I started writing this around midnight, after watching a mixed bag of Arrested Development, Doctor Who, and news coverage of the possible impending federal government shutdown. Originally it was just going to be a short apocryphal dialogue like Down and Out On Sesame Street, but it sorta took on a life of its own.
I finished it about three hours later, and finally had time to edit it down this afternoon. Skip the rest of this paragraph if you want to read it completely unprejudiced by MILD SPOILERS. Mild Spolier Alert 1: it’s about animals. Yaaaay! MSA2: it’s only occasionally funny. Boooo? MSA3: while I tried to end the story open to interpretation, I think only the sunniest person in the world could spin it as “uplifting”, so if you’re already in a dour mood, you might want to save it for another time.
If I had to categorize the story, and I also had to describe it in terms of food, I would call it a Paranoid Fable Loaf with Allegory Glaze, with a side of Lightly Frothed Horror. So if I haven’t scared you off, please do enjoy “The Addition”.
Farmhouse photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/singhmv/5137391895/sizes/l/in/photostream/
Hen photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/suauuu/5054832024/
by Greg “Storm” DiCostanzo
Starting with the day she poked her beak through her eggshell, Patsy Nester had never wanted the moon to come out so badly. Even if it did, at this point she suspected it probably wouldn’t save Farmer Sam. For all she knew, the deed might already be done.
No, if it had she would have seen T’s signal. That was part of the agreement: Patsy would make sure all of the hens kept nice and quiet while Terry Fox and his friends did the dirty work. And when it was done, T would step out the front door of the farmhouse and wave.
Down below, Patsy thought she heard rustling coming from the side of the house, but couldn’t bear to look. And she didn’t have to. Her other task was to stay right where she was, high atop the main barn looking for any sign that the old farmer was stirring. Then and only then was she to squawk out an alarm.
But it comforted her as she remembered what T had said the last time they spoke over by the old dry well, on an equally moonless night two days before.
“I know it’s still hard for you to trust us,” said T, slicking back his black-tipped ears which by day had a warm auburn hue, but in the near-dark were colored more like a pool of fresh blood. “But our lives will be in your hands, too.”
“I know, I know. But there is a lot of…mmm…history…” demurred Patsy.
“All in the past! Didn’t we go over this when we first met each other?”
Dark as it was, Patsy could still see the hurt in Terry’s eyes, and felt ashamed of herself for doubting him. If it hadn’t been for her, the fox would still be caught in the fence at the edge of the yard or, more likely, dead by Farmer Sam’s axe. “I’m sorry,” she said. “Without you, I never would have know about the farmer’s plan.”
“Yessss,” said T, bowing his head to hide his sharp-toothed smile, a habit he’d adopted to help put Patsy at ease. Like most chickens, Patsy had a hard time determining when a Fox’s smile was casual or killing. “It’s true that we foxes take our share of eggs from time to time. And yes–some of us have occasionally overstepped the bounds of proper courtesy.”
Patsy smoothed her feathers back down, grateful that Terry had been graceful enough to use a gentler term for murdering chickens. “But that’s over and done with?” she said. She’d meant it to sound more forceful, but in hindsight it was a victory to have managed to speak at all. Not so much because of her natural fear of his species (which she was learning to suppress), but because something about his manner was exciting all the way to her comb. And even though she knew it was folly to realistically entertain lurid thoughts, her egg production had increased considerably since first meeting Terry Fox.
“As for the past transgressions, of COURSE I will do all that I can to tamp down some of my bretheren’s…mmmm…disregard for the well-being of others,” said T, magnanimously. “And on the former issue, well, what’s an egg or two now and then between friends? And you’ll be free to give your spare eggs to whomever you please–or keep them for yourself. They’re your eggs, after all. And so too shall they be your children’s, and your children’s children’s.”
“Yes, yes…they’re mine…ours…”
Terry grinned wide–too wide for Patsy’s instincts to bear–and she glanced back towards the safety of her hen house. Her mind began to spin, but even if she churned her claws and flapped her wings with maximum force, T would still be able to run her down and snap her neck a dozen times over before she reached the safety of her coop.
