A Chicken Called Wanda.

Have you ever heard a chicken in distress?

It sounds like a newborn pig being clawed to death.

Go ahead and imagine that for a sec.

 Got it?

That’s what I woke to 12 hours ago.

It sounded like this:

Heeeeeelll heeeeeellll squeeeeeeeeee 

I felt it in my guts. So my eyes popped open. Really. A very upsetting sound.  It almost sounded like HELP. Heeeeellpppppp sqqueeeeeeeee squeeee. Ugh! I pulled up on my elbows.

Was it a puppy?

The neighbor’s kitten?

Whatever it was, was putting up a good fight.

I knew our chickens were locked up.

But the poor thing continued wailing — maybe a squirrel?

Please put it out of its misery, I thought guiltily. I hate waking in the wee hours. Once I’m up, I’m up.

It sounded farther away than my yard, but —

I heard rustling downstairs.

Then my phone pinged.

A text from my neighbor.

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I tore off my covers and ran downstairs to find Sophia at the back door, peering out.

“There’s something out there, Momma. But I’m scared to go out.” She handed me a flashlight.

I opened the back door, trying to pull a robe around me. I got one foot on the porch when a fat raccoon bolted across the yard then wobbled up a tree. I ran-hopped to the chickens, acorns stabbing the bottom of my feet. Mystery yuck squishing through my toes.

The coop was locked. Secure. Thank God. Three chickens on the roost . . .  Wait.

Why was Wanda on the ground?

I shined light on her.

And my insides slid south.

Her entire side was ripped away, dripping fresh, thick blood. Her torn skin dangling in a vulgar way.

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 Kinda puts you off chicken, right?

(This is after we cleaned her up.)

MOMMY, THE RACOON!” Sophia warned from the porch.

I spotlighted the tree. Bastard thing was watching me, little black marbles for eyes. Waiting.

How did —

I saw the back of the coop. The trap door Christopher crafted so we could reach in for eggs? OPEN! Damn thing figured out the latch!

I can’t go through this again, I thought, looking at poor Wanda.

You’ll recall this happened earlier this year with another hen, Beryl — that time due to negligence. Beryl suffered deeper, scarier wounds so we moved her inside, caring for her like a child until she was well enough to rejoin the others.

Wanda splattered blood as she walked, bumping into chicken wire, clearly traumatized.

It took FOUR WEEKS for Beryl to heal. But it was our fault so we did what we had to do. Well-documented, round-the-clock care in the CHIC-U. For a month. I dragged the Facebook community with me. It was exhausting.

I picked Wanda up, her little heart thrashing. Her flesh against mine.

I can’t go through this again,” I told Sophia, who had 5th grade in 6 hours. Wanda’s blood mapped down my arm.

“We have to,” she said, already laying towels in the bath.

Yes. We have to.

Wounded chickens aren’t safe outside. Even among peers. We cleaned her up the best we could, then settled her in Ollie’s old cat bed, which serves nicely for chicken confinement.

Today we got a trap from the City and hopefully we’ll catch that raccoon tonight. I’ll keep you posted.

But please keep Wanda in your thoughts. I know she’s just a chicken and dumb as a box of rocks. But she’s our chicken. And as we learned with Beryl, chickens have feelings and a will to survive.

Beryl’s story I secured in a manuscript and we’ll see what happens there. In the meantime —so you don’t leave feeling icky— here she is, back on her favorite guy’s arm.

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I’ll keep you posted on Wanda.

I’m so clucking tired.

 

 

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A Case for Reincarnation.

Time?

1991.

I’m 13. Maybe 14. Driving across country with the fam. Sprawled on the backseat of our Dodge Caravan with my yellow Sony Walkman, listening to Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits, staring at the dome light. Wishing I was tan. Pretty. Better at math. Hoping Virginia doesn’t suck.

Really, this was the extent of my concerns.

But something was about to happen. Something 25 years later, I still can’t explain.

Don’t Ask Me Why came on.

Suddenly 

I’m in a bright, upstairs room. The one with two large windows opposite the door. White wallpaper repeats a delicate pattern along clean walls and sunlight spills across the floor. I stare at the wooden rocking horse. It’s new. Barely used. And I feel sad. Simultaneously I sense a tall woman and the rapid passage of time.

