and a large pile of feed. Instead, it continued to bang its head against the mesh.

As a child, I often wondered why the chickens didn’t form some sort of cooperative. Why didn’t one of them come forward in the aid of the one at the bottom of the pecking order? Why didn’t the chickens unionize and turn against the rooster? Why wasn’t the rooster smarter than the goose? It was smaller. It could have hidden from the rampaging goose. Why didn’t that rooster, if he was so smart, get all of the chickens together to wage war against the goose?

The answer is plain. Chickens are too stupid for that. It’s hard to imagine them as being descendants from the dinosaurs. Oh, wait. Those guys weren’t that brilliant either, which makes the chickens mere continued existence on the planet a rather provocative question.

Now, back to the word “henpecked.”It’s traditional use back in the day was to indicate the male unit of a couple deferring to the female unit. Common terminology in today’s vernacular is that the guy is pussy whipped, or just plain “whipped.” This assumes that the woman in the relationship has all of the power. I personally don’t like the term “whipped” because of its sexual connotation. The other side of being whipped is prostitution. I do like the word “henpecked” though, maybe because it implies power without having to trade sex for it.

I was thinking about this because it reminds me of my daughter and her boyfriend. He has assumed the “whipped” nickname by his friends. She does rail at him at times, and he’s usually so quiet, we don’t hear a response. We had no idea he was responding. He appears to allow her to run his life. I know better now. He sometimes yells back, just not in mixed company. He has his own ideas, and sometimes they conflict with hers. He’s respectful, but not henpecked.

Henpecked. I still like that word, though. It has a nice ring to it.