[The earlier version I posted got clipped and missed the ending!]
My 11-year-old's first short story that I will count as part of her adult corpus. (At the same age -- no at an older age -- I was writing reallly crappy choose-your-own-adventures.)
It seemed almost a year since I tasted that gift of a whole dozen eggs in one heart leaping day. That day had been Easter morning when I woke up to the faint but mind stunning memory it was my own turn to eat every egg our dozen chickens could lay, and no one was allowed to let even touching my eggs cross their mind. Almost every year around Easter my family would take turns having a day with all them eggs to themselves. Easter day happened to have been my turn. I still remember the jealous look on my uncle’s face as I managed a dozen eggs to the table. It was lucky to have every single one of them chickens lay an egg on my very own day. But you have to say that sort of fun just can’t last forever. What I mean to tell you is almost a full year after that I was still living with my uncle and my sisters and dog in the old cabin with our chicken coop. I was the youngest of the family so my sisters, Sally and Lila, could boss me around, take fun responsibilities like walking to the market through them woods to get some dinner, and eat bigger meals. Every day I’d stay home with my sisters after school and wait for my uncle to come home from his job in the factory. He’d hug us the very moment he stepped in the door, telling us how much he’d missed us and loved us so. Sometimes he’d come home and chase us around the dinner table ten whole minutes before catching and hugging us tight. But this night was different. My uncle stepped into the door two hours later than usual with his head hung low and them eyebrows scrunched up all tight. He was a tall man with skin that was pale and wrinkled tight against him as if too small for body. It was strange how it wrinkled all the same. He had black hair that was cut pretty short and stuck straight to the ceiling. Then, it was all I could see of him since his hands were covering his face as he sat in his armchair and sighed. Lila, Sally, and I were worried as our uncle had never behaved this way before. Even our dog Feelo seemed to be worried. He curled up clumsily on the floor and whimpered.
“The factory closed down completely. I haven’t no job,” Uncle’s rough voice told us in an exhausted manner. “Here you girls are. Go get us some of them beans,” he handed Lila the money to buy our dinner as she was oldest and most responsible. My two sisters hurried out the door and down into where they cut through the woods to the market, the expressions on their faces almost as shocked and desperate as my uncle’s. Silence flooded the room when Sally shut the door. I still thought they were real lucky to get to travel through the woods all alone and getting all them responsibilities.
I searched the house rooted in one spot, my eyes scanning every object, to find something that could cheer him up. When my eyes came across the window, I could see our chicken coop resting on our yard. My feet started dancing and shuffling excitedly.
“Son, why your feet act like they dancing?” Uncle’s light blue eyes looked up at me dragging up his head a little. I stopped right away surprised to see they really were dancing. I hadn’t even noticed before.
“Sorry Uncle,” I responded.
“I don’t accuse you—I ask you a question,” he smiled, and I realized he was right. I hoped what I was about to remind him would flush all the grumpy spirits of job loss out of our atmosphere.
“It is almost Easter,” he nodded suddenly his face whitening over what seemed possible. “And them chicken’s are gonna lay some eggs soon right?”
“Hope so. They don look like they gonna lay any eggs for quite some time, son. I do think—well hope they gonna start by May or June,” he seemed to be thinking over what Easter would be with no eggs.
“Oh,” I murmured. “Yeah.”
I’d never been more disappointed in all my life. I stepped out the door with limp legs, and walked down the hill leading to the woods. The chicken coop was at the bottom of the hill and in front of the woods. I leaned over it and watched inside, peering over all twelve of them chickens wandering around and staring back at me. I kicked the fence with my boot and the chickens all started bawking out chicken language and hurrying to the other side of the coop.
“It isn’t fair! It isn’t fair how you think you can delay our Easter until May or June!” I shouted right at them chickens as they screamed with fright. I began to drool over the thought of their delightful eggs when they’d come, but how could I wait till May or June? Uncle didn’t even sound certain about that! I hit my boot onto the ground, heat streaming through my veins. “It wasn’t fair” I thought as I watched Lila and Sally come up the hill from the woods carrying a paper bag containing our dinner.
“Why them chickens look so scared?” Lila observed my red face and fisted knuckles. “Why you do that to them?” They went on inside with the bag, and I followed, calming down a little. Sally went to Uncle right away and told him what I’d done.
