(cross-post) ... for JBT ... The Chicken Machinegreenspun.com : LUSENET : Unk's Troll-free Private Saloon : One Thread
* ** The Chicken Machine ** *
The man brought the machine home from an auction. "Look!" he yelled excitedly to his wife. "I bought a present for you!"
It would require a long study of the particular dynamics of this marriage to explain his wife's sudden dread. "Is it alive?" she called back, refusing to come out of the house.
"Not yet!" he responded enthusiastically, "but it will be!"
"I thought you went for fence posts?" she said, timidly peeping around the door.
"Gone before I got there. But this thing is great! Come out here and look! When I saw it, I just knew you had to have it." He was oblivious to her reluctance.
"I don't want it." Her refusal was abrupt. Her study of the marriage dynamics had taught her to nip these things in the bud.
"Yes you do," he said. He lugged a large, round, gray object across the yard and deposited it at his wife's feet. "Of course," he said, "it will need to be cleaned up. God knows how long it was in the back of that barn."
He had a gift for understatement. The thing was filthy with caked mud, feces, and dirt dauber nests. She was not amused. "What is it?" she finally asked.
"It's an incubator!" he laughed. "I got it for almost nothing."
"What does it do?" she asked, although she already knew. She was stalling.
"Why, you put eggs in it and chickens come out," he said.
"Oh, no," she said. "Decidedly not. I don't have time for this, and you'll walk off and leave me with it. No way."
Marriage dynamics took over. The thing ended up in the pile of other fine gifts in the barn.
Blistering heat gave way to cooler days and very cold nights. In the entire summer, not one hen bothered to stay on a nest long enough to hatch an egg. Hundreds of eggs were given to anyone who wanted them. Dozens of eggs were consumed until the family could bear them no more. Even more eggs of uncertain age were found and disposed of, for fear of disease. Free-range chicken farming had hit a new low.
Hens were snatched occasionally by predators. By the beginning of autumn, there were less than a dozen hens left, and they were getting old. When a certain red hen disappeared, the family didn't bother to look for her. They thought she was dead.
The day she proudly led her two small chicks out of her hiding place was a happy one for the family. For one thing, it meant their old rooster was able to perform his duties, which had been in doubt ever since his arrival.
The next day another chick hatched. The third chick should have had some time to steady itself before leaving the nest, but the hen was inexperienced. She walked off with the other two chicks, leaving the third to flounder alone. While the family debated whether to intervene, the chick died.
The man found the chick and several more unhatched eggs in the abandoned nest. "Say," he said, "let's get the incubator out and see if we can hatch these eggs!"
"It'll burn the house down," she sniffed. "I forbid it."
He installed the incubator in the dining room while she was at work. His own study of the marriage dynamics prompted him to make it a science project for their brood, thereby ensuring that any move on her part to rid herself of the odious machine would be met with mournful entreaties from people other than himself.
Several days passed without the emergence of a single chick. The incubator, which had been none too clean to begin with, began to stink. The man and his wife faced each other one night with the incubator between them on the floor.
"I guess they won't hatch," he said in a small voice.
"I guess I'll throw them out after the kids go to bed," she said in a strong, clear, 'I win, I win!' voice.
A chick peeped loudly. Amazed, they looked inside the incubator. There were only eggs. They searched outside for the chick they thought must have gotten separated from the red hen. Both of her chicks were safely under her fat red body.
They returned to the house and began the nightly ritual of locating their children, counting noses, and getting them all ready for bed. When the house was quiet, the man and his wife stood over the incubator again.
"Let's get this over with," she said. She took the lid off of the incubator. A wet, freshly-hatched chick sat among the other eggs. "What the hell?" she said.
"HA!" he said, in an 'I win, I win!' voice. "KIDS! Come look what YOUR MOTHER did!" he yelled at the top of his lungs, ever after ensuring that she was inextricably linked to the miraculous event. "SHE'S got a baby chicken!"
The first chick was followed by two others the next day. Several more eggs remained. After another week, the man and his wife faced each other over the incubator again.
"Look, you did a great thing," she began in a 'let's be reasonable' voice. "This thing reeks, and surely the other eggs aren't going to hatch at this late date?"
"Ok," he agreed. "We'll start with some fresh eggs tomorrow."
"Of course," she lied, knowing the hens had stopped laying.
When she opened the incubator to throw the eggs out, four more wet chicks greeted her.
Raising chickens in a dining room is not sanitary. The family was forced to take meals in the living room in front of the tube. Meaningful conversation at table could not happen without a table. The weather continued to be too cold for the baby chickens to survive the night in the barn, and the red hen could not be induced to assume responsibility for them either. As they grew feathers, they began to shed feathers. It was altogether unpleasant for the wife. Eventually the stink in the incubator drove the man to agree with his wife that the last of the eggs should be thrown out.
Unfairly, in the wife's opinion, the hens began to lay again. The man refilled the incubator a few eggs at a time. The other chickens finally got big enough to live in the barn. On the happy day the wife got rid of the little beggars, she spent hours sterilizing every surface in the room. She had a fine meal planned, one that would require a table to properly serve it all.
As she finished the last swipe with the bleach-laden cloth, her children heard a peep emanate from the incubator. "It's starting AGAIN!" they screamed happily.
Chickens should never be counted before they hatch…but there are dozens more eggs in the incubator as I write this, and four more are added every day.
-- helen (what we do with eggs) (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 08, 2001
Eat the eggs. Raise the goats.
-- Carlos (email@example.com), November 08, 2001.
When I was a little kid, I saw a movie "The Egg and I". My parents, who were quite strict about the suitability of movies, let me go because Time magazine recommended it. I remember very little, except things got very messy with broken eggs at the end. Has anyone else seen this crowd-pleaser?
-- Peter Errington (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 08, 2001.
Good god Helen, you really ought to write a book. I'm serious, fiction or non-fiction, you have a gift for telling a story.
-- Jack Booted Thug (governmentconspiracy@NWO.com), November 08, 2001.
JBT, if I tell the straight truth, they'll insist on shelving it with fiction...Do you want some chickens?
-- helen (email@example.com), November 09, 2001.
The only way helen could get a book written is if the mule were taught to take dictation. But who could be sure how much of the end product was helen's and how much Mike's? Would it really matter?
Life in the Barn Ain't No Roll In the Hay, by helen and Mike Mule
But that would make it appear helen's last name is Mule. So Mike would have to get top billing. Sorry hon.
I'd buy a copy no matter your last name or species of spouse.
Thinking about autographed copies...it would have to be a coffee table-sized book in order for Mike to plop his hoof print down on it.
-- Rich (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 09, 2001.