Molly grasped the hen’s feet and raised the axe. Over the squawking of the victim she heard the sound again. Inclining her head she shut her eyes to concentrate. There it was again.
“It’s Mrs. Hickory down the road, calling her blasted cow again,” she decided after a few moments, turning once again to her task.
There was the sound again, and it was closer. Lowering the axe, Molly looked around to see if she could spot the cow.
“Would you hush that up? She hears you!”
Nothing else was in sight except the other chickens, scratching around in the dirt, including that haughty Rhode Island Red that Howard paid such a pretty price for, and the barn, its high loft doors thrown open to the warmth of the afternoon sun.
“I’m tryin’ to save Betty.”
Determined to get this thing done so she could get dinner on the stove before the men came in from the fields, Molly got a firm grip on the chicken. Raising the axe, she brought it down. The headless bird took off running.
“Ow! Ow! Ow!” The sound came again as the bird raced around and around the yard.
“I said pipe down!”
Molly dropped the axe, her mouth hanging open, wide incredulous eyes following the hapless bird.
“Oh my, what have I done?” she exclaimed. A talking chicken; a headless talking chicken! “Lord, have mercy! I’ve killed the golden goose! Whatever can I do now?”
Her stool toppled over as she sprang to her feet. Hiking her long cotton skirt up to her knees she dashed off in pursuit of the precocious pullet. The anguished cries continued.
“Ow! Ow! Ow!”
Finally capturing the bird, she returned to the stool. Righting it she picked up the head and sat studying what she held. The cries continued, though the bird’s beak never moved and there was no glint of life in the eyes.
“Maybe I can tie her back together with twine.” There was some in the barn.
The cries ceased and the body went limp as she entered the dark building. Molly panicked. Was she too late?
Switching on an overhead incandescent bulb, she rummaged hurriedly through a bin of odds and ends. There it was; the twine.
Returning to the stool she struggled to wrap twine around the head and loop it under the stiffening breast and between the legs. Wrapping the twine several times, she tied it off with a knot over the top of the head.
There was only silence now. Molly shook the creature’s remains, as if that would somehow bring the bird back to life.
Resigned, she carried the bird indoors to the kitchen and laid it on the countertop. How would she tell Howard? They’d unknowingly had a talking chicken and she’d thought to make a mere weeknight meal of chicken and dumplings of it. She sat dejected for a while, finally deciding it best to keep the whole thing to herself.
Unable to do anything else with it, she wrapped the chicken in newspaper and dropped it in the trash.
She was at the stove stirring a nice beef stew when the back door burst open.
“I won’t eat Betty!” wailed Kitty.
Tommy taunted her. “Chiiiiiiikin!”
Suspicion dawned. “Thomas Joe Waterman, where were you this afternoon?”
Tommy turned to look at his mother. His eyes danced. “We were up in the hayloft, playin’.”
Kitty chimed in. “We were playin’ chick’n. Only I was s’pose t’ be th’ chick’n. Tommy was pretendin’ to chop off my head like you was doin’ with Betty.”
Suspicion confirmed, Molly opened her mouth to question Tommy. The questions started coming to mind: Were you making those sounds? Did you see anything peculiar?
Of course they saw something peculiar: if they saw her kill the chicken, they must have seen… No, she would definitely keep the whole thing to herself – hopefully.
“You two get upstairs and wash up for dinner,” she commanded.
Tommy and Kitty raced up the stairs. “You’re gonna’ get it now Thomas Joe Waterman!” giggled the little girl gleefully.
Later that night…
The Rhode Island Red sat on her nest preening her feathers.
“You never had any love for that chick-ee-dee, and you know it!” Langston the Rooster strutted past.
“Ok, maybe I was trying to save the rest of us then,” the Red retorted.
Langston grinned a rooster grin. “Well, at that, reckon the Missus might think twice now ‘bout killin’ one of us talkin’ chickens!” he crowed.
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