The Iron Writer Challenge #178
2016 Summer Solstice Challenge Championship
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
Tina Biscuit, Ong Sze Teng, Michael Cottle, Mamie Pound
An old family recipe
An electric fence
Not the Crumbs
Ong Sze Teng
The fine red head rose sleepily, confusion crossing his eyes as Depp darted into their house, flinging the paper down. “It’s us. Breaded Fried Chicken, right?”
Immediately, Baron flinched as if his son had just cursed and was awake at once.
“Digging in human books again?”
Depp rolled his eyes. “It was left at the door. I just flipped it. Why else would I learn to read?”
Baron held his gaze for a moment, then relented with a sigh.
“The crumb covered one?”
The casual tone in his father’s voice was somewhat appalling; they were talking about their kind being sliced and tossed into the very grains they used to eat, before submerged in deep boiling waters. The very thought sent ice running through him.
“You can read? You’ve seen it before?” Depp whispered.
He was answered with a reluctant shake of a head. “It’s been in use by the family since… longer than I can remember. Their favourite recipe too.”
“And everyone’s just settling for this? To imagine they’re entering the fantastical realm of ancestors instead of getting slaughtered?” Baffled, the young rooster shifted towards the walls and leaned against it.
Baron avoided meeting his gaze, but picked up the sheet of paper with a talon. The recipe curled into a roll after a few attempts, and he hopped back awkwardly to tuck it in the furthest nest, the throne of the proudest rooster.
“There. They’ll understand my statement this evening.”
That couldn’t be all, Depp thought, and that was all he could think of as a fresh surge of shame and fury rushed to his head.
“But you’ll be going elsewhere, I suppose.”
As quick as it had come, the wave subsided. “I’m definitely not hanging around to become fried.”
He was in earnest. The pen was suffocating, the other chickens were busybodies, and he never did know which was his mother, nor did he want any of them to be. Almost always had he smartly avoided their ruckus by chatting up cows or pigs in the stys and pens next to his prison. Depp met his father’s gaze as he straightened up. He would have mistaken the glint for pride if he had been more naïve.
“Then go on. This is all I’ve known. For once I don’t have to beg someone to leave because, well, you don’t even want to stay.”
Depp admitted, “I would, if the fences were not prickly.”
His father nodded. “Electricity. There’s an opening at the corner where our side of the fence meets the pigs’.”
Depp was still, surprised, but Baron strutted past him, gesturing with a wing to follow him. It was not a wide range they had and all corners were distant specks but still identifiable.
Depp followed the tips of his feathers, nodding as he noted the spot.
“Hide in the trough while you can, and wait for my signal.”
When the caw came, he had been shaking in anticipation for what seemed like hours. The buzz of the fence was almost nonexistent, while his freedom lay just beyond the hole he was squeezing through.
Jack and The Banty Rooster
Granny Pate said she would make them, but Jack had to bring her six eggs from the chicken pen. Jack could offer little resistance to Granny’s deviled eggs. He couldn’t get enough of them.
But, there was a small problem in the chicken pen. It was Billy the Banty Rooster- the meanest rooster in the state and the whole dang world as far as Jack was concerned. But Jack was strong. Jack was nimble. Jack was quick, and he loved Granny’s deviled eggs. Right now, his hunger was stronger than his fear.
Jack creeped down to the chicken pen with the stealth of a ninja. And there was Billy the Banty Rooster, strutting through the feed trough like he owned the place!
“Stupid rooster”, Jack thought. He would slip over to the hen nests and grab a few eggs before Billy even saw him. “No sense in any confrontation of sorts” Jack thought strategically.
Jack was through the gate, and glanced over his shoulder to make sure Billy wasn’t looking. He noticed the crazy rooster was still kicking out feed from the trough, sifting through it like he might find something better at the bottom of it.
Jack began to check the nests and the first one was empty, but the second nest had two eggs that Jack slipped in his pail. The third nest was empty, and the fourth nest was empty as well. The fifth nest had three eggs! All he needed was one more!
Jack was in such a hurry to gather the eggs and get out, that he was looking over his left shoulder for Billy while he was checking the nest with his right hand. The rooster still hadn’t noticed Jack, but something much worse than any banty rooster had pecked Jack on his hand- a banty setting hen!
“Yow!” Jack yelled as he jumped and stumbled over backwards. It was such a commotion that Billy the Banty Rooster finally noticed and took off after him. Jack quickly scrambled to his feet about half crazy chunking eggs into the pail. The gate was blocked by Billy, so Jack made for the fence, but he forgot all about the fence being electric! Granny Pate just had recently upgraded to keep varmints out.
As you can imagine, when Jack grabbed hold to the fence the pail went flying and eggs went busting. As soon as he came loose from the fence, Billy was on him pecking and clucking like the mean old banty rooster that he was. Poor Jack spun around in a circle, and ran out of the gate just in time to leave the crazy rooster behind.
“What’s all this commotion?” Granny Pate asked walking up.
“It’s Billy” Jack said. “He’s crazy!”
Granny waltzed in the pen yet Billy did nothing. She picked up the pail, grabbed a half dozen eggs and waltzed right out of the pen.
“Billy is just fine. Let’s make some deviled eggs” Granny said.
“Well Granny, you got one thing right” Jack said. “Those eggs are the devil.”
Jumping Jack Flash
The hard tail slammed the rear wheel deep into another pothole as Jack rounded the last bend. His watery eyes focused on the speedometer; he remembered doing this in his youth, when the Bantam was new. It still sounded like a lawnmower, but he had cherished it since he had taken delivery from the BSA factory, and was confident it could still take this corner at 70 mph. The springs in the seat tried to cushion the blows, but his hands were numb with cold, and the constant jarring threatened to shear his hands from their grips. He slowed down when he saw the track ahead of him: every puddle hid a hole, and the light was fading. He could hardly see where the tarmac ended, and the mud began.
It had changed since he had last visited his mother. Back then, his father was still alive, and the farm was still a viable concern. He pulled up the visor on his open-faced helmet, and tried to see the little path that used to be his shortcut. He could see the kitchen light was on, and would ride through the trees, towards the back garden. He would cut the engine at the wall, and try to sneak up on her, like he had done when he was a kid.
He was sure he could smell the chicken broth, filtering on the breeze; his tongue caught raindrops in anticipation. The trees had grown, but there was still a path through them. He stopped by the wall, and looked over to the house. He could see her at the window, but knew that she wouldn’t see him in the crepuscular light. She would have the soup simmering away, like it had for generations before her. Jack switched off the engine, pulled off his helmet, jammed the gauntlets inside it, hooked it over the bars, and leaned the bike against the wall.
It was almost completely dark. Without the headlight, he could barely see. He felt the copes on top of the wall, and ran his hands along them. He soon found the missing ones, reached down, and edged along; a whole section of the wall was missing. He remembered having to jump, but this was more like an awkward step – more awkward when his trailing foot caught the side of an old, rusty bathtub. He didn’t identify it, until he fell headlong into it.His mother must still keep stock, and be using this as a water trough, he thought as he pushed his hair out of his eyes. He stood up, and wiped the worst of the mud from his leathers. He balanced on one leg as he tried to step out with the little dignity that he had remaining. He stretched out a hand, fumbling for support. The thin wire of the fence was a relief, so he grasped it with the other hand, too. His pulse quickened as he leaned forward to extricate his other leg from the bath. The muddy water conducted well.
Another pulse left the battery; the electrical current followed the path of least resistance, and his numb hands shook.