When she comes



CHEAP EATS Turns out I have an aptitude for accidental deletion. My most recent masterpiece entailed the loss of three weeks' worth of all-day, every-day home recordings, 11 songs and about 10 gigs of GarageBand files: gone and unbacked-up. In fact, to illustrate my flair for spectacular failures, it was in the act of attempting to back up the files that I deleted the whole folder.

In other words, I've spent the last month neglecting my friends, missing deadlines, and annoying the bejesus out of Weirdo-the-Cat for nothing. When I finished hyperventiutf8g, I went outside and sat with Houdini.

Yep, that's the one, my last-left chicken I was telling you about, the escape artist and egg eater I meant to have for dinner months ago.

I'll be traveling for most of July and August, and then again in the fall, so there's no restocking my flock until probably next year. In the meantime, I can't even give Houdini away, in good conscience, on account of her antiestablishment ways. And it's not like she's gonna taste any good, either.

She's an ugly fuck, half plucked already from entanglements with fences, flower gardeners, and realism in general. Dusty, ragged, balding, thorn-stuck, and stinking, she is all the way out of this world.

Other day, to give you an example, I saw Houdini in the coop, pecking hay, and I safetied her up for the night. I closed the chicken door, locked the people door, checked the egg-get hatch. Everything was secure, I swear, and in the morning when I went to let her out, she was already there — out — standing on a log, looking at me like, "What?"

"I love you," I said. And I opened up her coop so she could go in and get water.

Still don't know how she did it, and neither do any of the skunks, weasels, foxes, possums, and bobcats who scratch and circle and knock every night, looking for a chink in the armor, a breech of security, a chicken-farmerly slip.

So this time I was sitting on the log with her, head in hands, warm, woodsy evening. Right behind us the smoker was smoking, barely — my dinner long ready. In light of what had just happened indoors, however, appetite was out of the question.

"You do realize," I said to Houdini, "that you are dead."

She looked up at me in that quizzical, twist-necked, tilt-headed, one-eyed way that chickens have. "And you?" she said.

"I'm going away," I said.

She looked at me like, "Ah, 'going away,' as they say."

"I mean it," I said. "I may be dead, but you are dead dead." I sang "The Midnight Train," "Ghost Riders in the Sky," "The Lonesome Valley," and "Oh Death" but stopped short of "St. Louis Blues," because that's always the last little ditty I sing to my chickens, when the water's aboil and the ax is sharpened. Believe me, if you're a chicken, you shudder to hear the Chicken Farmer sing, "I hate to see ... that evening sun go down."

I did "go away" (as they say), next morning. But it was only a practice run up to Oregon. Garden party, and a backyard barbecue for mostly kids. Sad and distracted the whole time, I became probably the first person ever to burst into tears during "Coming 'Round the Mountain." And it wasn't even the "kill the old red rooster" verse that got me, "when she comes."

It was the one about having to record all those bass lines and uke parts, steel drum, harmonies, and tissue-comb harmonica solos all over again, and you don't even have no friends left to back-pat you 'cause you blew them all off all month, "when she comes."

At least that's what I thought he was singing. My brother does make up stuff. (Runs in the fambly.)

On the way back home to Houdini we hit Granzella's to cheer up a bit.

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