“Guess who scared them chickens right to death outside,” she tattle tailed nodding her head at the place I stood. Uncle looked furious.
“I didn’t scare anyone to death. You can check. Not one chicken’s dead out there,” this was my only argument.
“I don’t want this to ever happen again,” he spoke firmly. He pulled a small container of beans out of the bag. When I say “small”, I mean “real small”.
Weeks went by without one good sized dinner. I had one scoop of beans per day. I could almost hear my stomach growl if I just listened closely. This didn’t improve. By the time May came I was having half a scoop per day. And still no eggs. I surely had it worst as even Feelo had more food than I did from catching a few mice. I thought him sort of like a cat sometimes. Uncle just kept with saying the youngest in the family needs the least food, so I got least. Still, I admit, no one really had much to eat. June came. No eggs.
One morning in June I lay in bed sick and tired of waiting this long for eggs when they should have come at Easter. My stomach ached and moaned wit h hunger as I watched the chicken coop out my bedroom window upstairs. For some reason I felt I needed to take all my anger out on them. It was all their fault we had no eggs, no hope, all hunger. I pushed off my covers to get out of bed. Hunger taunting me, I stepped onto the cold wooden floor of my room and slipped on my boots. Tiptoeing out of my room and down the stairs, a soft and frozen wind brushed against me sending shivers down my spine. I snuck into the kitchen and searched through the drawers. I took the knife from the drawer and shut it slowly. The houses back door opened and closed gently, and I made my way to the chicken coop. Halfway down the hill I froze, and a dreadful picture of what I was going to do swept over me. My stomach growled again, and I shook it away. Now, I was at the coop with all them chickens asleep with no eggs laid. I thought them guilty. Taking the knife in both hands I held the point face down over the chicken coop. I closed my eyes.
I hesitated and felt great weakness flooding into my limbs. Hands shaking—trembling uncontrollably—body aching all over I stood there frozen with the knife over the coop. My lip began trembling too and tears flooded down my cheeks—not because I was hungry, but I didn’t know what to do. Eyes still shut tight and face scrunched up, I tightened my grasp and down it went. I squinted my eyes open, let out a gasp at the blood and quickly fell silent hoping desperately them chickens please wouldn’t let out a squawk. Again and again I did this, tears trickling down my neck, into my shirt. I didn’t know what else to do. I was taunted by pure hunger itself. After six bloody strikes the knife fell into the grass and so did I. Fainted. Six chickens were still heavily and sleepily breathing. Just six.
I wasn’t sure how much later it was that I woke. The patter of rain hit my face as I lay squinting in the mud. It was still dark. Slowly I peeked into the coop afraid of what I’d see. Full downright frightened. Turning back to the house miserably where I knew Uncle was sleeping, a wave of guilt and shame swept over me. My stomach moaned selfishly a third time and I leaned over the coop where six chickens had a blood stain and weren’t breathing. Reaching in to get the six of them chickens, I gulped. Coming from bed to outside, I hadn’t thought of what this would bring me. My stomach roared as it realized—now what was I to do? I’d never cooked a chicken before. No one’d ever taught me to do anything like it. A rush of panic swept through my veins. All that I could think to do was go into the woods and hide in despair. I grabbed them chickens and sprinted—not knowing where I was going—just panic. Breathing heavily, I dropped them onto mud. Rain still was beating down on me as if to wash away all this guilt and loss I’d created.
I tried taking a deep breath. “I’ll bring them chickens to Uncle. He know what to do with them,” I thought searching desperately for a way out of this mess. Then I imagined Uncle’s face when he found out what happened. Cross with myself for letting more tears, I sat down in the mud. What was Uncle going to say? For some length of moments running away seemed to be a reasonable option. I hid my face in my hands the same way Uncle had when he had come home. Uncle must feel like his life was shattered, and so did I. Just it wasn’t Uncle’s own fault he’d lost his job. I had to live with sorrow and guilt on the side of my shattered life. There was no escape.
Something like a bark filled the miserable silence. I removed my hands from my face to see Feelo galloping towards me. I thought him sort of like a horse sometimes. Feelo darted to my side, surprisingly managed to pick up all six chickens, and was off.
“Feelo! Where you going? Come back!” My own voice barked. Now I’d not only killed six of them chickens and wasted their eggs, but I’d wasted all the meat as well. Feelo would probably just eat a little, and then come back and forget where they were. What would I be eating in the family now?