What the —

I ripped out my ear phones.

My parents discussed travel routes. Pit stops. How long til Atlanta.

I sat up. Eyes wide. Whizzing past cars and trees.

We didn’t say WTF back then, but it certainly would’ve applied.

I wasn’t sleeping.

Nor daydreaming.

So what. Was that.

And why did I feel so very, very . . . melancholy. 

Maybe it was my imagination. Maybe I was creating a really effective video to the song.

 . . . but.

I’m still halfway there? In the tall-ceilinged room. The rocking horse. Is it mine? The lady. I don’t see her. But I know she’s tall and well-dressed. Mostly, WHY DOES THIS FEEL SO FAMILIAR?

I closed my eyes, trying to see more.

I’m not observing this room. I remember. It’s on the second floor of a grand house. The window panes are thick with rippled glass. Large, potted ferns decorate the periphery as well as —for some reason I know this— a landing on the carpeted stairs.

I don’t come up here often.

The song finished. And so did my vision —if that’s what it was.

I sat there stunned.

This wasn’t a daydream like closing my eyes, wanting to be somewhere else and imagining a beach, or whatever. And it wasn’t some astral projection where I transported behind closed eyes —not that I could’ve achieved that or, even knew what ‘astral projection’ was back then.

No.

This was revisiting someplace I knew. But forgot.

And trying to recapture that feeling now?  In this blog? Under scrutiny?

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Please, allow me an analogy.

Imagine a great-grandmother, ravaged with dementia at the end of her long, full, vibrant life. The culmination of 98 years —childhood, parents, summer, tantrums, teddy bears, church, Christmas, school, fall, Roosevelt, university, snow, births, career, winter, marriage, pregnancies, spring, world war, telegrams, tears, laughs, friends, Easter, children, Eisenhower, deaths, Korea, Elvis, retirement, Beatles, Vietnam, grandchildren, Reagan, Disney, Thanksgiving, retirement, Grand Canyon, diagnosis, and a cancer that swallowed her husband whole —forgotten.

And now she’s dying.

Surrounded by weeping strangers. Calling her Mother. Desperate, one of them hands her a blanket. Within it, her firstborn’s smell somehow perfectly preserved. Confused, she pulls it to her face.

A century splashes over her.

Her babies. The popcorn they strung for Christmas. Her husband. The way he shaved left-handed and smiled sideways. The Key-Lime recipe she saved for her eldest daughter. The backdoor handle you lifted up instead of down. Her granddaughter’s deep dimples and chocolate smile. The P.G. Wodehouse novel she needed to finish and the iron —did she turn it off?

Everything.

But she switches off again.

.

.

.

.

This isn’t about an old woman. Or dementia.

Not at all.

I’m asking YOU READING to consider the intimate impact of memory. The soft feelings of life and traumatic confusion in their sudden removal.

That moment right there.

That’s what I felt that day.

Confused?

Me, too.

I was in 9th grade. Did I experience weirdness from time to time? Sure. But the majority of my psychic run-ins were still years away.  I had zero foundation for this experience.

Maybe the song prompted it?

I stopped and rewound. Pushed play. Over and over. From Texas to Virginia. Trying to hold onto —and make sense of— that room.

The song starts again. A strummy little number about— well, I’m not sure what it’s about. But really, it’s irrelevant. My experience had nothing to do with the song. No cosmic connection between me and Billy Joel. Boo.

Still.

That upstairs room (and feelings therein) are raw and accessible, even now.

So what was it?

A past life?

Slip in the Matrix?

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If so, what’s the significance? Why show me that little bit and nothing more?

These days, I describe metaphysical phenomona with clarity and opinion.

But not this.

I feel naked and splayed writing this because I never told anyone can’t explain it.  Still, I protect its integrity by not adding or assuming details. I’ve shared what I know.

And I know that room existed, once upon a time.

A room with dimension and warmth from large windows spreading sun on the dark wooden floor, polished beneath my feet.

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I don’t know the people in this photo, nor its date.

This isn’t the room.

But it captures my feelings.

Please feel free to share yours.

If anything like this has ever happened to you, I’d love to hear about it.

Love,

Jennifer