Beryl’s Chicken Diary. (End)

(This is the last entry!!)

Read from the beginning HERE.




100% chance.


It rained all night.

All morning.

All afternoon.

And it’s still raining.

Passing cars splash baby tidal waves and rain gutters pour waterfalls.

You know the sound.

The girls are huddled together, dry under the porch awning, waiting it out.

Not me.

The back garden is a thousand shallow pools, growing deeper by the second. And I’m running back and forth, splashing. Sinking into soft, fresh mud.


Carpeing this diem.

I feel the girls watching, a little concerned.


Some creatures hide from weather; others delight in it.

I am variety B.

And so are my humans, blaring Indian music with the doors open wide.

Sometimes you gotta act a little crazy to feel sane.

And today sanity is dirty feet, grey skies, wet feathers, and secure knowledge that I got first dibs on all the worm action tomorrow.




Is that Beryl in the compost?




roaches and biscuits


Heck ya that’s me in the compost!

Jenkins gave me the stink eye I was in there so long, but truth be told I’m feeling a little feisty.

Maybe because my toe’s growing back.

Simple things feel magic when they’re new again.

Like nesting and the weighty pull of a forming egg.

The natural order of things.

I like the word order. It means rightful place.

Like me on this roost next to my sister.

G’night, Beryl, she coos, her head against mine.

And we were just about asleep when Jennifer screamed so loud the girls shot up like toast.

But I knew better.

Either she saw a roach or popped open some biscuits, I explained calmly. My eyes still closed.

Then we hear a clunka shoe perhaps— and think we know the answer.

Wanda giggles first, then Jenkins.

Then me.

Then Babs, who never laughs at anyone.

Then we squished together.

The four of us sleepy.

The four of us remembering.

You know that sudden bursty feeling when all your happies come back?



A moment of silence for Mister Roach




the trill of pleasure


I made a brand new noise for my humans today.

A soft warbling trill from the back of my healing throat.

When they look it up on the Google, they’ll find it means

thank you.

I’m happy

I love you.

And life is good.




My name is Beryl.

I’m a beautiful lady chicken.

And I’m gonna 

I made it.


3  weeks later, Beryl re-established her dominance.






Thank you for reading my diary, people humans.

If you like it, I hope you’ll share because that helps Jennifer, who’s pretty okay sometimes.

I wish you the very best things in the world.


love, Beryl


Beryl’s Chicken Diary. (6)

Read from the beginning HERE.






Ol’ spider finally trapped some food tonight.

I’m relieved actually, she was looking a little pale.


Desperate buzzing is a very sad noise.

That poor fly tried to escape, tangling deeper as she inched close, creeping in such a way, I felt glad to be down here.

I couldn’t watch.

So I listened to thunder instead.

Rain tonight means lots of worms for the girls tomorrow. Makes me jealous, really.

I quite enjoy tub service, but I miss getting my beak dirty.


Not fair!” Sophia yells, three rooms away. “You never let me—”

A door slams.


I want to hear what they never let her do.

I wish they’d turn on the lights.

The room is dark and the dark clouds are making it darker.

Christopher’s in there hollering about focus! and how many times does nine go into thirty-six!

That’s something we really couldn’t hear outside —arguing.

I don’t like it.

FOUR! Sophia yells, stomping so hard my bathtub trembles.


Thunder outside, thunder inside.

Now rain slaps the window like it’s mad about something.

zzzzzzz  . . . zz

. . . z

I stare at the soap dish.

Maybe she had eggs in the compost, that fly. Maybe she had a sister.

The soap is slivery thin like a waning moon, a single hair its prisoner.

We have a lot in common, me and that hair, trapped in white.

Spider’s over there wrapping her prize and I think about fate.

Maybe life’s divided in two.

One half thinking you know stuff and the other half wishing you didn’t.

I miss my sister.

I miss my old life.







Okay, sorry about all that.

Dwelling on the past 


Feeling sorry for yourself 

= Weakness.


I don’t know why that raccoon chose me, but he did. So now I just have to get on with it.

The big, proverbial it.

Tonight the moon’ll chase the sun, and tomorrow a rooster will crow whether we like the noise or not.

And let’s face it.

If that raccoon had gone after Wanda instead of me, there’d be three hens alive right now instead of four.

Chickens will be chickens.

Plus all the worrying would interrupt my healing.

Christopher keeps sighing at me with worried eyes and I’m not having that.

Not after all he’s done.

I heard him say maybe I should be an inside chicken and something about diapers.

If that means what I think it means—

Speaking of inside, I hope they don’t clean the windows.

Spider looks tired today.

