Oh, it’s not mine. No, I officially gave up my birthday month somewhere around Labor Day.
Dad turns eighty-five tomorrow. We celebrated Sunday at his favorite restaurant, La Terraza.
Dad was quiet, but happy. He smiled when he looked around the table at the grandkids and their children. Later he told me, “It got to me. We couldn’t ask for better grandchildren and great-grandchildren.” I know he would have enjoyed being with the West Coast family, too, but that will have to wait.
Tomorrow, he will have a cake and whatever he wants me to cook for lunch. His favorite is shrimp salad. We still haven’t found the right gift and I’m not sure we can by tomorrow. He says we could have let him keep the chicken. The chicken…
Eight or ten days ago, I noticed that all the low-hanging tomatoes had holes. They didn’t look like worm or bug holes. “Looks like a bird’s been pecking on them,” I said, “but this would have to be one very large bird.” I never thought about a chicken.
Friday, Mom and I headed out for some pre-op blood work. “Have you seen Dad’s chicken?” she asked.
“In the garden. She’s been in the garden for several days. He’s caught her once.”
“So that’s what happened to the tomatoes!” I said. “What did he do with her?”
“He went up and down the street trying to find out where she belongs. I told him nobody on our street has chickens, so he went over to the next street.”
“We should take her to Kay,” I said. Kay is the woman who sells us eggs. She has six hens, the maximum allowed by city rules, but two of them don’t lay very well. She wants more but she can’t bring herself to get rid of the ones she already has.”
That evening, I asked Dad about the chicken.
“My hen?” he asked. “Well, she’s a sweet thing. When I walk up to her, she just squats and waits for me to pick her up. I need to do something with her. She’s eating my tomatoes and she’s scratching up my mulch.”
“We should take her to Kay,” I said, “the lady we get our eggs from.”
“Who’s Kay?” Dad asked.
Mom was quick. “Kay, where Diana goes and gets our eggs.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
Mom gets impatient with Dad at times. “Yes, you do! Kay, she has chickens,” she said. “Deborah’s mother.”
He stared at her without acknowledgment.
“Deborah’s mother,” Mom repeated.
“The woman who helped you in your gardens?” Dad asked me.
“Yes, that’s Deborah,” I said.
“Then who’s Kay?” he asked Mom.
I turned to Dad. “Was she there today?”
“I didn’t see her today,” Dad answered.
“Well, maybe she went back home.”
I saw her in the garden on Saturday.
Sunday morning, when I popped in to remind Mom and Dad about the birthday party at La Terraza, Dad grinned. “Do you want some eggs for breakfast?” he asked.
“No, I ate a bagel.”
“Sadie laid two eggs.”
“Really? And you’ve named her?”
“Yeah. I built her a pen. Look out the window.”
He had constructed a small cage attached to the back of the apartment. Sadie ambled around inside. She looked content.
“Dad, will she get out to graze?”
“No, something would get her.”
Mom piped up. “Something’s going to get her in that little pen. Raccoons.”
“They can’t get in there,” Dad said.
“You know better than that,” she told him. “Raccoons can get in anywhere, and they’ll eat that chicken.”
“Dad, it’s not right to keep her cooped up like that. She could go to Kay’s and be with the other chickens.”
When Mom started to screech again, I excused myself.
After the party on Sunday, I waited until they’d both changed out of their Sunday best and then went over to bring up the Sadie subject again.
“Dad, we’re going to take her to Kay,” I said.
“I carried that hen up and down the next street over and nobody knew who she belongs to,” he said.
“You went up and down the street carrying a chicken under your arm?”
“But I love my chicken,” he answered.
“I know you do, but you have to do what’s best for Sadie.”
“When are you going to take her?”
“As soon as I go get my keys,” I said. “Meet me downstairs at the truck.”
I turned around. “And bring the chicken. You’ll have to hold her.”
“Sadie,” he said.
When I got to the truck with my purse and keys, Dad was waiting. He’d put Sadie in his live trap, the one we use to catch groundhogs. (Actually, we only try to catch groundhogs these days. We’ve given up this year.)
“Oh, you don’t have to go,” I said. “You can just put her in the back of the truck.”
“I didn’t mean to go,” he said.
“Well, let me take your picture with her. You’ll have to get her out of the trap.”
He posed. I couldn’t see the phone’s screen in the bright light, but I snapped several times.
Kay and Deborah were glad to get the new layer. We introduced her to Phyllis and Gertrude and the other girls. They pecked around on each other. Sadie was holding her own when I left.
Monday morning, Dave asked Dad, “What are you going to do today?”
Dad answered, “I don’t know, now that I don’t have a chicken.”