“I know what you’re thinking,” said Terry. Patsy’s wattle quavered as she swallowed. “Does Farmer Sam really have to die? I don’t want it to happen any more than you do. But neither you nor I really need him–and how many eggs has he plucked from under your roost alone? Far more than even we foxes could eat in a lifetime.”
Terry ducked his head down again, though Patsy wasn’t sure why. Before she could reach any conclusions, the fox continued his diatribe.
“And since we can’t count on Farmer Sam to change his course of action, well, he’s fairly much forced our hand.” Terry leaned up against the old well’s mossy stones. “With your own eyes you’ve seen everything I predicted come true. The strange carts loaded with all kinds of odd materials. The unfamiliar men. You know it just as well as I: the Addition is coming.”
“Yes, yes,” agreed Patsy. “I saw it all–exactly as you said.” It was all coming back to her, along with horrible future visions of her friends scattering across the yard…terrible machines closing in. Patsy had overheard Farmer Sam talk about putting an Addition on the house, but if she hadn’t stumbled into Terry, she still wouldn’t know what it was.
“Sure, it all just seems like odd human behavior now, but soon–maybe as early as tomorrow–it’ll be too late. The Addition will be built, and this farm will be a small-time egg operation no more. It will have become…”
“A CHICKEN KILLING FIELD!”
“Shhhhhh!” hushed Terry. “We can’t let Farmer Sam know that we know, y’know?”
Patsy was pretty sure that Terry winked. It put her at ease, and she was able to think clearly again. “Yes,” she said. “Farmer Sam must die. For the good of both chickens and foxes.”
“That’s right,” said T. “Although our kind and yours assuredly have differences, these most heinous changes we’re seeing to the farm will leave we foxes dead, too.” Terry lowered himself down to sit with his back against the well, as close to eye-level with Patsy as he could manage without pressing himself to the ground. “Even if starving for lack of eggs doesn’t finish us, well, they’ll hunt us down sure enough.”
Patsy could hear the fear in his voice, and felt his sincerity all the way to the hollow of her bones. She waddled up to him and found the courage to touch the tip of her wing to his padded foot. He looked up. Patsy thought she saw a tear glistening in his eye.
“But with your help…well…I’m so happy–for both of us,” he said, head bowing down. “Now, you understand that on the night of the…action…it’s essential that your girls keep ab-so-LUTE-ly quiet.”
“Yes, yes, yes! Just as you said, I told them all the story about the bear that’s been gobbling up entire hen houses, and how he finds his victims by listening for the sound of fussy, clucking chickens.”
“Good. And do they believe it?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “I did what you suggested, and now they believe that it was Farmer Sam who told me.” Terry stifled a laugh, and Patsy nearly cackled, too. It had been surprisingly easy to convince them. Per Terry’s instructions, she just strutted into the farmhouse a few times and clucked around–surely she must be friends with the Farmer, the other hens clucked to each other, or she wouldn’t keep coming back out alive! And after they’d bought her clever act, Patsy could tell them anything she wanted about what Farmer Sam told her and they’d believe it. Not that it wasn’t hard going into the farmhouse, especially the first time. Patsy had been scared, but Terry convinced her that Farmer Sam didn’t want her dead–yet. And of course he’d been right, just as he must be now.
“Excellent,” said T. “So after you tell your hen friends that the bear has been spotted nearby–”
“–I tell them not to make a single peep. Then I make my way to the top of the big barn and look for any sign that Farmer Sam is suspicious, keeping my eyes on the front of the house–no matter what!”
“Goooood,” said T, straightening himself up. “And that last part is how you my friends and I are on the up-and-up: if you were to, excuse the phrase, chicken out at that point and raise a ruckus, why, all of us foxes will surely be caught and chopped up for stew!”
The thought horrified Patsy, despite the past atrocities committed by a small minority of foxes. Thinking back, it was with that rush of emotion that she knew she’d be able to go through with The Plan, all the way.
