Change of heart

Califia Taqueria
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le_chicken_farmer@yahoo.com

CHEAP EATS You don't know me. You think you do, but not even my closest friends in the world know what a foolish, silly, misguided, and clumsy chicken farmer I can be. Key word: can be. Key words.

Luckily, we do have a choice, or at least a say. I have decided to be flattered by what happened on the night when I made a beautiful chicken pie out of one of my own, then accidentally dumped it in the sink. This point of view was not easy to come by.

At first I felt about as awful as it is possible to feel without dying. People who were in the kitchen had to leave the kitchen because they couldn't bear to see me like that. I said what any English-speaking chicken farmer would have said right then. I said, putting it mildly, "Fuck!" My posture, I am sure, said the rest. I was bent or buckled over the counter next to the sink, my head in my hands, feeling entirely broken.

There was a time, earlier that day, when I had looked in the mirror and thought, I look pretty. Yeah, and there was a time, however brief, when my pie had looked delicious. Now it was a pile of steaming ruins in the bottom of the sink. Is this life? I keep trying to find out what life is, and the results keep coming back from the lab: an image of something ugly over porcelain.

Fortunately, I laugh easily and play hard, so I don't stay down for long. During my already overdocumented recent depression (thanks for the concerned e-mails, BTW) I spent a long, blubbery time on the phone with my beloved Sockywonk, and she kept saying, "Your chickens! Your chickens!" And this is why I feel so sorry for people who struggle with longer-term depression. Because when you're like that, not even the things you love can quite cut it. Not even chickens. Not to mention that, truth be told, I don't even love my chickens. Not these ones. Not yet.

There's no delicate way to say this. My chickens are pussies. Remember? I had to coax them out of their house and into the world with ham sandwiches. They had been outdoorsy, technically free-range chickens for months without ever really ranging freely. With half an acre of brush and stumps and logs and trees to explore, they mostly stay in the bushes right outside their door and just quiver.

Houdini they are not — Houdini being my famous and beloved escape-artist chicken whom I loved and then killed, when, even in death, she leaped out of the pot and bit me. In fact, hey, wait a minute! Come to think of it, ohmigod, this was Houdini, the end of her, the last little bit of freezer-burned meat, the last couple cups of broth, that went into this pie! I swear.

Holy shit! So she had one last escape attempt in her!

Not that it succeeded. The sink being pretty clean, Choo-choo and me spatula'd it all back into the pan, a broken mess, a chicken-pie casserole — but those who were brave enough to try it liked it.

Wow. Which would also explain why, while I was walking to my car after a sleepless night in Earl Butter's closet, even the leftovers tried to get away. The pan, I swear, flew out of my hands and, without spilling, clattered across the sidewalk. I attributed this, at the time, to precaffeination, but now I'm thinking: Houdini!

That right there, that is spirit, soul, zest, zing, and that's what my current chickens lacked. I had yet to look out my kitchen window and see my favorite sight in the world: chickens running around being chickens. So when Sockywonk said, Your chickens, your chickens, I was, like, whatever. Like I didn't even hear her.

But they did, I guess, because four hours after we got off the phone, when I finally had the strength to get up from the table and turned to the sink to fill the teakettle, there they were. In the waning daylight. In the big yard. First time ever. Loving life and running around like chickens with their heads still on. Their world had just gotten bigger.

Mine too.

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