It is 2 o’clock in the morning and something is wrong….It is also the middle of July but the wind outside my bedroom is blasting and battering in a way that is rather scary. It has woken me up. Has it also awoken the hens? Should I get out to check they are OK? I could easily see them from my window, but that means I will have to re-enage my conscious self whereas really I want just to stay here in bed and listen to the flurries of air lashing around like whirlpools.
I listen up hard…..sometimes I can hear them shifting around (at least I like to think so) but tonight I hear nothing, no restless leg-shifting or position-moving. Maybe they are too frightened to move, and are staying as still and as quiet as mice, in case the noise and the roar are some unknown, as yet unidentified predator, wheeling around in the sky above them? A huge fairytale hawk? A soaring fox, red with anger?
I know I should get out of bed and turn on the garden light. But I just can’t. I promise myself that no noise is good noise. If I can’t hear any clucks there is no need to worry. Hens probably know all about wind. And rain….
..I recall a nightmare I had about a year ago in which I looked out of the window – in my dream – and saw the hen house battered by torrential rain. As I looked, the garden just sank into the ground, and the hens in the henhouse were suddenly submerged, the whole lot vanishing in a sinking torrent of mud. It was just a dream, but a graphic one and I was pleased to wake up and find that it was just an English summer instead.
So of course I am going to fret about some unexpected squally weather, especially as I am all summered-up and not thinking of extreme weather other than too much sunshine. I also wonder just how robust their house would be, in the face of a sudden and unexpected gust. It is a beautiful painted ark, of very robust construction, but even so…
….In my slumberous state I think of the hens all hunkered down in their bunker, hatches all firmly battened down, feathers ruffled but not stirred. And then just as I think I may be drifting back into sleep, I suddenly hear the wind again, and this time I do get up to look (at least, I think I do..) and I am aghast to see the painted hen house caught in an eddy of air, starting to spin and whirl in an upwards direction. There is a funnel of spinning wind beneath it, lifting it up.
On board the henhouse I see the girls hanging on tightly to their perch, sensing something is up.
Florence is the first to speak. “Must be a twister,” she says. “Aunt ‘Em said one was a-coming.”
“Ooh scary,” said Araminta, running for cover, “sorry, gotta hide. Sudden dose of red mite I gotta attend to….”
“Er, what’s a twister,” piped up Sushi? “I kinda chickened out of high school, I ain’t the brightest egg in the box, doh. Brains was never my strongest thing.”
“Never mind, we must all stick together now, till we find out where we are an’ how we gonna get back home,” says Florence purposefully. “We can’t have come far from home, can we? I mean, one minute we were in the back yard, and the next – we’re-” she looks out of the pop hole cautiously. “Why, I do declare – we seem to have landed on somethin’….”, she flaps backwards suddenly. “Why, goodness! It’s a leg! A long, red furry leg! I do believe we have landed on it!”
“Ooh I think I’ll just stay inside the coop, if ya don’t mind,” says Araminta, “I ain’t feeling too courageous at the moment and I don’t have a particular fondness for long red furry legs. Especially if there’s a long red furry tail attached to the other end of it….”
“Why nonsense child,” says Lily, “You gotta face up to your worries. Even foxes can’t hurt you when they’s dead. I’d like to know how you’re feeling but I can’t, I don’t have a heart. Can’t feel nothing. ”
At that moment they are surrounded by little people clapping and cheering and appearing to honour them. They are patted on the back and offered shedloads of mealworms, as one of the little people explains, “Your wondrous flying coop has landed on the wicked fox of the East and killed her! Now you shall have her ruby slippers instead.”
At that, one of them presented Florence with the beautiful ruby-encrusted slippers, which Florence elegantly slid onto her feet, relieved that she had used the Vaseline like her mother told her to cure her scaly leg.
“My, they are very fine, little people, we thank you,” she began. “But my friends and I here need your help too. In return for ridding you of the Wicked Fox of the East, would you please show me how to give Araminta here, some courage, whilst Lily would like a heart?”
“Don’t forget me,” says Sushi, “I need a few more brain cells to add to the three I already have…if you please, ma’am.”
“Indeed, says Florence, “My friends are all seeking something which will make them immeasurably happier if they find it, but I fear we will need to consult with someone of great wisdom. Anybody spring to mind?”
“Ah yes yes YES,” say the little people in unison. “You need to see the Wizard! He is the most incredible, the most amazing and the most wise of all creatures. He will know know what to do.”
As they follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald city – a magical place bordered with organic lettuces and cabbages – Florence and her motley trio wonder just who the Wizard is.
“I won’t be scared, I won’t be scared…” repeats Araminta to herself.
“He’s going to be just so darn clever” thinks Sushi, whilst Lily hardly dares ponder what it will feel like to have feelings.
As they reach the Wizard’s throne room, all four of our friends take a deep breath, as Florence knocks on the door, trembling slightly.
“ENTER” booms a voice, causing the hens’ knees to knock and their feathers to stand on end.
“You first,” squeaks Araminta, nipping to the back of the queue. Inside the room they see a large and embellished throne, upon which appears to sits a splendid cockerel in full plumage. The girls are astonished, they have never seen such a magnificent creature.
“If you please, your excellence,” begins Florence, “My friends and I need your help. One needs courage, another a heart, and another some brains. Whilst I just want to get back home.”
“Step forward,” says the Wizard. He is extremely impressive. The hens quake. Then Sushi trips over and knocks down a screen in the throne room. At this, the cockerel on the throne vanishes, the lovely feathers are all gone, and in his place is a small ginger ex-battery hen.
“Oh it’s you, Sumo,” chorus our girls. “What do you mean by pretending to be the Wizard? What is going on?”
“I’m sorry,” says a contrite Sumo, “I really can’t help being a power-mad megalomaniac, after all I am your top hen in the coop and you can’t blame me for wanting more……a bigger audience, more hens to boss….I’m sorry…..”
“Never mind,” says Florence, “You can help us. We all believed that you could give us what we really desire – a heart, some courage, a few brain cells – and you still can! Who was it said, “I think, therefore I can?”
“Er, no, actually I think you’ll find it’s ‘cogito ergo SUM’…..” begins Sumo, “oh what the heck..”
“I feel suddenly BRAVE,” says Araminta, thinking the letters F.O.X. without passing out.
“I can feel a bumpety bump in my chest,” says Lily, “and it’s not an egg!”
“And I can recite the theory of relativity, “says Sushi, “and properly understand it! I thought it was just about ups and downs before!”
“And I think we can all go home,” says Florence, taking Sumo by the wing as she clicks her little red heels…….”