“Now don’t you worry ‘bout ol’ T,” said the fox, rising up. “I’ll be poppin’ my head out that front door before you know it, and it’ll be a whole new world. A world without the Addition, and without Farmer Sam leading us all to our doom. It’ll be just us chickens and foxes.”
Something crashed inside the farmhouse below, and Patsy snapped back to the present. Blood rushed to her ears, and as she kept her eyes fixed on the front door it was hard to tell where all of the rustling and yipping was coming from. For a split second she almost panicked and took off for the hen house, whose door she’d left open for herself in case she needed to make a quick run for it. She tried to stay calm, but try as she might she couldn’t help imagining the scene inside the farmhouse: the group of foxes slinking in through the old busted side door panel…pouncing on Farmer Sam as he lay in bed…a lamp crashing as the old farmer flailed up from his sheets…reaching for his axe…spotting Terry…raising the sliver-edged weapon high…
“NO!” clucked Patsy. Now that surprise wasn’t a factor, it hardly matter how much noise she made. And she might not have the teeth or claws of a fox, but could her beak not peck? And could her legs not as talons rend? Patsy swallowed hard, steeled her nerves, and propelled herself off the barn roof and out into empty space, flapping as hard as her undersized wings could manage.
It was just enough. She landed rough on a loose pile of hay, missing a large stack of lumber by a chick’s head. A great clucking rose up from the hen house. Patsy glanced in its direction, but it was too dark to see. But she reasoned that her ruckus had probably just made her sisters fear that the terrible bear was upon them. There would be time to comfort them–later.
“I’m coming, Terry! I’m coming!”
With all the grace of a feathered tea kettle propped up on hickory twigs, Patsy steamed straight towards the front door of the farmhouse, ready to launch herself claws first as soon as she saw Farmer Sam’s face. Above her the clouds parted, allowing the moon to help her peppercorn eyes find their target. But before she could rain chicken vengeance down upon the dastardly farmer, the door creaked open and there stood–
The fox stood in the moonlight with his head held high. Dark stains on his paws and around his mouth told Patsy that the deed was done. Terry looked down at her, surprised, and for a fleeting moment she thought he looked worried.
“Well, good evening, my dear,” crooned T, smiling broadly and forgetting to bow his head. Patsy could count every one of his teeth, except those blotched with gore. “I’m so glad you’re here.” As Patsy drew closer, from inside the house she could hear growling punctuated by wet sounds, like chickens pulling worms out of the mud. Peeking past Terry, she saw a dark shape–a man–on the floor in the middle of the room, with a half-dozen foxes at its throat and wrists. The man-shape did not move.
“OH!…oh!…” cried Patsy. Up until that moment, The Plan had been no more real than seeing baby chicks in the pine knots of her coop’s back wall. Now a living being–Farmer Sam–was dead on the ground in front of her. As her nausea began to well up, Terry’s smooth voice broke the evil spell.
“You did well,” he said, closing the door behind him and moving out into the open. “Why don’t we go see about your friends?”
All was calm at the hen house.
To Patsy’s surprise, the door she’d propped open for herself was shut tight. No sound came from within. She began to move forward, but a paw on her wing stopped her forward motion. Something warm and sticky began to seep into her feathers.
“There’s no one inside,” said T. His voice was firm, with only a small trace of casual charm.
“I don’t understand,” said Patsy. As she stood in front of her lifelong home, it was like she was seeing it for the first time. From inside it had always seemed so solid and safe. But seeing it now, outside in the dead of night, it was no more than a slapdash, isolated afterthought of a shack.
Terry Fox turned Patsy Nester away from the hen house and steered her towards the oaken shadows at the edge of the yard. Just before the moonlight faded, Patsy saw dozens of sleek skulking figures melt into the woods beyond, some with white or brown bundles under their arms. Others carried them in their teeth. Patsy’s head swam; she didn’t remember this part of The Plan. Terry’s arm braced her around the shoulders.
“I don’t understand,” she repeated, the night air cutting a chill through her.
“Oh, it’s just us chickens and foxes now,” said T. Fox, escorting her into the darkness. “Just us chickens and foxes.”