“What’s that funny noise those chickens are making?”
“Well son, those chickens are laughing,” answered Grampy.
“Yes son, that’s right.”
“What are they laughing about?” the boy asked.
“Well, its hard telling, for all we know, they may be laughing at us,” Grampy replied, pausing a second to watch them in the yard, “You see son, chickens, well they don’t have the easiest lives in the world.”
“What do you mean Grampy?”
“Well chickens have to laugh and try and make themselves happy because they don’t have much to look forward to. Look at them, they’re out there right now scratching around for worms and anything they can find to survive on. They’ve got it tough see, because what if they can’t find any food? Well then the poor chicken’s just got to go hungry I suppose. And when it gets cold at night those chickens don’t have a blanket to wrap up in like you and me. And when the momma chicken has her little babies out running around, she always has to worry about a big hawk coming down from above and taking them away from her. You see son, they’ve got all those things on their mind and then we come along and don’t help out the situation at all.”
“What do we do to them Grampy?”
“Well, just like those chickens, we get hungry too, and our bellies start grumbling and we have to figure out a way to fix that, so what do we do? Well, we look out in the yard and see a chicken and figure that’ll do just fine for supper. So we go out there and catch one and chop its head off and start it cooking.”
Startled at Grampy’s words the boy asked, “Grampy, why do we do such a thing?”
“Well son, I’ve lived a long time and that’s certainly a tough question to answer. I figure we’ve all got to eat for one thing, but then somebody would just say not to eat the chickens. That’s what makes it tough I suppose. I like those chickens, I like watching them, but when the sky doesn’t give us enough water for the garden, we have to make ends meet somehow. There have been folks killing animals long before you and I came along, and I expect it’ll be going on long after. I guess its all part of a circle that just keeps going round and round.”
“Grampy, do you think those chickens can hear us talking up here?” the boy asked as Grampy rocked him on his knee on the front porch.
“I sure guess they can son.”
“How do you know Grampy?”
“Well son, I don’t guess you can ever be for certain about anything, but I expect those chickens can hear us, yes sir. See, if you watch them close, they’re watching us. Now they aren’t running yet, but that’s because we’re sitting here not bothering anything, but they’ve got an eye on us, trust me.”
“Grampy, do you think chickens can talk to one another?”
“Why yes I’d say they do son. They’re already laughing at us, see, just listen to them out there cackling and clucking away. They’re just trying to pass the time, just like you and me out here on the porch. Why I’d bet one of them out there right now is saying, “Look at them funny things sitting up there, why, they’re the dumbest things I’ve ever seen,” and I’d guess another one asks him, he says, “Why do you suppose that?” and then the first one says, “They’ve got to be for not getting out and trying to find something to eat.””
“Grampy, don’t they know we eat them and if we were looking for food we might come after them?”
“Yes, I think they know that son. In fact, I’d say they know a lot more than most folks give them credit for.”
“Grampy, why can’t we understand what they’re saying?”
“Now that’s another good question son, but I figure it’s because they don’t want us to hear what they are saying.”
“You mean you think chickens are that smart Grampy?”
“I do. If we don’t want folks to listen to us talk, why then we can point with our fingers, plus we can mumble and whisper and also use our eyes. Now I say if we humans with all of our problems can do all of that mess, why then so can a chicken. So I think if they ever want us to hear them, why then, they’ll just speak right on up. Until then, they’re just going to walk around and laugh at us or whatever else makes them happy.”
“Grampy you sure know a bunch about chickens.”
“Well son, I’ve never claimed to know much about anything, but I guess I can say I’ve been around chickens for a long time.”
“Well Grampy I think you’re pretty smart.”
“Thanks son, that’s nice to hear. I’m not much of a smart man, but I figure smart ones are the people who think for themselves and ponder on things while still getting the work done.”
“Well I think you’re one of those people Grampy.”
“Well thanks. Listen, it’s starting to get supper time and your granny’s probably about got it all ready. Plus your momma and daddy will be back soon from the neighbors so you better get on inside and get cleaned up.”
“Yes Grampy,” and with that the little boy jumped off Grampy’s knee and took off into the cabin.
Grampy sat on the porch just for a few more minutes and watched the chickens. He then got up from the rocking chair, slowly, and took all seventy some odd years of his thinking, pondering, and hard work into the cabin much like his grandson had done earlier. Not long afterwards, the rest of the family returned when the boy’s momma and daddy showed back up from the neighbors. Everyone then proceeded to eat supper. Granny had really outdone herself this time; she had made squash, okra, beans, collards, and biscuits. After the meal was over, Grampy gradually rose from his chair and told his family that he was going to retire early for the evening, the day was done for him and it had been a long one. Grampy hugged and kissed his wife, son, and daughter-in-law each on the cheek. He then patted his grandson on the head and told him he loved him. A few years earlier, Grampy would have picked the little boy up and squeezed him tight, but he couldn’t do that anymore. In fact, Grampy hadn’t felt right for quite some time. Shortly afterwards, Grampy sat on the side of the bed, took off his boots, hat, belt, and other bits of clothing he didn’t need to sleep in, said his prayers, slowly lifted each leg up onto the bed, stretched back, and closed his eyes. Grampy knew he would fall asleep that night and never wake up again, at least not in this world. When the sun had rose and Grampy wasn’t at the breakfast table, Granny sent in the boy to wake him up.
With his eyes closed, Grampy had a smile on his face. It had been a good year.
Written by: Jeremy Burris
Jeremy Michael Burris is a senior studying English Education at Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, North Carolina. Growing up in Marble, NC, he plans to pursue a high-school teaching career after graduation with the aspiration to begin work on a Master’s degree in English. Jeremy enjoys reading, writing, playing guitar, and spending time with his friends and family. For more information about Jeremy's short stories, you may contact him via his personal email address: email@example.com