Her fly’s all wrapped up like a wooly burrito.

One ambitious wipe and her life would be over.

I tried expressing this on her behalf. But it came out beCAW!

–and made my human jump.

A mistake perhaps.

They like quiet on the toilet.








Continue reading HERE.


The next entry will be posted in two days.

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We’re halfway through my diary! If you’ve enjoyed reading, please tell people about me. And share and stuff.

I have moderate vocabulary but big dreams. 

love, Beryl

BOOK LAB: Ugly Ass Books

We have a recycle bin at the library that should be called the Cornucopia of Surprise.  Mostly, it’s trash. Newspaper circulars. Worn paperbacks with detached pages. Broken books. Wet books. Moldy books. Useless donations like roach-nibbled encyclopedias, obsolete plumbing manuals, and Weight Watcher recipe cards from 1974.

But sometimes, you find treasure. One time I found the social studies book I used in 2nd grade! Not the exact same one, but you know what I mean. And I sure did swipe those recipe cards.

Mousse of Salmon, anyone?





I recently walked by and saw a book.

Not just *any* book.

Quite possibly the ugliest book I’ve ever seen.

I grabbed it, spying ‘WD’ scrawled over the barcode in stinky black marker.



See. I have this mental condition where I feel sorry for inanimate objects.

Like that last slice of bread

. . . too thin for a sandwich.


the grape on the grocery store floor

. . . forever separated from its family.


The Christmas tree nobody picks.

ginger rogers crying tears gif.gif

I own my psychosis.

And I held that poor, ugly book.

Deemed unworthy. Given the WD death-stamp and cast aside while its prettier friends remain on the shelf.

I read the summary, skimming phrases like gorgeous cophilarious consequences, and battle of her life.

Can’t be too bad, I thought, a familiar delusion spreading over me.

What if this book is awesome?

And what if no one ever picked it up because –let’s face it– the cover was ugly. Like how did a publisher let it go out like this ugly. And how many others were destined for the Withdrawal Cart o’ Death because of unfortunate cover art?

Oh no, little darling. I hugged the book. I’m gonna give you a chance. To prove you’re worthy.

I tenderly wiped roach-nibbled dust chunks from the cover.


And a new Book Lab was born.


BOOK LAB was never about reading something safe and popular. We got Oprah and James Patterson for that. No. It’s about experimentation and pushing boundaries while spotlighting books we’ve

  • Forgotten.
  • Never heard of
  • Ignored far too long

It’s a win for the book, no matter what. Please recall the very first experiment in which we selected books blindfolded. Nedra’s pick was not only a delightful source of weiner jokes, but actually a very good read (despite its cover) causing a tiny surge in circulation after her review!

So far we’ve learned:

  1. Book covers LIE.
  2. Pulitzer Prize winners DO NOT SUCK.
  3. Some ‘Classics’ kinda do.
  4. Librarians are more valuable than Google.
  5. The book isn’t always better than the movie.

So how would UGLY books fare in a new experiment?


We gathered at the library.

“Please pick the ugliest book you can find,” I said.

Define ugly, they said.

I showed them my book.


“Almost no one on the planet should pick up your book and think it looks awesome,” I clarified.

And they were super excited.

I could tell.


Bless them.

They wandered into the stacks –warriors armed with good attitudes– and saved picked their novels.

Later we gathered over food and wine to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly.

(Our favorite part.)




The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald

Wife leaves husband before the first World War. Man moves to Russia with kids and develops weird relationship with Nanny.

What did Nedra think?


Nedra’s rating:

Goodreads rating: 3.76

Last time it was checked out from the library? 2015.




The Solid Mandala by Patrick White

Here’s Petra, describing an overly symbolic story about twin Australian brothers, one simple, one clever, living in questionably close confines.


She loved it.

Just kidding, she gave it 2 stars.

Goodreads rating: 3.95

Last time it was checked out? NEVER.

This book has NEVER been circulated.





The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West.

Tod is a young scene designer obsessed with Faye,  a 17-year-old platinum vixen obsessed with fame. The Day of the Locust reveals loose morals, twisted desires, and the false, corruptive lure of Hollywood.

Emily thought it was great and read a few pages. Sounded good to us, too! Researching Goodreads, I found this little gem:

“Adults beating the spontaneity out of children so their kid can be the next Shirley Temple. How twisted. Adults dressing, speaking, moving, expressing themselves in imitation of what they see on the screen. How sick. How appalling. How American.”

* Note: This book was written in 1939.

Emily’s rating: 4 stars.

Goodreads rating: 3.79

Last time it was checked out from the library? 2013



Wait for it.






