Saturday, April 29, 2006

What’s in a Name?

People ask, “Hey Evil Chicken, how’d you get your crazy name?” Well, therein lies the tale…

My wife, our two daughters (at the time) and I were at a family birthday party. There were 20 or so kids outside playing within the confines of a large, fenced-in yard while the adults who remained at the party chatted inside about NASCAR, the right to bear arms, insurance rates and the local school district. My cousin, our host, kept chickens in an old wooden chicken coop that sat in the west end of the lot.

“Can you imagine the concentration that a driver has to have?” one father asked me. “I mean, you are really movin’ down that track – 200 MPH!”

“Boy, I’ll say.” I replied taking a sip of coffee.

If I live to be 142, I’ll never get the concept of NASCAR. My love for racing ended when Speed Racer left the airwaves back in the seventies. I’m sure that it is quite exciting and that there are some hard earned lessons to be taken from the spectacle – I just lack the vision to see it. To me, it just seems like a bunch of guys driving cars. That’s a spectacle that I try to avoid on the highways Monday through Friday – I can’t think of a reason to take up any time on the weekend to watch more of it. Still, there I was standing in a sea of black and red tee shirts with number “3s” on them.

“Oh my Gawd! That girl’s gonna get hurt!” a seated woman said. She had just packed the last few crumbs from a thick slice of birthday cake into her jowls.

My wife and I exchanged glances. On some base molecular level we knew that it was one of our daughters. Knowing our daughters and the sheer haphazard destruction that they can wreak, it was almost inevitable. I looked out the window and saw two figures – no, two combatants, the 4 year-old Kathryn and a 2.5-foot tall rooster. I excused myself from the NASCAR conversation, pushed my way through crowd, stepped through the open doorway and, so as not to startle the rooster into doing something rash, I slowly descended the stairs.

Putting one hand in front of me, as if I were a Jedi Knight using the force, I said, “Honey… Step away from the chicken.” No sooner had I uttered these words than my daughter assumed that famous Lou Ferrigno stance from The Incredible Hulk TV show and began to roar.

“Grrr!” she growled. The sound was guttural – the Hulk would have been proud.

The rooster had had enough. This roaring creature was a clear and present danger. A threat to his barnyard was imminent and it was time to show all in attendance just who ruled the roost. He sprang into the air, his talons both raised and ready to sink into my baby’s face. This is instinctual behavior with birds. They go for the eyes. This chicken was going for my daughter’s beautiful eyes. Kathryn pulled back as the chicken struck – instead of blinding my daughter, the rooster inflicted two scratches on either side of her throat.

I scooped up my baby, estimated the rate of decent of the chicken and kicked. My foot connected with the bird, launching it into the side of a nearby outbuilding. It bounced off and scurried away clucking curses in chickenese at my offspring and me.

I carried Kat back to the steps and set her on her feet. She was shaking and breathing heavy. Her scratches were superficial.

“Man, that’s one evil chicken.” She said.

“EXPLETIVE!” the hostess said from the top of the landing. She was furious. Her eyes scanned the yard looking for her husband, my cousin. She found him.

“I want that EXPLETIVE chicken dead! Do you EXPLETIVE hear me?”

My cousin verbalized that he understood. He looked to his older brother and then to me. I knew what was going to happen next. She was the judge and the three of us were to carry out the sentence; capitol punishment – pure and simple. I had never been party to such events. I began to think that DNA evidence would not be needed for the bird’s appeal. His day in court was over and done with. Dead chicken strutting.

“You know, it wasn’t really his fault.” I said. This was true. The bird had escaped from his cage and was protecting himself from the onslaught of the incredible 4 year-old.

“No! That EXPLETIVE bird is dangerous.” She said. “This has EXPLETIVE happened before.”

I looked back to my cousins. The bird’s rights to appeal had been denied. It was time for action. Surprisingly, the bird was easily coaxed back into the outbuilding. I heard later that he had roosted there from time to time. My cousins and I entered behind him and closed the door.

Gentle reader, I will spare the gory details and censure myself. I will leave out the parts about the dull axe, the switched executioners and the three whacks that still kept the head on the evil chicken’s shoulders. Suffice to say that I was the bagman and assisted with the sentence. We deposited the earthly remains in a Hefty bag.

We emerged from the garage with grim expressions on our faces. It was over. The deed was done.

“EXPLETIVE - A!” our hostess said upon seeing the bag in my arms. We deposited him at the curb.

The party broke up shortly after the sentence was carried out. We said our good byes and made our way home, taking with us the weight of the memories of the day.

Time passes, as it always does, and I now pause to reflect – hoping that some part of the evil chicken lives on somewhere. A place where there are no coops or chicken wire or children’s birthday parties – a happy place. I suppose that if I were to attempt a deeper, more heartfelt moral to the tale it would be this; any and all wayward cocks should just stay away from my daughters.

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