Another morning, another visit to the henhouse for Daniel. Most of these eggs would be sold at the market, which added a modest amount to his aunt’s and uncle’s income. His experiences yesterday taught him to get in, collect the eggs, and get out.
Since his encounter with the frog, nothing amiss had happened to the boy. He and Towser had walked over to Ben Swigert’s farm, found his uncle and old Ben, and watched them struggle with and cuss at the thirty year old tractor until almost sunset.
Finally, replacing several hoses and a fuel pump later, the machine roared back to life.
“There you go, Ben. Why don’t you just buy a new tractor?”
“Don’t trust ’em, Ethan. All that computerized junk in them. Can’t even fix the things up myself. Have to take them to an ‘authorized dealer’.” Ben said the last two words with dripping disdain.
“I hear ya, Ben. But this thing won’t last forever.”
“It’ll last until I retire, I hope. Anyway, I appreciate your help. Sorry to take you away from your place, especially with this youngun visiting.”
Ben smiled at Daniel. “Boy, you’re growing like a weed. Pretty soon, you could be running Ethan’s place.”
Daniel smiled politely and thought, “No way.”
Greased up hands were washed, tools put away, and Good-byes were said, then Ethan, Daniel, and Towser piled into the Chevy pickup and went back home.
That was yesterday. This morning, after breakfast, Daniel went back out with some feed to spread around for the chickens and their chicks. Towser was wandering nearby, but he had no interest in making mischief with the farm animals.
Daniel felt something sharp poke is left ankle. He looked down and one of the hens was looking up at him.
“Excuse me, young man. Have you seen an egg? I seem to be missing one.”
“What?” First a talking frog, and now a hen.
“Oh wait. I know what happened. Never mind. Sorry I troubled you.”
The chicken immediately returned to scratching the ground and clucking, just like the others were doing.
The ten year old squatted down and stared at her. Whatever powers of speech and intelligence she had displayed moments ago had now apparently vanished.
Towser was still playing just a few yards away. “Here, boy.” Immediately, the dog dashed over to Daniel. The child petted the retriever and said, “I don’t suppose you have anything you’d like to talk about, do you?”
The dog barked happily and then ran to get his ball, hoping for another game of “fetch”.
“Sorry, Towser. I’ve got a few more chores to do before I can play.”
After the chickens, came feeding the pigs. It wasn’t exactly one of Daniel’s favorite things to do, but he knew farms required a lot of work, and he was happy to be able to help out.
After he finished, he headed over to the barn. Fearful wasn’t around, but the two kittens, he found out their names were “Distant Deeps” and “Burnt Fire” (“Wings Aspire” was presumed to have wandered off and either been grabbed by a predator or run down on the main road), were playing, so Daniel took some time to play with them.
As he was about ready to get up and head back to the house, he noticed a hen, the same one who spoke to him before, had found its way into the barn.
“Sorry to bother you again,” she said to him.
The kittens stood still staring at the chicken as if it were an apparition.
“Look, I know all this is confusing for you. It’s confusing for me as well, me being a hen and all, but things aren’t as they appear to be. You can trust the frog, but some of the other animals, and even a few people, don’t like you very much.”
“What?” Daniel sat crosslegged and shooed the kittens away.
“What are you telling me? How can any of this be real?”
“The frog is smarter than I am, and I don’t understand all of what’s happening, but I wanted to let you know you have friends here, too. Sorry I forgot about the eggs. I just realized that the farmer takes them to sell, but up until today, I didn’t have much of a brain.”
The boy wanted to say, “Neither did the Scarecrow,” recalling one of Mom’s favorite movies.
“Remember, if you need anything, come talk with me. If I can’t help, I’ll try to get a message to the frog, or you can go see him yourself. Just watch yourself. The kitten and the lizard were out to get you, and I’m not so sure about Gerald the Rooster or one of the horses.”
“Well, I’ve got to go now. Bye.” The hen then turned and with purpose, and walked back out of the barn, presumably toward the henhouse.
Daniel walked back out into the midmorning sunlight. It was already getting hot. As he went toward the house, he was unaware that Gerald was watching him with hostile intent. The rooster knew he would have to bide his time. He couldn’t let the dog find out about him. Gerald had heard Towser was working for the frog.
He’d teach that Henrietta a lesson soon, though.
This concept is loosely based on Iain Kelly’s recent A to Z Challenge 2017 story series. Every day, Iain crafted another puzzle piece to his murder mystery that had me and his other readers spellbound. I doubt I can create the suspense he conjured up, but when my wife got a giant A to Z jigsaw puzzle for our two-year-old granddaughter, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I don’t have a lot of time, so I think each “letter” will be shorter and I’m not sure I can write one every day, but I’ll do my best.
The previous story is G is for Grape.
Let me know what you think.
Oh, tomorrow I’ll be traveling back to my Mom’s place for the week to help her out more with settling my Dad’s affairs, so chances are I won’t be able to add to any of these stories for a while. I’ll try to peek in from time to time to respond to comments. Don’t worry. The series will continue.
The next story in the series is I is for Ice.