Mixed Blessings by Diane Amos

An investigative reporter minds her grandfather and old-fashioned aunt while her erotic-fiction writer mother’s away on her Honeymoon. Meanwhile, her fiancé’s ex reenters the scene and her aunt gets pregnant.

— the sequel to last year’s smash Getting Personal, per the cover.


Ya’ll know I wanted to like this.

To be absolutely fair, it wasn’t near as bad as I thought it was going to be and actually coasted along with 3 stars. Even with phrases like “apprehension streaked through me” and “air whooshed from my lungs” and “trepidation streaked down my spine.”

But too many adverbs and cliches weighed this farcical plot down . . . annoyingly.

My rating: 2 stars.

Goodreads rating: 3.5

No library data as it was already withdrawn.


Maybe you’re thinking, Hey Miss Judgy McJudgerton! Those covers aren’t bad!

Please remember:

  • ‘Ugly’ is subjective.
  • Lotsa books have lotsa covers.


I doubt Nedra would’ve picked her SHORTLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE novel if it looked like this:


or this:



But therein lies the fun.























What is Book Lab?


We conduct literary experiments.

One night (because I lie awake pondering stupid crap) I wondered how many great stories languish behind ugly covers. Covers so fugly no one touches them. Left on shelves so long that the librarian eventually yanks them to the Withdrawal Cart o’ Death.


Poor, neglected characters. Dialogue silenced, plots stifled. Unable to fufill their literary duty.

All because we’re a bunch of judgmental turds.

. . . it’s true. We learned that in our first experiment.

So this book could totally be awesome:


(Probably not.)

But we KNOW this one is:


And don’t lie.

You wouldn’t pick this copy up if you didn’t know better.


We’re several experiments in. The latest conceived when I discovered this fascinating contraption at the library called THE MAGIC BOOK MACHINE.

(Okay, fine. It’s a program called Novelist. But Magic Book Machine —MBM for short—sounds way better.)

Anyway, Novelist is this awesome program where you type in bullet words (or a book or author you love)



z  !

How did I not know about this before? You mean, I can walk up and type England Time Travel Psychological Paul McCartney Teapot Wonderland Champagne and it’ll spit out a list? Just for me?






IMG_6066 (1).jpg

. . . but wait.

I glanced at the reference desk.

Our librarian bent over a document with a patron. Helping. Simplifying. Smiling. Doing their public service thang.

My anxious little fingers trembled over the MBM.

What about the librarian?

Our trusty, knowledgeable, live-to-serve librarian?

The patron stood, thanked her, then walked away smiling.

Ooohhhhhhh I felt an experiment bubbling.

What if– just what if— I fed words to the MBM. Then gave the same words to a librarian.

Human vs. Machine?


“The machine will probably win,” warned Deb, herself a librarian.

Only one way to find out.

I asked Book Labbers to write down 20 words. 10 describing books they love, 10 no thank yous, and the title of the last badass book they read.


I fed our lists to the MBM.

IMG_6009 (1).jpg

. . . then gave the same lists to Ashley, the children’s librarian at the San Marcos Public Library.


Not only is she personable, well read, quirktastic, and a Book Lab enthusiast: I knew she could handle it if we thought her books sucked.

But first up: MACHINE!

I plugged in words to Novelist. It churned and sputtered.

(Not really.)

It listed titles and I headed to our boozefest meeting with an armful of books, then made everyone guess which book belonged to whom.


(Nedra won.)

We read our MBM picks, then gathered again. This time with Ashley’s selections:


Had we pigeon-holed ourselves in this exercise? Sorta.

Murdered chick in the woods? Nedra’s

Depressed Italian housewife? Emily’s.

Eiffel Tower on the cover? Probably mine.

We played ‘guess whose book’ and Nedra won again –but it wasn’t so obvious this time.

Ashley threw some curve balls.

So who did better. Person or program. Mind or matrix.


MBM pick:


The Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable: A marriage-in-trouble American travels to Paris to appraise an apartment full of antiques. There she finds the owner’s diary and a French colleague who wants more than her expertise.

Librarian pick:


Blackout by Connie Willis: In 2060, Oxford University students observe history by time-travel. All swell until three students get stuck in London during the Blitz.


I would’ve never ever picked Blackout for myself (pesky sci-fi label), but . . . I loved it. I’m a British, World War II, AND time-travel enthusiast so this book woulda had to been a steaming corn-filled turd not to please me. Con: It was a bit long. And if war-time Britain isn’t your thing,  I’m not sure this would be your cuppa tea. But I thought it was fanbloodytastic. 5 stars.

