“I guess we have to go and look at it.” Mike sighed, not knowing exactly what to do next. They walked over slowly and stood over it. He nudged it with his foot. Nothing.
“I told you, it’s dead,” declared Geraldine, holding her book up against her mouth. “we are going to have to bury it.” She mused.
“Dad just throws the dead chickens on the manure pile.” Mike said.
“That’s different, they died because of normal stuff, you threw a stone and killed this one, it’s not a normal death so she needs a funeral.” she said.
Mike shuffled his feet, walked a few steps away and came back, ”That means, we have to dig a hole, put her in it and cover her up.” He said, thinking of his aunt’s funeral. He could still hear
the dirt landing on her coffin as the men shovelled dirt into the
“We have to but her into a coffin,” Geraldine said. Also remembering there aunt’s funeral. “and we should say something, have a preacher preach, or pray,” she paused collecting her thoughts, “you have to pray for the chicken Mike.” she
Mike did not feel like praying for the chicken. “We need a shovel.” He said and began walking towards the blacksmith shop. Geraldine followed.
This was new territory for Mike. He was thinking maybe his dad would not notice that the chicken was gone. They could bury it, and just keep it a secret. Maybe it would all go away. But there was
one problem, Geraldine. “You threw the stone and killed this one.” She had said. That hurt. She’d practically called him a “killer!” He was not a chicken killer that was for sure.
When they arrived at the shop, he swung the door open and faced his sister. “It’s your fault too,” he said, “you made me do it by throwing rocks at targets with me you know.”
Geraldine did not step into the shop. She stood there and just stared at him, her eyes growing wide. Mike got scared. He could see her braids shaking and realized he’d gotten her mad. He held onto the door, ready to duck behind it because it sure looked like she was going to hit him.
“You take that back!” she hissed quietly. “You threw rocks everywhere and when you lost the contest, you got mad and threw rocks at the chicken! Daddy will say you are careless. You did it and I do not have to say anything. You have to say it yourself. You have to tell daddy or he will be really mad.”
Mike turned away in the dim light of the shop sulking, thinking.
She waited…then she said what Mike did not want to hear, “If you do not take it back I will go and tell mom right now.”
“Why?” he thought in both disgust and grudging admiration, “was his sister always right?”
After he’d made things right with his sister, they worked together, finding a spade and a greasy gunny sack to put the chicken in. Just as they were going back to get the chicken, Mike asked, “If we are not throwing it on the manure pile, where are we going to bury the
“In the graveyard.” said Geraldine matter of factly.
“What graveyard?” asked Mike.
“My graveyard.” she said.
“Your graveyard?” he exclaimed confused, “but you’re not dead!”
“I have a graveyard where I bury things that die,” she said. She began walking back towards the barn, Mike followed listening in wonder. “I bury the chicks that die, I have buried dead dragon
flies. I buried that bird that hit the window and died, and I buried Jill because she got sick and died.”
“Jill?” he sputtered, “your doll got sick and died, and you buried her?”
Shortly after their aunt’s Audrey's funeral Geraldine had declared her doll Jill dead. Jill was a plastic doll whose eyes opened when she sat up and closed when she lay down. One day, after the funeral, Jill’s eyes would not open. No matter what position she was placed in, they remained shut. Now for the first time Mike was learning what had happened to the doll. Geraldine had declared her dead. Then she matter of factly, grieved, dressed her doll in her best dress, wrapped her in her blankie and had a funeral service with all her other teddy bears and dolls in attendance. She sat at the head of the hole she’d dug, with her guests arranged on both sides. There in her own private graveyard she repeated her memorized prayer for meals, sang “Away in a Manger” before she placed her in the grave and covered her up. She used colored chalk to print Jill’s name on a flat stone and placed it at the head of the little grave. Then she and her guests went into the house, up the stairs to her room and had tea together. And that was that.
She knew exactly what kind of funeral she would have for the dead chicken.
Except that when they came around the corner of the barn, the ground where the chicken had died, was bare. There was no chicken! They both stopped and looked around confused.
Mike began to feel afraid. How could a dead chicken disappear? Had someone stolen the chicken? Dad was not home and mom was in the house. Had the chicken risen from the dead, like in the Bible? Was this punishment for the bad thing he’d done, killing the chicken?
He became frightened, his skin prickled and he involuntarily backed up through the huge open barn-door into the inner shadows of the barn. He felt like he needed to hide, like he was wicked, a real chicken killer and began to pray. He panicked,
asking Jesus into his heart. He told God he was sorry for killing the chicken. For blaming Geraldine that she’d made him do it. He prayed that the chicken was a Christian chicken when it died. He could not stop praying...that it would be healed and live…that it would come alive…that it would even be raised from the dead…
When he heard the squawk behind him he yelled spinning around scanning the room, his heart pumping. He wasn’t sure if he was seeing right, he broke out into a sweat, because there moving in a wobbly fashion was the chicken. He was tempted to run. The dead chicken was alive. At least it was standing on its feet, so it must not be dead. It was a dead-less chicken. Had God somehow really answered his prayer to raise this chicken…he shook his head in confusion.
Slowly, relief began to flood over him. It was over. He would not have to tell his father anything. His heart rate went down. The chicken was alive. It was a moment of huge relief.
But, it was only for a moment.
What Mike did not know was, this chicken would change his life. How was he to know that the impact of the rock had not killed the chicken but had given it a concussion. As a result, the chicken would never be the same. For starters, one eye was closed forever. Then the chicken never walked straight again, always walking kind of sideways. The weird thing was it would often do a 360 degree turn at any moment. Then as if all that was not enough, it separated itself from the flock, moving around alone, looking lost.
That last part, her not being part of the flock hurt Mike the most. He could not help but feel for this lonely chicken. It had been his fault. It had been a moment of anger, a moment of thoughtless action that had changed the life of this chicken. He had hurt it forever.
His heart moved him to action. He did not want this bird to feel lonely, so he began by feeding her himself, every day. At first, he could not get near her at all. He kept at it and one day, almost two weeks from the day it had happened, his patience was rewarded. He was touched and overjoyed when for the first time she actually took kernels of corn from out of his hand….
Photo: By Cliff Derksen