I fully intended to write one of those cutesy Facebook status updates, until I realized that “Chicken surgery and a speeding ticket” would end up being one of those enigmatic posts that compel other people to hate you.
If this day were a movie, it would be some kind of freakish hybrid of All Creatures Great and Small and The Fast and the Furious.
All was well until this afternoon, when we discovered that one of our chickens was looking–well, completely disgusting. I’ll spare you the details. When a writer.mom has an avian medical emergency, she consults a book. Or preferably books. A panicked flipping through two books resulted in a combination diagnosis of “egg-bound” and “prolapsed vent.” If you don’t know what these are, consider yourself lucky. And for heaven’s sake, no matter what you do, don’t google images.
The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery (10th ed.), a.k.a. this country girl’s Bible of Doing Stuff, assured me that the procedure for correcting a prolapsed vent is simpler than it looks. It definitely wasn’t rocket science, but by the time I was wrapping things up, my husband was about to pass out.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. It turns out that to treat such chicken ailments, a country girl needs, among other things, castor oil, olive oil, medicated petroleum jelly and a “mild disinfectant” (whatever that is–my guess was hydrogen peroxide).
After a run-in with castor oil during my second pregnancy, I banned it from the premises, so my valiant husband made an emergency run.
He tried the local Family Dollar first. Miss Kitty searched high and low for castor oil, and sympathized with the plight of our chicken. She regaled my husband with a story that began, “I knew a rooster once,” and ended with, “he took care of his woman! But they got hit by a car.” The stories were flowing at the Family Dollar this afternoon, but the castor oil wasn’t, so my husband headed for the “big city.”
He returned home with castor oil and a speeding ticket. Apparently if your critically injured family member has feathers and is attempting to birth an egg, the police don’t give you an escort. Lesson learned.
So I oiled my chicken with olive oil, an anointing which I hope will not turn out to have been foreshadowing a different encounter with olive oil and perhaps garlic in her near future. I fed her castor oil and did things with hydrogen peroxide and latex gloves that should never be spoken of again.
And now, it’s a waiting game.
I had no idea how much I would care about a chicken. I’m good in a crisis, but as soon as it’s over I’m a mess. She’s not looking good, but I am determined for her to pull through. I hope she’s as stubborn as me.
So now, because I’m an overthinker and I need things to have meaning, I am trying to puzzle out what this has to do with writing and motherhood. The second one is easy. My chicken is a mama in distress. We girls have got to stick together.
But what it has to do with writing was a little less obvious to me. I’m still working on it. But I think there’s a lesson for me in here about life and love and the unexpectedness and messiness of it all. And writing is what I do. Writing is my confessional, my therapy, my exorcism, my delight. Writing is what makes sense when nothing else does, when the chaos of life surrounds me and the sickness and pain of it are too much to bear. Writing is why an injured chicken is not just a chicken. Writing is why, if she doesn’t make it, her brief chicken life will not have been in vain.
I know, I know, she’s only a chicken, and I am a big sap. But I remember the creatures who have walked this life with me, if only for a little while. I remember every turtle I’ve ever moved off the highway, the doe with her leg caught in a fence, the two dogs I’ve seen slip into the twilight of anaesthesia, the house wrens who raised their babies in the window box every summer. I’ve always been troubled by the idea that somehow a human life is “worth more” than an animal’s. Worth is just something we assign, after all. And who is to say that the ramblings of a writer.mom are worth more than the perfect miracle of an egg? If I ever produce a story that is as perfect as an egg, I will stop writing, because there just won’t be any point anymore.
So get well, chicken. Show me up with your stubbornness. Please live to lay enough eggs to pay off that speeding ticket. And prove that there is meaning in the messiness of this life, that no sparrow–or chicken–falls unnoticed.