Reader Reactions & Anecdotes

22 March 2008

Easter Chick à la Rambeau

It’s Easter again, a holiday on which I invariably think of my old friends, Jim and Marie.

I met them in the course of my turn as a newspaper columnist in journalism’s long-ago, more ethical years. The job put the world in microcosm and me on easy terms with moguls and railroad porters, soda jerks and country club matriarchs, the literati and the illiterate. Among my favorites were those who demonstrated a certain unwitting zaniness in their daily struggles with life’s manifold absurdities.

And that’s why Jim and Marie hold a special spot in my heart. Their crust was upper, and they and their three kids lived in a country house in a tony area near Philly. He was a business exec, she was a full-time housewife, mother, and utterly charming hostess given to chronic malapropism. (Example: When discussing favorite pastimes with church elders attending one of her dinner parties, she allowed, “I love to wander along the beach and examine the tiny orgasms there.”)

One Easter Marie received a gift that included one of those live chicks dyed a cute pink, and, because she didn’t know what else to do, she gave it the run of their property, a lovely three hillside acres. Alas, when the chick became an adult it turned out to be a very aggressive strain of fighting cock. It would lurk in the bushes and dart out without warning to peck away at the ankles of visitors as they climbed out of their cars and made for the house. Soon it became obvious that the darlin’ li’l Easter chick was, in fact, a fowl from the foulest corner of Hell, and nobody could enter the premises without suffering a painful rat-a-tat-tat on the ankles.

The family, being so tenderhearted, couldn’t bear the idea of destroying the critter, so Jim had a sign printed and posted at the entrance to their driveway: “Beware of Vicious Chicken.”

Visitors who thought it was a gag soon learned that it wasn’t, and so most of the family’s intimates adjusted quickly, leaving their cars and approaching the front door only after having donned galoshes — even in summer.

One visitor who never learned was the man who weekly delivered the dry-cleaning. The chicken had a special dislike for this man, and would wait on full battle alert beside the kitchen door on Thursday afternoons, when deliveries were scheduled. Then, when the man left the truck, clean garments hanging from both upraised hands, he would have to scuttle for the door, cussing and hopping and yelping amidst the chicken’s sniping lunges.

After a time, the man decided to counterattack. He showed up one day with one of those tear gas pens. Instead of gathering the dry-cleaning and stepping out as usual, he first leaned far out of the door, held the pen a few inches from the glaring bird’s beak, then pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened. He worked the trigger again. Still nothing. So he pulled back into the truck and began to examine the pen. And, of course, that’s when it went off.

The man staggered from the truck, coughing, sneezing, gasping, choking, all the while dancing a crazed jig as the rooster lacerated his ankles. Meanwhile, the truckload of dry-cleaned clothes was being saturated with tear gas.

Marie and the kids became weepy and sullen when the chicken was rounded up the next day and consigned to the loony ward of the SPCA.

Jim became weepy and sullen when the drycleaner’s lawyers eventually prevailed and made him settle out of court.

Copyright © 2008 by Jack D. Hunter.  All rights reserved.  No part of this document may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.