Chickens Ain't Songbirds
I was fifteen when I first had my heart melted by a girl. At least that’s how it felt at the time. My heart had melted and dribbled down over all my other insides, causing them to feel weird. I got pretty sweaty too. But the funny thing was how I felt cold on the outside at the same time. I never could figure that out.
I confided my feelings with my friend Stretch Wheenie, who at the time was a self-professed genius. “Hey Stretch,” I said, tying a new hook to my fishing line. “Have you ever…uh…liked a girl?”
Stretch sniggered. “You mean love? Haha, I’m an expert on that topic!”
I selected a nice plump worm. “Okay then, what sort of things would someone like Jenny admire in a guy?”
“Girls like Jenny admire someone who is sensitive and charming,” Stretch replied, adding a nasty chuckle at the end.
I ripped the worm in half and speared one half on my hook. “What are you cackling about?” I asked, wiping my worm-coated fingers on my shirt.
“If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, don’t even think about it,” Stretch said. “You are the total opposite of sensitive and charming. Remember when you tried to dissect that live frog?”
I brushed aside his unkind remarks and expertly snagged his rear end with my hook.
“OWWW!” Stretch shrieked. “Watch where you’re swingin’ that thing!”
“Well you’re sensitive,” I remarked, yanking the hook out of his flesh with a firm jerk of the rod. “Why don’t you go after her?”
Stretch applied lake water to his wound and ground his teeth. “She told me I’m too stuck up.” He snorted. “Imagine that, me stuck up! Why, I’m the most humble person I know!”
“Sure you are,” I muttered, flinging my hook violently into the water a few feet offshore. The shredded worm went flying across the lake. I reeled in the empty hook and drove it into Stretch’s toe.
“YEEEEOWCH!” he screamed. “If you’re not more careful with your hooks I’m liable to keep my wisdom to myself!”
I grinned and raised my pole. “Really?”
Stretch scowled at me. “I’m going home,” he snapped.
After Stretch left, the conceit-phobic trout started biting. I fished for a couple hours, and then, gathering up my meager gear, I started for home.
Along the way I chanced to run into my old friend, Jesse the mountain man. He was on his way to the lake, evidently hungry for some dinner.
“Hi Matt,” Jesse hollered.
“Howdy, Jesse,” I replied.
“That’s a fine mess of trouts ya got thar,” Jesse said, eying my catch.
“They started biting after Stretch left.”
Jesse scratched his flaky scalp. “Stretch don’t seem like the type ta run off jist afore the bite starts.”
“Well, we had an argument and I punctured him a couple times.”
“Oh, did ya now? What was this argoment about?”
“Oh, girls and sensitivity and stuff. Hey Jesse, what do nice girls like?”
“Birds ‘n’ flahers,” he replied. “If thar’s one thang gals like most, it’s birds ‘n’ flahers.”
“How do you know that?”
Jesse grinned. “Ah had a gal dog once. She loved birds ‘n’ flahers. Birds fer dinner, flahers fer dissert.”
“But I’m talking about people girls,” I said. “Jenny isn’t much of a dog.”
“Wahl, Ah figgers gal peoples ain’t that much different from gal dogs.”
“Birds and flowers, eh,” I said. “I suppose I could give it a try.”
Jesse was still eying my fish. I gave him the biggest one in payment for his wise advice and headed home.
That evening I went on an expedition to scout out some flowers. There was a swamp nearby, and in it I found some awesome ones. They were huge, pale white, and they smelled like wet stray dogs. I picked an armful and stored them under the deck in a wooden box.
In bed that night I wondered how I could get a bird. A hummingbird would be best, but the only way I had caught those was with specially modified mousetraps, and so far I hadn’t been able to modify the traps enough to leave the bird alive. I thought about getting a sparrow with my butterfly net, but ruled that out because our gluttonous cat had eaten all the sparrows.
Then it hit me…the perfect bird. It was easily accessible, and even edible in case Jenny wanted to eat it. I would take one of Mom’s chickens.
Under cover of darkness I stole out to the chicken coop. Selecting the sleeping chicken nearest the door, I grabbed it by the legs and the head and flipped it upside down. Then I rushed to the deck, pulled out my box of flowers, and popped the chicken inside. The whole operation was completely noiseless, as the startled chicken must have fainted of terror.
The next morning I lugged the box along to school. I couldn’t wait to give my present to Jenny, so I actually got to school on time. I found Jenny by her locker and set the box down on the floor in front of her.
“I brought you a present,” I said.
“Oh, so that’s why you’re here so early.” Jenny looked skeptically at the box, and then back at me. “Is it slimy? You’re always giving people slimy presents.”
“No, it’s not slimy. I think. Come on, open it.”
Jenny crouched next to the box and sniffed at it. She wrinkled her nose. “It smells like a wet dog,” she said. Suddenly she grinned. “Is it a puppy?”
“No, it’s even better than a puppy.”
Jenny cautiously pried open the lid and set it aside. The wet dog smell filled the hallway. Jenny jumped back, holding her nose, and the unattended chicken launched itself out of the box. Sadly, it landed square on the top of Jenny’s head.
“EEEK!” Jenny yelped, knocking the chicken to the floor.
The frightened bird evaded my flying tackle and dashed down the hallway, weaving through the legs of my schoolmates, who looked on with mounting laughter.
“You gave me a box of live chicken and skunk cabbage?” Jenny squealed, brushing off her head.
“I thought girls like birds and flowers,” I said, getting to my feet.
Jenny looked at me as if I were a disgusting globular microorganism. “You are the weirdest person I’ve ever known!” she snapped. Then she left.
After school I went to visit Jesse. As usual I found him on his porch, smoking his pipe.
“Your birds and flowers didn’t help things,” I sighed, taking a seat on an old rusty bucket.
“Eh? ‘Ow’s that?” Jesse hauled a glob of earwax out of his ear.
“I gave Jenny a chicken and some skunk cabbage flowers. But she treated me like she always does, and once again she told me I’m the weirdest person she’s ever known.”
Jesse groaned. “Songbirds, Matt! Gals like songbirds! Chickens ain’t songbirds! An’ skonk cabbage? What in the whirl got into ya?”
I held up my hand. “Jesse, I don’t need you to rub it in any more. Let’s just pretend I already know how stupid it was.”