Thank you for joining me for the summer redux series. I am re-posting stories you may not have read, in the fashion of a summer re-run. We’ll get back to our regular posting schedule in a few weeks.
The original “Fannie Speaks Out on Chicken Conception” posted back in April 2011. It’s been embellished since then.
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High, thin, pink clouds reflected on the calm, early morning waters in Gig Harbor, Washington, dotting the spaces between the boats anchored in the harbor. Cottages and mansions scattered across the opposite shore interspersed with hemlock and cedar.
Seagulls lined the roof of the marina near Jurasich Park. A flock of Canadian geese pecked the green lawn near the fisherman’s statue. Steam rose from a storm drain near the cross walk on Harbor Drive. The community bill board on the side walk next to the park entrance bore a sign announcing, “Only two weeks left to the Easter egg hunt”.
Richard parked the Love Wagon, a red Ford F150 with queen futon and disco ball in the back, on Pioneer Way outside of Pogey Baits. When I jumped from the cab, I could see my breath.
The window on the left side of the restaurant filled with rows of colorful hard candy, salt water taffy, jaw breakers and enough chocolate to make Willy Wonka weepy. Above the candy, a picture in the manner of a Norman Rockwell painting of a smiling, freckled boy with short blond hair, holding a spoon ready to dive into a banana split. Through the right window, bright red vinyl table cloths covered round tables, white vinyl table cloths covered square tables. White bistro chairs with red and white vinyl seats surrounded each table.
The smell of pancakes, maple syrup, hash browns, eggs, bacon, old-fashioned buttermilk biscuits, and sausage drifted out the door. The sign next to the door, “Seat Yourself”.
Five tables of regulars scattered across the dining room. Richard waved. My pre-coffee, morning wave—in the manner of a puppet on a string.
I grabbed two menus from the bin at the end of the counter on our way to our favorite table next to the pale yellow, red and green, old style jukebox.
Richard towering above the jukebox, pushed up the right sleeve of his black and white rugby shirt. He leaned down, primed the jukebox with a quarter, pressed A4. A metal arm placed the vinyl 45 on the turn table. “Blueberry Hill” poured from the speakers.
He danced his Fred Astair shuffle, ball, change back to the table.
Laughing, I handed him a menu.
Two elderly couples walked into the restaurant. They sat down at the square table next to the window.
In clockwork motion, we flipped our coffee cups right side up. Liquid gold filled our cups. Without looking up from the menus, Richard and I said, “Thanks, Jan.”
“I’m not Jan. My name is Ruby,” she said, her voice massaged the vocal range of a ten-year-old. “Jan’s back in the kitchen this morning.” She set the coffee pot on the table and pulled out her order pad from her red and white, wide-striped apron. She took the a blue, Bic, ball point pen from behind her right ear.
Richard and I dropped our menus.
Ruby challenged the five foot mark with her two inch heels. She would blend into a line up of the women from my family. Her red and white striped shirt made her look like the Skipper doll with black hair and blue eyes to match.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, running my fingers through my short brown hair, “we assumed you were Jan.”
“That’s okay. You’re not the first,” she said, rubbing the capped end of the pen against the side of her nose. “I’ve heard it every day since I started here on Monday.” She tilted her head to the left and sized up Richard and me for a moment. “This morning my four-year-old son asked me how they got chickens into eggs.” She smiled. Her shoulders pulled back. Her eyes glowed with pride.
Richard and I glanced at each other. Did she really say that?
Her shoulders dropped. “I don’t know the answer,” Ruby said, her voice quivered. Straightening up, she asked, “Can you tell me how the chickens ended up in some eggs, but not in the one’s in the grocery store?”
Now mind you over the course of our lives some interesting questions crossed our path, such as “Can you walk to an island?” when there are no bridges present, or “What does a hard drive look like?” or “Why do they put a cup holder on the PC, because if you spill your drink won’t it ruin the computer?” But asking us to explain how chickens conceive, new territory.
Ruby stared at us. She tapped her pen on her pad.
Walking encyclopedia stickers somehow gleamed from our foreheads.
“The rooster and hen had a good time,” I said, the grappling hooks reeled in my grin before it overshot my face.
The expression on her face exited the building, a blank wall stared back at us. Richard faced the jukebox, his shoulders jittered. I nudged him with my elbow.
She asked, “How come the roosters don’t break the eggs when they get fertilized?” Ruby chewed on the cap of her pen. “I thought they worked like salmon, where the boy salmon spreads its sperm over the eggs the girl salmon laid on the stream bed. Only in a nest.”
I blinked my eyes slowly.
Richard’s devilish grin spread across his face. Danger Will Robinson. I put my hand on his and shook my head.
Taking a deep breath, I said, “Ruby, the roosters mount the hens. It looks like they’re fighting for their lives.”
Richard and I looked around the restaurant. Most of the restaurant listened, either in amusement or real earnest.
“But it works the same way as humans. The eggs get fertilized, and then laid,” I said.
Richard, who spent a lot of his youth on his grandparents farm in Oregon, couldn’t hold back any more. His blue eyes lit up with the power of a flood light at a movie premier. He flapped his arms. He tilted his head back and screeched with the enthusiasm of a chicken getting laid.
“Oh,” Ruby said, her face color surpassed the rouge on her cheek bones.
Laughter erupted all around us. Jan poked her silver and blond head out of the kitchen. Two brown, greasy hand prints smeared across her otherwise pristine white apron. She threw us a questioning look.
Ruby looked around the restaurant. “I didn’t know. Thank you.”
Who knew we would give the bird half of the birds and the bees’ conversation—to an adult with a child—for an audience?
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My first and last attempt at cartooning for this blog. 🙂