A Paris Apartment, however, disappointed. I didn’t feel for the protagonist.The dialogue and sexual tension felt contrived, and the author WAY overused the word ‘provenance.’ Beautiful cover, though. 3 stars.




MBM pick:


The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman: Rome-based writers share personal stories surrounding their ill-fated, English-language newspaper.

Librarian pick:


Babel Tower by A.S. Byatt: Amid clashing politics and shifting sexual roles in the 1960s, this complicated, multi-faceted novel reveals what books mean to us, and the impact of literature over time.


“I loved The Imperfectionists until the very last chapter. Then it nose dived. But overall, I enjoyed it. And would’ve never picked this for myself. So well done, Magic Book Machine! 3.5 stars.”

“As for Babel Tower, I can see why Ashley picked this for me. It’s full of Italian art and biblical connotation. But I’d only recommend it to a high-brow reader. It was SUPER dense. 4 stars.”




MBM pick:


The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan: War brings out the best and worst of a doctor, working in a POW camp where Allied soldiers are forced to build a railway under appalling conditions. ( Winner of the Man Booker Prize.)

Librarian pick:


White Heat by M.J. McGrath: An icy whodunnit about 3 murders in Greenland.


“The first 40 pages of Narrow Road to the Deep North were torture. But then I really got into it. It had human struggle, different cultures and historical adventure, and I love all that! I’d definitely recommend this one. 4 stars.”

White Heat was so much like Forty Days Without a Shadow by Olivier Trucit was weird! This murder mystery was Inuits vs. Eskimos, and I’d recommend it to anyone who can appreciate details about seal’s blood soup. 3 stars.”




MBM pick:


Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight: Struggling arts columnist uncovers dark town secrets while investigating local murdered newborn.

Librarian Pick:


Finding Claire Fletcher by Lisa Regan: Troubled detective attempts to find kidnapped Claire Fletcher, abducted ten years ago by sadist.

(Note: We all thought this was a bad cover.)


“I love suspenseful murder mysteries and both these books had those elements. But Where They Found Her was slightly ‘lighter’ somehow. Very enjoyable but not quite as ‘dark’ as the other! I’d still recommend it. 4.5 stars.”

“I liked this story . . . a lot, actually. It was super dark and psychological, which I love. Claire Fletcher is a fighter, and needed to be because her captor was a freak sicko! 4.8 stars!”




MBM Pick:


School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister: Eight students share personal stories and recipes at weekly cooking class hosted by local restaurateur.

Librarian Pick:


Nation by Terry Pratchett: Young Mau is the sole survivor when a tsunami destroys his island home. But then he finds shipwrecked Daphne, who survived her own tragedy. From different worlds, they attempt to forge . . .


Interesting the Magic Book Machine picked School of Essential Ingredients for me. I was going to read this, anyway.  It’s not what I’d call ‘high literature,’ but it was enjoyable, comforting somehow,  and I read it fast. The chapters tell stories from different characters perspective, which I like, but their back stories I found a little weak. 3 stars.”

“I hate Nation’s cover and I would’ve never picked this for myself. But this book surprised me. It’s different from anything Pratchett has ever written. I’m not sure I’d recommend this book, but I can tell you the story will stay with me a long time. 3 stars.”




MBM pick:


The Daughters by Adrienne Celt: World-class soprano seeks to reclaim her voice from the curse winding through her family tree.

Librarian Pick:


In the Forests of Serre by Patricia McKillip: Man coping with death of his wife and infant child is cursed by witch in a magical forest.


“I feel there was some magic to the MBM’s pick: The Daughters. Mostly because of the Polish aspect (I’m Polish). I also love the Operatic themes and female lineage weaving throughout this story. Thumbs up! 4.3 stars!”

In the Forests of Serre was a pleasant surprise. The cover was a bit cheesy and the story –full of wizards and magical creatures– reminded me of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. 3.5 stars.”



In case you weren’t tallying, the human won.



The Magic Book Machine is super fun to play with. But it doesn’t know us. It also pulls from a pre-vetted list of newish books that aren’t likely to suck.

Is it a valuable tool? Totally.

Will we use it again? Definitely.

But . . . I dunno.

For me it goes back to that ugly book. The one that hasn’t been checked out since 1992.

Novelist isn’t programmed to know or recommend that title. Only a select few have that book’s back.



Librarians dedicate their lives to books. ALL books. Dusty and unloved to shiny, bestseller new.

“And getting them into the right hands is like Zen archery,” says Ashley, for whom we are grateful.

(Well done, human. We hoped you’d win.)


Next Book Lab:



Is the book always better than the movie?

Always always?


We’ll see.