Thanks everyone who read and voted on the short stories posted for
April. Wouldn't it be great if we had more entries and more voters?
He watched them run around the yard with abandoned and wished She wasn’t home. If She wasn’t home, he would have such a wonderful time. He wanted them so badly he could almost taste them, but that would have to wait. She was there and She had rules and everyone had to follow Her rules. Well, one day She wouldn’t be so careful and he would get to enjoy her mistakes. He would have them and he would have them all.
The little farm on the hill was surrounded by fields filled with grazing cattle and high grass just waiting to be cut into hay. The little barnyard was neatly swept and full of chickens enjoying the feed She had just strewn across the yard. They all loved Her because She brought the feed and the water, even if She did take the eggs they worked so hard to produce. But they knew there wouldn’t be chicks in the eggs and they all had a laugh at Her expense because She got useless eggs. But Betty was smarter than She thought and had hidden her eggs under the wood that was stacked neatly beside the hen house and She couldn’t find them. Soon there would be baby chicks to care for. Betty scratched around the yard like there was nothing else to do just waiting for the opportunity to run back to the hidden nest without being seen before the eggs got cold. She was nervous but all chickens acted nervous so she knew She wouldn’t notice.
Charlie strutted around the yard like he owned it. He knew about Betty’s hidden nest and knew he was the responsible rooster. He was, after all, the main rooster, the head rooster, the king of the barnyard. There was another rooster, Georgie, but Georgie was nobody compared to Charlie. Charlie had all the hens he wanted and Georgie got the leftovers if Charlie decided he could have them. Otherwise, Georgie waited for Charlie to make a mistake: wander too far from the barnyard so The Dog could get him, or run into a snake in the grass, or make Her mad and end up as chicken soup. Georgie was nothing if not patient.
She stood and watched her hens and roosters scratch around for what was left of the feed she had tossed across the yard. There were eighteen hens and two roosters. She was so proud of her flock and the fresh eggs she gathered every morning. There were now so many eggs that she gave a dozen a week to her neighbor and a dozen a week to her mother and still had all the fresh eggs she could ever cook or devil or bake with. Soon she would have enough eggs produced every day to trade at the little store for milk or honey or what ever another farmer produced to trade.
He watched as She shut the gate and went inside. Drat! She always remembered that gate but he knew that one day She would send one of the little ones out with the feed and they would forget to close the gate. He just had to wait and bide his time then they would all be his. He just had to appear to the world like he wasn’t waiting. That was all it took.
She loaded the van with all the swimming gear and the kids. She and her Mother were taking all the kids to the pool and for lunch. It had been weeks since she had gotten to go anywhere with her mother and she was happy to spend some time with her. They would be gone the whole day and the chores would just have to wait because she was taking the day off.
Running the small farm was a joy, but it was a lot of work, too. She rose early and worked all day to keep the garden in good condition and the hens well cared for. She spent a lot of time canning the fresh vegetables from the garden and the heat was beginning to get to her. And the kids deserved a break. Running the farm involved chores for everyone and they had done their part.
Although she had grown up a city girl, working the little farm seemed to come naturally to her. What she didn’t know instinctively she could ask a neighbor or find on the internet. For the first time she was happy with her way of life. She no longer had to worry about finding good day care for her children while she worked or fighting the traffic going or coming. She didn’t have to worry about how her hair looked or if she was up to date in her dress. She was happy, her husband was happy, and her children were happy, and that was all that mattered.
The little farm had grown from an idea to the happy place it was now. They had sold the big house and bought the little house and the 20 acres and started their life anew. It was hard, they were poor, but they were happier than they had ever been. The children were in a great little school, the bills were all paid, and the little house was being added on to. Even the chickens were thriving, better than she had hoped. Soon she would have enough to make her own fried chicken and homemade chicken soup. Somewhere out there was a nest with some eggs that would hatch soon; she just didn’t know where the red hen had hidden them. But she’d keep looking and watching and she was sure she would find them.
