To start this story properly, you have to understand that my parents are chaos magnets. Accept this and move on; I have, and it makes life simpler.

My parents called me a few days before my monthly visit to their house, where I do odd jobs: gutter cleaning, patching roof holes, running errands, helping with some decisions like where to eat dinner and whether they should sell their home and move in to an assisted living community – that kind of thing.

“Can you take these chickens that showed up here?”

Beats last month’s question: “how are you at spackling?”

Turns out, the next door neighbors had been feeding some “cute little birds, like rock doves or something,” but they were going on an extended holiday from before Thanksgiving right through Christmas. They wanted my parents to continue throwing corn to the “cute little birds.”

Which were bantam chickens, three of them. My dad said fine, hopped onto the Internet, and researched bantams. Two hours later he had five sacks of feed, a stack of corn cakes, a jar of meal worms, and a shovel.

“What’s the shovel for?” my mother asked.

“They dig into the ground to make nests for themselves and it’s frozen so I thought I’d dig a couple spaces up for them.”

My mother secured the shovel, and my dad tossed corn all over the driveway. The trio took up residence in the thick holly bush just beyond it. All was well (and I was blissfully unaware of the poultry presence at the parental palace) until one day there were only two.

Searching proved useless. Not even a feather remained. That’s when Dad called. “They’ll get eaten. Can you take them?”

My trip to the parental home was at the beginning of a travel gig for work; I wouldn’t be back home for six more days. And couldn’t really see the chickens waiting patiently in the car or hotel for that long so….

We hatched a plan. Dad would try to catch them on Friday, the day I was going home again, and I would come back and get them before heading to Chez BeckWelch.

He called Friday morning. They beat the bushes, searched the hedges, but the scrawny little things were nowhere to be seen. “They must have been listening on the phone line,” my dad joked—and then thought about it and went out and yes, the little miscreants were roosting up in the magnolia tree that intertwined with the phone lines, just above his head in the front yard.

“Maybe Sunday?” Dad said to me. I said sure, figuring this was never going to happen.

My first full day home from the long week of work travel, I dug into some domestic chores and had almost forgotten about the potential Chicken Run until the phone rang about noon.

“They walked right into the trap following me with a piece of corn cake. We can meet halfway.”

Halfway, when you are trying to negotiate with a father who is 1) hard of hearing 2) convinced he knows all the exits between Michigan and Florida and 3) eager to get the job done meant I drove two hours and he drove one, but we did both find the correct Cracker Barrel. Which is something of a miracle since he can’t actually work his mobile phone.

We parked around back and he handed me the caged chickens. The pair were peeping loudly in their fear, so I assume the people who watched the exchange figured the restaurant had run out of chicken and called a local farmer. No one looked concerned.

Home I drove with the now-quiet bantams, and introduced them to their new friends, the Leghorns. Leghorns outweigh bantams about 2:1, so we left the little girls in a cat carrier overnight to let them get used to the co-op, er, coop. And avoid getting sat on.

Today the new girls are running around the yard, investigating brush piles, digging pits, and that perennial favorite of chickens everywhere, pecking the hosta beds to death. Oh well. They are cute, the new girls, and our four bigger hens are pretty much leaving them alone. So far so good. Chicken Run: The Holiday Adventure has not turned out to be a horror film.

Coffee, Kittens, Nightgown an’ All

It’s chaos on the half-shelf at the bookstore right now, and I have to admit it’s got fun parts and it’s got … parts.

Yesterday morning I swam up from sleep at 7:30 and wandered upstairs, my bare feet attacked by hungry foster kittens at every step – and found three people at my front door, waiting to get in and organize the upstairs kitchen.

We’d told Kelley, the head chef at SECOND STORY CAFE, that she and her helpers Sam and Thom would be able to get into the bookstore “first thing Thursday morning” to have the kitchen ready for an 11 a.m. health inspection.

“First thing” in the morning is a non-specific measure of time, applied differently by different people. I let the team in, apologized for my long white cotton nightgown (which kind of makes me look like a rumpled Victorian ghost with bed hair) and aimed them toward the stairs. Then I moved to the kitchen to flick the switch on our coffeemaker and grab the cat spoon for doling out their breakfast. The cats, meanwhile, unhappy at the disruption to their routine, chorused protests.

That’s why I missed the soft knocking at the window of the bookstore, next to the kitchen and below the outside staircase. Really, given the state of my hair and nightie, it was Rick who should have screamed, not me. But he was “tryin’ not to startle ya, ma’am,” as he explained once I cleaned up the puddle, opened the upstairs door–kittens and nightgown trailing–and let him in to “get started a little early” on the heat and air installation. We hadn’t expected him until 9, but he figured “one big push today’ll do ‘er.”

Back down the stairs I went, kittens riding my bedtails, to find a man on the porch, waving through the glass door. We’d borrowed the keys to the theatre down the street after the Celtic festival ended, so we could get some equipment out when we had volunteers to help. They needed their keys back. I handed them over and invited the poor soul in for a cup of coffee, since the rich brew’s smell now permeated the house and people were trailing one at a time–circus clowns from the Volkswagen–up and down staircases, headed for the source of life.

Theatre dude cast his eyes over my hair–I think at this point a kitten was sitting in it, too weak from hunger to walk any farther–and nightgown, then declined.

I fed the cats, checked the porch just in case someone else had showed up, got dressed, checked the porch, and went for coffee. Pot was empty.

I love my life.