It had been a wonderful day. They had played at the pool for hours and gone to the kid’s favorite diner for lunch. And the children had been so good. But they had stayed in the sun way too long. Both she and her mother had been careful to make sure the children had plenty of sun block throughout the day, but she had not been as careful with herself. By the time they had arrived back at the farm, she was in pain and had to do something. They had stopped and bought some aloe gel and she was going to apply it as soon as she got the children settled in the house. Then she would take care of the chores.
It had been a hot summer with little rain and the little garden needed water every night to keep it thriving. She would set the sprinklers up just before bed and turn the pump on low so the plants would get a good soaking through the night. Then she would make sure the chickens had plenty of water and the hen house was closed up tight. She lost a couple of hens to a snake a few weeks back and she wanted to make sure that didn’t happen again. In the meantime, she’d have her eight year old check on them and spread a little more feed out.
He had watched as the little one ran from the house and to the gate, opened it, and ran inside. The little one was careful and made sure the gate was firmly shut behind her. After scattering the feed, she ran back out of the gate to the pump to fill the water bucket for the chickens, forgetting to close it completely. This was the chance he had been waiting for. While the little one was filling the water bucket, he snuck through the gate and hid behind the stack of lumber beside the hen house. She never noticed that the dog had moved the gate open a little more. After making sure the chickens had food and water, she carefully made sure that the gate was secure and ran back into the house.
When the children had been fed, bathed, and tucked into bed, she took her own cool shower and reapplied the gel to her burning skin. She was looking forward to lying down and drifting off with relaxed feeling swimming always gave her. But first, she had to take care of the garden and check the hen house. So she put her robe and slippers on and stepped outside. The air was so cool and pleasant she wanted to just sit on the porch and enjoy the night and look at the stars. But something was just not quite right; it was too quiet. Anytime she stepped outside the chickens expected her to feed them so they came running. Tonight, nothing stirred.
She looked around for the chickens but couldn’t see anything moving. Slowly she walked toward the gate and found it secure. Still there was no sound. After opening the gate she started walking slowly toward the hen house. Just a few steps into the barnyard she came across the first body. With her flashlight she scanned the barnyard. What she saw was horrific. There were bodies and feathers everywhere. It looked as though a war had taken place. No, not a war; a massacre. Slowly, she made her way to the hen house and shined her light inside. There, high in the nesting cubbys her husband had so carefully built, she found two hens, huddled together. As her heart began breaking, tears of sadness and rage began falling down her cheeks.
Going back outside, she began looking at the bodies and counting. She located the bodies of sixteen hens, but only one rooster. Where was the other rooster? Then she heard something in the trees. Shining her flashlight up into the low branches, she saw the rooster. Reaching him and taking him down from his branch, she could tell that he had put up a hard fought battle with whatever had attack his barnyard. Her main rooster, her beautiful rooster, only had one tail feather left, and it was barely attached.
Devastated and heartbroken she started to take the rooster to the hen house. What or who could have done such a horrible thing to her flock? That’s when, out of the corner of her eye, she saw a movement by the gate. There, slinking through the gate she had left open was the dog; the beautiful Greyhound the kids played with after school, the loving companion that waited every morning for the boys to come out and play, the murderous animal that had destroyed her flock. Anger welled up inside her. If he would do this to the poor chickens, what would he do to the boys if they made him angry?
She placed the rooster upon his roost in the hen house and began to look around by the wood pile where she had found her red hen’s body. Surely the hidden nest would be close by. She carefully began unstacking the wood until she found them; six eggs in a neatly made nest. Gathering the eggs gently, she carried them into the hen house and placed them under her two remaining hens. Maybe, just maybe, they would survive and she could rebuild her flock. But first she had to make sure a massacre like this would never happen again.
Securing the hen house and the gate, she walked back into the house with tears blurring her vision. Taking the shotgun down from the rack, she loaded it and returned to the yard.
There was the dog, acting as if nothing had happened. As she raised the shotgun and pointed it at the dog, her heart broke even more. She just couldn’t do this; she couldn’t kill the animal that had done what instinct had made him do.
She unloaded the gun and put it aside, set the sprinklers, and turned on the pump. The adoption shelter would be open so she would have her husband deal with the dog in the morning. She looked around at the strewn remains of her flock and set about cleaning up the massacre in the barnyard.